Do You Really Know Jesus?
Millions of Christians profess to follow Jesus, but how many have a relationship with him? Fr Ralph de Hahn explains what such a relationship means.
It is amazing just how many millions publicly profess to be Christians but in fact scarcely have a relationship with the person of Jesus Christ. To live as a follower and disciple of Jesus will cost no less than everything — but it will offer far more than everything we know.
Membership of a Christian community, even with daily worship, does not in itself make a person a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth. The Father is central, but Jesus alone is the Way, the Truth and our very Life. We are speaking of a perpetual mystical union with this man, fully realising that the high principles set by the Master are serious and uncompromising, and that our knowledge and relationship with this man is private.
Let us hear what the Bible reveals about this man Jesus, “the son of Mary and Joseph, of the house of David”. John the Baptist named him the “Lamb of God”. Simeon saw him as “a sign of contradiction”. The Archangel Gabriel revealed to Mary her child would be “the Son of the Most High”. The previously doubting Thomas cried out: “My Lord and my God!” The Apostle John opens his Gospel: “The Word of God made flesh.” Peter, moved by the Spirit, professed: “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.”
Paul, in his magnificent letters to the Corinthians, calls Jesus “the image of the unseen God”; to the Philippians he writes that Jesus’ state was divine; to the Ephesians he commends “a Power far above every sovereignty, authority or domination”.
Before Abraham was Jesus
The man Jesus declared publicly who he really was: “I and the Father are One; it is he who sent me. Before Abraham ever was, I am. I am Living Bread come down from Heaven. You are of this world, I am not of this world. He who sees me sees my Father also.”
But you! Do you know this man named Jesus — this lay preacher who walked over many miles to proclaim the most shattering truth that the Kingdom of God had come, and then dared to challenge the taboos and teachings of the highest Jewish authorities, which ultimately led to his cruel death?
Do you know that man? Do you know just how human he was, so compassionate, so loveable, so easily hurt by any offensive word or deed against truth and justice? In him we find a love that can never be fathomed, a peace that is never understood, a light that never darkens, a simplicity and beauty that can never be marred, and a wisdom that can never be challenged.
A radical conversion
Is that the man you know? If not, then you and I are still on the way to becoming a Christian, for our frail humanity is, in fact, ever striving for holiness the Jesus way. This must mean a personal relationship with the Lord which demands a steady — yes, indeed, radical — conversion, one which must go to the deep roots of our being.
Never forget that the sinner is at the heart of Christianity. However, our failures and stumbles are all part of this process, which is not an intellectual but a loving one. Christian conversion is never complete. We meet this man Jesus, we listen to his teaching, we grow to love him, we then long to be his disciple. That is not an easy pilgrimage, which is why millions of Catholics have left the Church. The disciple John suggests: “They never really belonged on this journey” (1 John 2:19).
All this demands that we take Jesus seriously, to go not an easy journey but one guided by the Holy Spirit. On that journey we experience the joy of being transformed into Christ Jesus who alone shared the nature of both man and God.
How would I react to Jesus today? Would I have the heart of Jesus? The unconditional forgiveness of all who hated and killed him? Would I embrace his parables, and be the gentle, patient father of the prodigal son? Would I live kindly among the weeds and the wheat? Would I be like the Samaritan who didn’t just pass a fellow man hurting on the ground but aided him? Would I not hide my light under a bush and not allow the seed to fall not on rocks, but rather on good soil? Would I place God first, my neighbour second, and myself last?
That is our self-examination. With Jesus, there is no compromise. So again, do you know this man? Are you in the process of becoming a Christian? Yes, are you his disciple?
Fr Ralph de Hahn is a priest of the archdiocese of Cape Town.