It’s a little scary how easy it is to miss Jesus. Even though he’s “Emmanuel” – God with us at all times – it’s all too easy to misunderstand his character and his purposes. To fail to see what he’s doing in our lives and how he’s inviting us to simply connect with him.
This is true both for those who do and those who do not claim to put their faith in Christ. Today, people’s views of Christ and Christianity are either watered-down or polluted to the point of unrecognizability. When we miss the power and perfection of Christ, we miss the gift of “living water” that God is offering to our parched lips.
When we have a distorted view of God, we don’t trust him, and we can’t relate to him in a life-giving way. For some people, this may result from feeling overwhelmed by difficult circumstances or cheated out of “the good life.” For others, it may be in direct response to negative interactions with church or people who call themselves Christians. It’s no wonder people have distorted views of Christianity when the people who claim to follow Jesus do hurtful things or even make wrong claims in Jesus’ name.
This is always going to be the case. Spoiler alert: Christians are not perfect – we’re in the process of being made new, but we’re not there yet! We’re called to put on our new nature, and be renewed as we learn to know our Creator and become like him (Colossians 3:10). We’re becoming more like him, but we’re not him; we’re imperfect reflections of his perfect love and goodness.
Thankfully, God came down to earth and left his spirit here, so we can interact directly with him. That’s the miracle of Jesus’ ministry. Then and now, he offers us the opportunity to interact with him. Just listen to the words he spoke to the woman at the well in Samaria (a woman who wasn’t “supposed” to interact with as a Jew). These are words for us, too!
“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)
Friends, this is the greatest invitation. Jesus is always standing at the door, knocking. He offers us friendship, and all we have to do is let him in.
“If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” (Revelation 3:20)
But as in any relationship, growing close to someone requires openness and vulnerability, and that can be a scary thing. What if this person judges us or hurts us? What if they show us things about ourselves we don’t like? Well, I have to be honest – that last one is a guarantee. But, the way Jesus interacts with us and shows us how we can grow is anything but judgmental. His words are always true and gracious – that’s a promise! He is “a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15).
Without an understanding of Christ’s loving character, though, it’s unlikely that one would want to enter into a relationship with him. That’s certainly what we see during Jesus’s ministry on earth. I’ve been in a study of John with the SheReadsTruth community, and throughout the pages of that book, person after person misses Jesus. The Pharisees leaned on their own understanding of the law and the prophets, and they stood on the sidelines, judging Jesus. They gathered up all their knowledge and used that to make what they consider to be a rational judgment about who Jesus is; instead of actually interacting with him and taking his character into account. They had too many pre-conceived notions about who the Messiah would be, and they let their own thoughts rule them instead of allowing Jesus to transform their way of thinking. And so, they were spiritually blind to the fact that the promised savior is standing right in front of them!
While it’s easy to pick on the Pharisees, they weren’t the only ones who missed the boat, so to speak. Even Jesus’ own brother and disciples didn’t understand who Christ was in the beginning. When John the Baptist calls out to Jesus, saying “Behold, the Lamb of God”, the two disciples who were with John don’t really get it. They call him “Rabbi,” which means Teacher. They don’t yet have the full picture of Jesus, but that’s okay because they’re in pursuit of it. They’re following him, and soon they will come to declare as Nathanael does: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God—the King of Israel!” (John 1:35-51)
What is it that caused Nathanael to speak such truth; what helped things “click” for him? It was because Jesus saw him. The same thing is true of the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus told her things about herself that she’d never told anyone else, but he didn’t condemn her. When he healed the blind man at the pool of Siloam, he saw him simply as a man who needed healing. Jesus didn’t judge him as a sinful person who’d brought blindness on himself, as others had done (John 9). And he does the same thing with us.
Jesus is so gentle with us. He understands that we need to interact with him in order to understand who he is. So he invites us into his home: “Come and you will see” (John 1:39). You will see how I see you, he says. You will see the way I live. And you will see that I am your Friend, Comforter, Provider, Counselor, Savior…the Prince of Peace.
Learning who Jesus is takes time. It requires
- Sitting at Jesus’ feet like Mary did and listening to him.
- Walking faithfully with him and observing his character.
- Obeying him, even in seemingly dangerous situations – like when the disciples were caught in the midst of a storm – and seeing how he comes through for us.
By sitting in Jesus’ presence, walking with him, and being obedient to his call, we gain a greater understanding of who he is. For some people, their process of discovering who God is requires a bit more struggle and tussle. Like Jacob, they wrestle with God and learn the magnitude of his power. God understands that we’re tactile people – he created us, after all – so he invites us to engage with him and learn what he looks like and feels like. Regardless of the particulars of one’s discovery process may be, the end result is the same: trust.
When we choose to trust Jesus, that’s when things get really good. That’s when we can take more of him in and be changed. This is symbolized through the eating of bread and drinking of wine (or grape juice!). The act of Communion is a physical representation of tasting and seeing that the Lord is good. When we take him in, we’re filled and sustained. We’re invigorated by the living water. We learn to relate to God not just as Teacher, but as Sustainer and Provider.
There’s more to the relationship with God than just Teacher or Sustainer. He’s also Creator and Father. He’s the greatest father – better than any earthly dad you can imagine – and he loves us tremendously.
All too often, I interact with God on the plane of Teacher-Student. That’s a good place to be, and God is the greatest Teacher, but it’s not where our relationship begins, and it doesn’t reflect the truest thing about me. To understand that, I have to go back to the garden, to “shalom” – the way things were meant to be.
When I examine the relationship Adam and Eve had with God before they rebelled and separated themselves from God, here’s what I see:
- Father-child relationship: Initially, they trusted God to provide and care for them…until they didn’t anymore and thought they could do better.
- Working partnership: They actively partnered with God, co-laboring with him in the stewardship of his creation.
- Mutual enjoyment: They walked with God in the garden, talking with him, and enjoying his presence. And, as God said, “it was good.”
So, with Eden and shalom as my point of reference and heaven as my future hope, I want to re-posture myself this year so that I interact with God in new, fresh, and healing ways. I want to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). I don’t want to miss what he’s doing.
If you’re reading this and thinking, “I don’t really know who Jesus is yet,” or “I’m not sure I believe the things I’ve heard about him,” then I’d encourage you to start with just sitting at Jesus’ feet. Wrestle with him, if that’s what you need. As long as you’re approaching the process with a curious heart and openness to discovery, I have full confidence that you won’t be left wanting. And I pray that eventually you’ll find that you’re ready to walk with him.
Taste and see. Don’t just approach Jesus with intellectual curiosity, although I believe that can be a formative part of one’s discovery process. Instead of just using your brain, use all your senses. In time, I pray that you’ll get vulnerable and be honest with him. He’ll tell you things about yourself you may not have even realize, and he’ll help you grow and change. Step toward him, and you’ll see how he’s already so close to you. Walk with him, and he’ll be with you every step of the way. Take refuge in him and know that you are safe there.
Jesus won’t rush you in this process. He simply stands at the door and knocks, waiting for you to let him in. His invitation is open to everyone. All that’s required is a “yes.” Yes to a full life, a life of abundance, of tasting and seeing that God, indeed, is very good.
Many thanks to Grafted Life Ministries for their Invitation series, to the SheReadsTruth community, and to my wonderful mother for always sharing truth with me. I’m so grateful that we don’t have to walk alone.