Do you love Jesus? What do you think of when you hear this word—His name? Do you think of someone from first-century Palestine in sandals and a robe, or a figure on a cross in your childhood church, or the founder of the Christian religion? Or do you think of God, the Son—identified as the Word of God, who became human and lived in our world for a specific purpose and time?
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5 NIV)
Jesus was physically very much a human being and is credited with beginning the Christian religion, although after His execution, no one believed in Him anymore. You see, at the time His followers didn’t quite get it. They had thought He was going to politically free their nation from Rome, the then-dominant political power in the world. When He didn’t; when He allowed Himself to be arrested and executed without resistance; when they crucified Him to a tree and slashed a sword into Him to assure He was dead; when they buried Him in a tomb and nothing more happened for three days—they scattered and went into seclusion, rightly expecting to be next.
They had wanted a revolution and got an execution. Talk about deflated expectations! There was no pep talk; there was no discussion of starting a religion or salvaging the situation—it was over and they knew it.
Why? What would be the purpose? You have to understand this from their perspective. They were from Israel, a nation that had a long history of direct revelation from God, and prophecies concerning the re-establishment of their human kingdom. Because they already had a sacrificial system that absolved them of guilt before God, they were not looking for anything spiritual; they were expecting something real—their emancipation from Rome! So much so that even after they saw Jesus alive again, they asked if He was going to then restore Israel’s freedom!
Luke, a non-Jew who researched the life of Jesus for an interested dignitary of the time named Theophilus, and presented his findings in writing (preserved as our Bible books Luke and Acts), explained:
“Dear Theophilus, in the first volume of this book I wrote on everything that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he said good-bye to the apostles, the ones he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. After his death, he presented himself alive to them in many different settings over a period of forty days. In face-to-face meetings, he talked to them about things concerning the kingdom of God. As they met and ate meals together, he told them that they were on no account to leave Jerusalem but “must wait for what the Father promised: the promise you heard from me. John baptized in water; you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit. And soon.” When they were together for the last time they asked, “Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?” He told them, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”” (Acts 1:1-8 MSG)
Jesus told them to wait to do anything until after they received power from His Spirit. Then—and only then—they understood that the purpose of Jesus’ life was not to establish a human kingdom, but to open the door for reconciliation between sin-infused humans and holy God. And only then were they transformed from fearful, cowering fishermen and tax collectors and whatever else they had done before to earn a living, to powerful proclaimers of forgiveness from God to those who repent of their sins and believe in the forgiveness God gives through Jesus!
I think it is imperative as we look back at their transformation that we recognize that no amount of private contemplation or corporate scheming could have resulted in the impact their witness and testimony garnered, had Jesus not in fact risen from the dead and they not been supernaturally empowered—if they knew in their hearts He was still dead and were making it up to benefit themselves in any way. There were way too many otherwise inexplicable “signs and wonders”—what we now call miracles.
But why love Jesus? Why are there so many songs that talk about how precious He is? What is so special about Him anyway?
It’s because through Him, we’re forgiven and accepted—reconciled to God; because without Him, we’re under God’s wrath. We may not feel it or even understand it—that’s part of the problem with being “lost;” much of the time you don’t realize you are. Only occasionally, it seems, God gives moments of clarity when it occurs to us that there has to be more than this life, or we think about dying and what will happen to us afterward. Or we feel something missing inside us that no amount of pleasure of any variety will fill. That’s God’s Holy Spirit reaching out to us.
You see, Jesus isn’t a religion or a cult; He’s a transformed human existence. Knowing about Him doesn’t cut it—giving into Him does. You know what I’m talking about, because we’ve all pushed Him away in the past. But now, if you hear Him, it’s time to give in and let Him do His good work in us.
So, if you know little about Jesus, don’t be scared. He doesn’t turn you into a psychopath—He makes you a good person:
“People’s desires make them give in to immoral ways, filthy thoughts, and shameful deeds. They worship idols, practice witchcraft, hate others, and are hard to get along with. People become jealous, angry, and selfish. They not only argue and cause trouble, but they are envious. They get drunk, carry on at wild parties, and do other evil things as well. I told you before, and I am telling you again: No one who does these things will share in the blessings of God’s kingdom. God’s Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. There is no law against behaving in any of these ways. And because we belong to Christ Jesus, we have killed our selfish feelings and desires.” (Galatians 5:19-24 CEV)
These are the outward signs that we belong to God, that we’ve been changed by Jesus; yet the biggest change is that we become part of the eternal economy when we believe in Jesus—when we recognize that we are forgiven because of Him. They didn’t understand at the time, but Jesus told the disciples that eternal life begins now:
“After Jesus had finished speaking to his disciples, he looked up toward heaven and prayed: Father, the time has come for you to bring glory to your Son, in order that he may bring glory to you. And you gave him power over all people, so he would give eternal life to everyone you give him. Eternal life is to know you, the only true God, and to know Jesus Christ, the one you sent.” (John 17:1-3 CEV)
That’s why Christianity is a relationship with God through Jesus (also God; the Word of God who became human), not a religion. Religions present humans who must appease gods they never can; Jesus already did the appeasing through His death on the cross for us—in Him, we stand right before the Father, holy, beloved and accepted. We no longer have to strive to please an unappeasable deity, but neither can we continue to sin because His Spirit in us bothers us too much. We love Him, “with all…[our] heart, soul, and mind,” (Matthew 22:37 CEV)—with everything we are. This is a love relationship that transcends death.
So, do you love Jesus? If you’ve “sold” everything you have for His sake; if you recognize Him to be the most priceless of treasures that gaining everything else will not make up for having missed out on; if you’ve thrown in your lot with Him and, live or die, you’re His and with Him—then, yes then—He is precious to you!
Dear Jesus, Be most precious to me! Thank You!! Amen!