To Know Jesus
Karl Barth wrote this about John Calvin:
Calvin is a cataract, a primeval forest, a demonic power, something directly down from Himalaya, absolutely Chinese, strange, mythological; I lack completely the means, the suction cups, even to assimilate this phenomenon, not to speak of presenting it adequately. What I receive is only a thin little stream and what I can then give out again is only a yet thinner extract of this little stream. I could gladly and profitably set myself down and spend all the rest of my life just with Calvin.
Yes, John Calvin is complex, magical. There is more to him than meets even the diligent eye that is fixed on him. Calvin is awesome. But Christ is “awesomer.” I should like to spend some time with Calvin in the world to come over a cup of coffee or a pint; I spend considerable time with his writings now. But I would gladly and profitably set myself down and spend all the rest of my life just with Christ.
David Powlison says Jesus “super-fulfills” the Old Testament. He fulfills it, but he goes it better. He super-fulfills it. Powlison writes:
Imagine that in 1905 God had promised your great-grandparents that someday he would give their descendants a Model T Ford, a radio communications system using Morse code, and a biplane. When he decided to deliver in 2003, he gave you a Dodge Viper, a satellite-linked cell phone, and an F-117A Stealth Fighter. The promise was fulfilled . . . in ways beyond your imagination . . . Similarly, the prophecies, songs, commandments, and stories of the Old Testament become supercharged with the power and glory of the Holy Spirit by whom Jesus Christ indwells his people.
Jesus is the super-fulfillment of our hopes and dreams for redemption. He is the super-fulfillment of the ancient longings. His heel crushes the serpent’s head. He is the sacrificial animal skins covering cursed humanity. He is the acceptable sacrifice of Abel. He is Noah’s ark. He is the ignored sibling. He is the warrior. He is the burning bush, the lifted staff, the struck rock, the pillar of fire, the manna. He is the ark of the covenant. He is the law-giver. He is the curtain to the holy of holies. He is the kinsman redeemer. He is the anointed king. He is the afflicted sufferer, taunted by his friends. He is music. He is wisdom. He is romance. He is the voice in the wilderness, and the news shared by the voice. He is safety from the furnace. He is coverer of the whore’s shame. He’s the vinedresser and the vine. He is the servant-teacher. He is the Word. He is the glory. He is the abolitionist. He is the lion and the lamb.
Powlison writes, “Christ creates both the difference and the coherence.” With Christ at the center of life—where he belongs—the planets align, stay their course, spin and shine rightly. Life grows. The music of the spheres plays an angelic melody.
Christ is the flood, the forest, the power of powers, the true tongue of angels. Christ is the solution to Einstein’s unified field theory. He is string theory, hyperspace, gravity, and time travel. He is Narnia and Middle Earth. He is logic and reason and the deep magic too. He is math and science and the real fire on Mount Olympus. He is the true myth. He is sinless man and risen Lord. He is the real God.
Do not look around you. Look up! “Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” Robert Murray M’Cheyne urges us: “For one look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ!” He writes:
Unfathomable oceans of grace are in Christ for you. Dive and dive again, you will never come to the bottom of these depths. How many millions of dazzling pearls and gems are at this moment hid in the deep recesses of the ocean caves! But there are unsearchable riches in Christ.
There is no end to Christ, and there is no end to his love for his brothers and sisters. If you have trusted in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for the forgiveness of your sins and the hope of eternal life, nothing can separate you from his love. Come hell or high water, you are had and will be had by him. Nothing can snatch you from his hand.
How wonderful Jesus is! He knows me, and I know him. But since waking to the gospel I want to know him more. How tall is he? What makes him laugh?
Let us pledge together to love God until we know the idiosyncrasies of Jesus, and then love him more. Which is to say, let’s love Jesus until heaven, when we’ll see him face to face and know him as we are known, and where our love will be Spirit-fueled forevermore.
This is an excerpt from my forthcoming book Gospel Wakefulness.