Getting to Know Jesus
By David Feddes
Would you like to meet Jesus—hear him speaking, see him in action, know his personality? Don’t just depend on a religious system or on what other people say. Come and see for yourself. Go to a house where Jesus is having dinner. Get into a boat with Jesus and his friends. Sit on a grassy hillside and listen to Jesus tell stories. Walk with Jesus down dusty roads and see how he relates to people. Notice who likes Jesus, and why. Notice who hates Jesus, and why. Come and see!
How can you do that? Do you need a magic machine to bring you to another time and place? No, you just need the New Testament gospels written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Those inspired books have miraculous power to carry you across time and space and into contact with Jesus as he walked this earth long ago. And as you go to meet Jesus in that time and place, Jesus comes to meet you in this time and place. You enter his life, and he enters your life. Come and see!
As the biblical gospels carry you into contact with Jesus, one of the first things you notice is that Jesus is glad to see you and pleased that you want to meet him. Just hang around with him for a while, and find out what happens.
As you watch Jesus in action, you see that he has a remarkable effect on people. Just a few hours with him—sometimes just a few minutes—is enough to make people realize that Jesus is like nobody they’ve ever met before. Some conclude that he is the key to everything they have been looking for.
For example, two men are told by Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, that Jesus is somebody special. Jesus isn’t yet well known and hasn’t done anything spectacular, but the two men decide to tag along behind him. Jesus turns and notices them following. He asks, “What do you want?” Perhaps they’re not sure what to say, so they stammer, “Where are you staying?”
“Come,” he replies, “and you will see.”
So they go and see where Jesus is staying and spend the rest of the day with him. It’s late in the afternoon, about four o’clock. But that short time between four o’clock and bedtime is enough to amaze them and convince them to stick with Jesus and invite others to meet him.
One of the two men is named Andrew. The first thing Andrew does is to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah,” the Savior God’s people have been longing for. And Andrew brings Simon to Jesus.
Jesus takes one look at Simon and, without asking his name, says, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Peter,” which means “rock.” What sort of person knows your name without asking? What sort of person renames you “solid rock” when you’re just a flighty fisherman? Simon Peter may be puzzled by all this, but like his brother Andrew, he is amazed and captivated by Jesus and decides to hang around with him.
The next day Jesus walks up to a man named Philip, who comes from the same town as Andrew and Peter. “Follow me,” Jesus tells Philip. Now, if somebody comes to you and expects you to drop everything and go with him, what should you do? If someone ordinary tells you to follow him, you might refuse. But Jesus’ personality is so powerful and persuasive that when Jesus says, “Follow me,” Philip leaps at the chance.
In fact, meeting Jesus is so exciting that Philip wants someone else to meet him. Philip finds his friend Nathaniel and tells him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
Nathaniel, however, is not impressed, especially when he hears that Jesus comes from Nazareth. Nazareth is a town with a bad reputation, a place for losers, and Nathaniel says so. There was nothing sneaky or subtle about Nathaniel. He doesn’t hide his feelings. He honestly says what is on his mind. “Nazareth!” snorts Nathaniel. “Can anything good come from there?”
Philip doesn’t try to argue with Nathaniel. Philip simply anwers, “Come and see.” He is positive that meeting Jesus personally, even for a few minutes, will amaze Nathaniel and win him over despite his low opinion of Jesus’ hometown. Nathaniel agrees to go. He has his prejudices and doubts, but he is still honestly willing to check Jesus out for himself.
When Jesus sees Nathaniel approaching, he says, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” How does Nathaniel react? He may like the compliment, but what’s a compliment really worth if it comes from someone who has never even met you before? How would this stranger know there’s nothing phony about Nathaniel? What if he’s just trying to flatter him? So instead of thanking Jesus for the compliment, Nathaniel says, “How do you know me?”
