When we see Jesus for who he really is, we savor him. That is, we delight in him as true and beautiful and satisfying. That is my goal, because two things flow from such an experience of Jesus Christ: he is honored, and we are freed by joy to walk the narrow way of love. Christ is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. And when we are satisfied in him, we are crucified to the world. In this way, seeing and savoring Jesus will multiply the mirrors of his presence in the world.
Understand Who Jesus Is
In the middle of the last century the British writer C. S. Lewis got it shockingly right:
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg— or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.1
In other words, Jesus will not be domesticated. But people still try. There seems to be something about this man for everybody. So we pick and choose in a way that shows he is on our side. All over the world, having Jesus on your side is a good thing. But not the original, undomesticated, unadjusted Jesus. Just the revised Jesus who fits our religion or political platform or lifestyle.
When I was in graduate school in Germany in the 1970s, I reviewed a book called Jesus für Atheisten,2 which you don’t need German to translate. It was a Marxist “reading” of the life of Jesus. According to that book, the essence of Jesus’ teaching was the call to radical action against the establishment. It was a call to ultimate devotion to “the kingdom”—the inbreaking of the new society (Marxism).
It is a strange thing that, among folks who do not follow Jesus as their Lord and God, almost no one wants to say bad things about him. The same thing is true of crosses: They are nice to wear for jewelry, but nobody wants to die on one. The only crosses people want are domesticated ones. It makes sense, then, that a man who calculated his whole life to die on one would be dangerous to believe in.
Can we know him as he really was—and is? How do we come to know a person who lived on the earth two thousand years ago—one who claimed to rise from the dead with indestructible life and therefore lives today? Some people say you can’t. The real Jesus is buried in history, they say, and there is no access to him. Others are not so skeptical. They believe that the biblical records of Jesus’ life are reliable, and that its earliest interpreters—like the apostle Paul—are more dependable guides than today’s critics.
Pastor John Piper unveils the person of Christ so that everyone can understand Jesus’ deity, power and wisdom. This accessible volume can awaken unbelievers and sweeten any Christian’s view of the Lord’s character.
But how can you be sure that the biblical portrait of Jesus is true? People take two paths in search of solid ground under the feet of faith. One is the path of painstaking historical research to test the authenticity of the historical records. I followed this path during my formative years in seminary and graduate school and college teaching. In spite of all the challenges to my faith in those days, I was never shaken loose from the conviction that there is good warrant for trusting the New Testament documents about Jesus. Today there are many compelling books—both scholarly and popular—that support this confidence.3