Monday, April 3, 2023

Knowing Jesus

The other day I was watching an episode of The Chosen (one of the better adaptations of the Gospels to television), when I noticed myself watching the character of Jesus very closely--trying to notice how he used his words, his mannerisms, how he responded to various situations. Two thoughts followed. First, I had to remind myself that what I was seeing on the screen was a human interpretation of who Jesus is and that I needed to be careful of putting this "image" in place of the real Messiah. But, secondly, I remembered what I had learned about 1st century Jewish discipleship, how a disciple would try to imitate his teacher in every way--and suddenly, for a brief moment, I felt like I could relate. I wanted to be able to watch my Messiah, consider His every move, sit at His feet as He taught, and learn to walk as He walked.

But, then there was the question. How can I do that when He is not here physically with us anymore? I can't watch Jesus at a party to see how He interacts with the guests. I can't observe him arguing in the public square about contemporary issues. I can't follow Him on the road as He travels from town to town, healing the sick and teaching about the Kingdom. I stand here 2000 years removed from His time on earth. And I am saddened that I cannot know my Messiah in the way that the first disciples did.

I am also reading Packer's "Keep in Step with the Spirit," which bears some relevance here. Packer writes that through the work of the Holy Spirit "personal fellowship with Jesus, that is, the to-and-fro of discipleship with devotion, which started in Palestine, for Jesus's first followers, before his passion, becomes a reality of experience, even though Jesus is now not here on earth in bodily form, but is enthroned in heaven's glory" (emphasis added). I ask, How? The answer: through ordinary means.

Our Messiah teaches us to be faithful in the little things. I believe this applies here as well. If we are faithful to seek Him with all our heart, even with only the little we have, He will be faithful to reveal Himself to us in ever greater measure. We may not have Jesus walking beside us in bodily form. But, we do have a record of His words and His actions. Let's start there and see how the Spirit might mediate the real presence of Messiah through these ordinary means.

Hear the Words of Messiah

Every Christian knows we're "supposed to" read our Bibles regularly. I'd like to focus this a bit further. Read the Gospels. Meditate on the words of our Messiah. Notice the way He walked. Seek not simply to check off a daily reading or gain theological knowledge, but to know the person behind the words. Indeed, in all our reading of Scripture (whether John, Leviticus, Psalms, or Chronicles), our chief aim should be to know Christ.

Remember, when you open up the Scriptures, you are not just opening up a book. The Holy Spirit stands beside you, ready to read these words with you and illuminate than for you. In some ways, it's like opening up a conversation. Engage with Him. Share with God what stands out to you and ask about what doesn't make sense to you. Allow God to speak to you through His Word. To encourage you. Challenge you. Inspire you.

Obey the Commandments of Messiah

As we read and meditate on the words of Messiah, we will begin to learn His commandments, His will for the lives of all believers. Here, we have both the words of Yeshua that we learn to obey and the ways of Messiah that we learn to imitate. We hear His call to seek first the Kingdom and to share His love with everyone we encounter in His parables, in His interpretations of the law (for surely our keeping of Torah must be aligned to our Messiah's interpretation), in the way He handled the many questions aimed at Him. We see how He loved the Father Himself by proclaiming His Kingdom and submitting to His will to the end. And we see how He loved his neighbors by visiting with outcasts and bringing healing to the broken and hurting. What we follow is not a formula or a program, but a living person. Our living Messiah.

Yeshua teaches us, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him" (John 14:23). What better way to come to know our Messiah than for the Father and the Son to come and make their home in us? In keeping His commandments, we have this promise.

Walk with the People of Messiah

Ours is not a solo religion, but rather a community faith. Many of the commandments (e.g. "Hold a holy convocation", "Love your neighbor", etc.) assume and require us to be a part of an active faith community. We see this too in Paul's Temple imagery that he uses to describe believers and in Yeshua's prayer that we might all be one. Indeed, through fellowship with other disciples of Messiah, we can come to know our one Lord and Master better. This happens through various ways--here, I will consider two.

First, through serving and being served by one another. In the parable of the sheep and the goats, Yeshua teaches us to see Himself in those we are serving, for indeed, Yeshua identifies Himself with the weak, the downtrodden, and the outcast. And as He sends us out to be His hands and feet, we can see the Yeshua in those doing the work of the Kingdom serving others.

Secondly, community helps support the previous points of studying Messiah's words and learning to obey Him. As we encourage and challenge one another in our respective paths of discipleship we are allowing the "word of Christ [to] dwell in you richly" (Col. 3:16). This is another way to know Messiah more fully.

Engage in the Mission of Messiah

After the disciples had been with Yeshua for some time, Yeshua began to send them out on a mission to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom. What's more, Yeshua's last injunction to His disciples (as recorded by Matthew) was that they should "Go, and make disciples of all nations..." (Matt. 28:19). It is in this context that Yeshua assures us, "Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:20).

Peter and John both call us a kingdom of priests (1 Pet. 2:9, Rev. 1:6) in fulfillment of the Torah (Exo. 19:6) and prophets (Isa. 61:6). As priests, our role is to be a conduit between the world and God, to bring others in and lead them into the worship of our King. In some ways this is our response to knowing God--sharing that knowledge with others. I would argue it is also another way to come to know our Savior better. God, King and Creator of the universe, has called upon us to come alongside Him (though He certainly has no need of us) in His work of redemption, proclaiming His great name and preaching salvation to all nations. Why? So that we might know Him.

Hope in the Promises of Messiah

Alongside the commandments that Yeshua gives us are His promises to those of us who believe. Promise of springs of water that will flow from within us. Promise of a home being prepared for us. Promise of rest. And that's just a few of the promises mentioned explicitly in the Gospels. In Yeshua we find the fulfillment of all the promises of Moses and the Prophets.

The world offers all manner of idols competing for our affections. They promise security, happiness, fulfillment--but none deliver. The Psalmist said that those who worship idols will become like them (Psa. 115:8). By contrast, those who worship Messiah are being remade in His image (2 Cor. 3:18). And, as our Master taught, where one's treasure is, there one's heart will be also. So, let's gather our treasure in the promises of the Kingdom of Heaven that our heart might be with Him.

Rest in the Grace of Yeshua

An article on how to know Yeshua wouldn't be complete without a mention of the grace of Yeshua. It can be easy to get wrapped up in methods, do's and don'ts, checklists, etc. "Did I read my chapter quota today?" "Am I messing up too much on the commandments?" "I really don't feel like peopling today." And the last thing I want is for my writing to become one more voice telling you, "You're not good enough."

The fact is that God loves you. Yeshua loves you. And His desire is for your good. He said, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). In Yeshua we find our strength when we cannot go on. Peace when chaos surrounds us. Hope when the darkness closes in. He offer forgiveness when we fail again and again. And in Him, we find acceptance, even when we cannot accept ourselves. Indeed, "our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you" (Augustine, Confessions).

I know I've run through a lot here, and by no means do I claim to have attained any of this. I share these thoughts as an alongsider, struggling to understand these things myself. But, before I leave off, let me encourage you with this. Most of what I've written here comes from reading His words. Start there, and I believe He will show you how to find Him. He gives us this promise, "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, c.f. Matt. 7:7).

(This article can also be found on the HFF blog)

No comments:

Post a Comment