Jesus answers, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
At that Nathaniel’s doubts disappear. This man whom he has never met before knows exactly where he has been and what he was doing earlier that day, and he also knows his character. Somehow Jesus already knows him inside and out. Suddenly it dawns on Nathaniel who Jesus must be. “Rabbi,” he says, “you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” (see John 1:35-51)
One after another, people who meet Jesus are amazed and gripped by his personality—and this is before Jesus has even begun to do the things that will soon make him famous. Before long Jesus will do mighty miracles and preach to enormous crowds who hang on his every word. Some folks will get caught up in the mood of excitement surrounding Jesus, the way star-struck fans go into a frenzy over a celebrity superstar. But Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathaniel are meeting Jesus at the beginning of his ministry, before he’s famous, before huge crowds are gathering around him. It’s not publicity or a general mood of excitement that makes Andrew, Peter, Phillip, and Nathaniel marvel at Jesus; it is Jesus himself. Jesus is so magnetic, so magnificent, that they sense he must be the Messiah, the one promised by the prophets, the Son of God, their King. They still have a lot to learn, but one thing they know: in meeting Jesus, they have met more than just another man. In meeting Jesus, they are getting to know God in a fresh, wonderful way and having their deepest longings satisfied. When they want to share their discovery with family and friends and others they meet, they don’t give a long speech. They just say, “Come and see. Check him out for yourself.”
That’s my invitation to you right now: come and see. Take a few minutes with me to meet Jesus and get to know him. Don’t just go by hearsay or by what you happen to think of religion in general. Come and see Jesus and meet him for yourself.
As you meet Jesus in the Bible, you find that he welcomes all kinds of people. It doesn’t matter who you are—man or woman, grandparent or child, fisherman or farmer, priest or prostitute, soldier or rebel, cop or criminal, ruler or slave, rich or poor, educated or uneducated, healthy or disabled, religious or rotten, sensible or demon-possessed—Jesus warmly welcomes anyone who wants to meet him and get to know him better. He never tells anyone that he’s too important or too busy or too good for them.
As you’re hanging around with Jesus, you see several young mothers with little kids and babies, wanting Jesus to touch their children and pray for them. Some of the people around Jesus tell the women to go away. They say that Jesus can’t be bothered with babies and housewives. But when Jesus sees women and children treated as though they don’t count, it makes him mad. “Let the little children come to me,” he says. “Don’t hinder them. God’s kingdom is for kids like these.”
Later you’re walking down the road behind Jesus, along with a crowd of others. Suddenly you hear a couple of loudmouth guys making a racket: “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us.” Two blind beggars, who are beside that road every day looking for handouts, have heard Jesus is going past. When they start yelling, the crowd scolds them and tells them to shut up. After all, Jesus is on the move. He’s got big plans! Why should a couple of no-account freeloaders make a scene and interfere with his schedule? But the blind men won’t give up. They yell all the louder, and Jesus doesn’t mind at all. In fact, he seems pleased. He stops and asks them what they want. They tell him they want to see. Jesus’ face is full of pity. He touches their eyes. Suddenly they can see, and they join his other followers.
As you hang around with Jesus, you find out that he not only makes time for women and children and disabled people but also for people who are downright bad. He sits down for supper with crooks and prostitutes and riffraff of every kind. He accepts invitations from almost anybody, and he even invites himself to their place if they feel unworthy to invite him. Sometimes it hurts his reputation among the more upstanding, religious members of society. They think he’s got no standards. But Jesus calmly tells them that the reason he came is to help sinners—and it seems to be working. Eating with crooks doesn’t make Jesus go crooked; it helps crooks go straight. Welcoming prostitutes doesn’t make Jesus sexually immoral; it helps prostitutes become sexually pure and transforms them into wise women who stop selling their bodies and start serving God.
At times it almost seems Jesus prefers lowly people to important people and rotten sinners to decent citizens. He warns some of the more upstanding folks that they are in danger of hell and that lowlifes are entering heaven’s kingdom ahead of them. At one point he even says it would be easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to be saved. But Jesus adds, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” And sure enough, even though many big shots oppose Jesus, he welcomes any who want to meet him.
He even meets them on their terms. A rich, religious man named Nicodemus wants to see Jesus but doesn’t want the public to see them together. He wants Jesus to have a secret meeting with him at night. Does Jesus refuse? No, he’s friendly even with a man who is ashamed to be seen with him. But when he sits down with Nicodemus, Jesus informs him that he must be born again and believe in Jesus in order to be saved, and he says that a saved person won’t hide in the dark but will live in God’s light.
Jesus doesn’t push anyone away but he also doesn’t pull any punches, either. He’s willing to meet people on their terms, but they can stay with him and follow him only on his terms. He won’t exclude anyone because of their past, but he won’t include anyone who refuses to leave their past and entrust their future to him. Nobody is so bad they can’t have him, but nobody is so good they don’t need him. He’s willing to meet you where you are, but then you must be willing to follow wherever he leads.
In meeting Jesus, you meet a combination of humility and authority you won’t meet anywhere else, an astonishing union of tenderness and toughness. One moment he’s cuddling babies; the next moment he confronting rulers. One moment he’s lying exhausted and asleep in a boat that’s being rocked by a storm; the next moment he’s ordering the storm around. One moment he’s weeping at the grave of his dead friend Lazarus; the next he’s ordering death itself to release his friend. One moment he’s on his knees like a slave, washing other people’s dirty feet; the next he says he’s their Lord and Master. Jesus feels the weakness, pain and poverty of humanity, and at the same time he unleashes the power, healing, and abundance of God. He doesn’t have even a small hut for a home, yet he strides through God’s temple as though he owns the place. He doesn’t have a penny to his name, yet he talks like the whole world is his. Could even the least human be humbler and more vulnerable? Could even almighty God be greater and more powerful? What else can you think except that Jesus must be completely human and at the same time fully divine?
One thing is for sure: Jesus isn’t boring. There’s never a dull moment when you’re around him. When he speaks, you might feel confused, you might even get upset and angry at some of the things he says, but one thing you won’t do is yawn. So much of what he says has an unexpected twist. He tells a story about a lousy crook and a respectable teacher. The punch line is that God accepts the crook and rejects the teacher. Jesus tells another story about a rotten kid who runs away from home, blows all his money, wrecks his life, damages his family’s reputation, and, when he hits bottom, stumbles back home. His dad welcomes him back with hugs and a big party—but meanwhile there’s a well-behaved older brother who seems to have done everything right and yet ends up feeling left out.
Jesus says some things that seem like splendid common sense, but he also says things that sound perplexing and outrageous. It’s not always easy to figure out what Jesus means. Still, his voice rings with such authority that even if you can’t understand him, you also can’t ignore him.
Expert scholars try to stump Jesus or trick him into saying something foolish, but Jesus always has the perfect answer. The smartest people can’t outwit him, yet the simplest people can benefit from his teaching. Jesus’ simple brilliance makes people wonder, “How did this man get such learning without having studied?” (John 7:15)
People are amazed not only at Jesus’ brilliance but at the sheer authority of his speaking. He’s not like other teachers who debate the fine points of religion and pile up quotes from other experts. Jesus often challenges expert opinion and declares the truth on based on divine authority.
Jesus’ enemies send armed guards to arrest him, but those tough, no-nonsense officers find themselves arrested by Jesus’ words. They drink in his words and then go away without seizing him. Asked why they didn’t arrest Jesus, they reply, “No one ever spoke the way this man does.” That’s because no one but Jesus ever spoke as God with us.
Perhaps Jesus’ most striking use of authority is the way he gives orders to demons. Evil spirits who have been controlling people can’t stand up to him. The demons do whatever Jesus tells them to do. Whenever he orders them to leave a person, they leave.
Demons are not wimps. They are rebel angels who have lost all goodness but still have terrible strength. When evil spirits take possession of someone, it’s not easy to drive them out. No mere human can do it. People aren’t strong enough to defeat demons.
It’s astounding, then, when someone comes along who makes demons tremble and run. Evil spirits that nobody could drive away are suddenly in full retreat when Jesus shows up. When a demon-possessed man makes an awful scene in a worship service, Jesus merely speaks, and the demon flees.
Another man is possessed by a whole army of demons and lives in a graveyard. He is naked, uncontrollable, foaming at the mouth, screaming in a demonic voice, a danger to himself and others. Then Jesus gives an order. The next moment the man is well-dressed, in his right mind, talking with Jesus, beaming with joy (see Mark 5:1-20).
What sort of person can order demons around? Some of Jesus’ enemies think that the reason demons listen to Jesus is that Jesus himself is possessed by the chief demon of them all. One moment you see a man naked, screaming in a horrible, inhuman voice, foaming at the mouth, hurting himself. The next moment you see him well-dressed, calm, talking with Jesus, beaming with joy, all because Jesus ordered demons to leave the man. Some people are convinced that the reason demons listen to Jesus is that Jesus himself is possessed by the chief demon of them all. But Jesus does so much damage to the cause of the demons that many people believe he can’t possibly be a tool of the chief demon. If Jesus’ power isn’t demonic or merely human, there’s one possibility left: his power is divine. He must be God come to save his people. What about you? Where do you think Jesus gets his power over demons?
Life and Love
Wherever his power comes from, Jesus has plenty of it. He kicks out demons. He gives orders to the wind. He makes paralyzed people walk. He makes blind people see. He makes deaf people hear. He touches lepers and outcasts with contagious diseases, and instead of Jesus getting sick from them, they get well from him. Huge crowds start flocking to him, bringing their sick and disabled friends with them, and Jesus heals them all. He feeds thousands of hungry people with five loaves of bread and two fish. He even raises the dead. A funeral procession breaks up when Jesus brings the boy in the coffin to life, to the delight of his widowed mother. A girl lying dead on her bed suddenly sits up in good health, thanks to a word from Jesus. It is the greatest outburst of miracles anyone has ever seen.
The miracles show awesome power, and they also show love and compassion. Jesus doesn’t just heal; he also touches and talks with those he heals, restoring their spirits as well as their bodies. Sometimes he declares their sins to be forgiven. Jesus doesn’t just cure problems; he cares about people.
And besides his power and compassion, there’s also his personal purity. When you meet Jesus, you find that he practices what he preaches. He can’t be flattered or bribed or seduced. Even his enemies can’t come up with any scandal to discredit him. He treats women with utmost respect, without a hint of lust. He lives one day at a time, trusting his heavenly Father, without using his fame to pile up money. There’s nothing greedy about him. He is patient with people and never scolds anyone unless it’s for their own good. He can’t be flattered or bribed or seduced. He always uses his power for the good of others, never for his own convenience. When Jesus asks, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” nobody can charge him with doing wrong. Never has anyone been so perfectly in line with God’s standards.
Still, his perfect goodness isn’t a grumpy, sour strictness. Jesus often speaks of God’s reign in terms of a huge party, and almost everywhere he goes, people are throwing parties for him. In fact, he’s involved in so many parties and is the focus of so much fun that some folks criticize him for not being stern and strict enough. He’s got the wrong kind of friends, and they are enjoying themselves far too much, to suit the guardians of dour decency. But despite those complaints, Jesus keeps making new friends who keep throwing parties for him.
Jesus himself is the life of the party. The sinners he befriends can’t help celebrating (Mark 2:19). “I have come,” explains Jesus, “that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). That’s why there are parties wherever he goes. Jesus tells his friends that he embodies God’s love to them. He does all this, he says, “so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). Life to the full, complete joy—that’s why there are parties wherever Jesus goes. People have never been so happy as when they are with Jesus, and they keep inviting others to come and see.
See For Yourself
What about you? Now that you’ve met Jesus and had a few minutes to get acquainted, what do you think? Can you see what the excitement is about? Can you see why so many people are convinced that he’s the Son of God? Would you like to know Jesus better? Then don’t stop here. Spend more time with him. Open your Bible to the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Pray for the Holy Spirit to connect you with Jesus. Then read more and more of the inspired gospel words, and experience the shock and wonder of being with Jesus.
If you watch Jesus in action, you’ll see that no one ever did what Jesus does. If you listen to Jesus speak, you’ll hear that no one ever spoke the way Jesus speaks. If you sense Jesus’ character, you’ll feel that no one ever lived the way he lives and that no one ever loved the way he loves. Ultimately, you will see Jesus hanging on a cross, dying to pay for your sins, and you will discover him as the risen Lord who has defeated death to give you eternal life.
Sometimes just hearing someone else talk about Jesus is enough to convince you that he’s astonishing. That can be the first step in trusting him and having a relationship with him, but there’s nothing better than getting to know Jesus for yourself.
A woman goes through several failed marriages before she meets Jesus. Somehow Jesus already knows all about her bad past, but he befriends her and says she can have eternal life in him. The woman is overjoyed. She rushes off to tell others in her village to come and see Jesus. Her testimony is so striking that many townspeople believe that Jesus must be the Messiah. But do they stop with what the woman has told them? No, they want to meet Jesus for themselves and get to know him better, so they ask Jesus to stay with them awhile. Soon many who weren’t convinced before become believers, and those who already believe what the woman said about Jesus have their faith made more personal and powerful when they meet him firsthand. They tell the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world” (John 4:42).
I hope you have that same experience and believe not just because of what I’ve said but because you’ve met Jesus for yourself and have a personal relationship with him and know beyond a doubt that Jesus really is the Savior of the world. When Jesus says to you, “Follow me,” do it. Only Jesus can give you a life worth living. Only Jesus can give you joy that lasts forever.
By David Feddes. Originally broadcasted on the Back to God Hour and published in The Radio Pulpit.