By Jenniffer Mann
Hi. For those of you who don’t who I am, my name is Jenniffer. Please note, that I said for those of you who don’t know who I am. I could have said, for those who don’t know me. Semantics? I believe not.
It’s true there are many who may know who I am, but if asked how many people know me. That number would quickly drop to low digits. I am well aware of who the UK’s Prime Minister is, but I don’t know him. There is a clear difference between seeing a person and knowing a person.
For many of us, what we think we know about someone, is merely an accumulation of snapshots. Fragments of conversation, passing commentary, a watchful gaze, an assumption based on opinion and unfortunately, on occasion, the tool we use to paint that picture is more akin to a brush without bristles than a finely pointed one. My point here, is that when it comes to each other, we are sometimes way off the Mark.
As one person puts it:
We never see the full picture. We cannot know a person’s life and challenges at a glimpse.
We never hear the full story. We cannot grasp a person’s viewpoint through mere words.
We never feel the full pain. We cannot perceive a person’s heart and mind in a conversation.
Misjudging others based on misinformation, at best causes the victim to feel isolated, hurt and unheard. At worst, miscarriages of justice have occurred resulting in social ostracism, imprisonment or in more severe cases, the death penalty. Everyone of these victims would attest to being stripped of their dignity and humanity.
Perhaps one of the worst cases for a miscarriage of justice is that of Darryl Burton, convicted in 1984. Burton spent 24 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Police coaching of witnesses, false police reports and suppression of exonerating eyewitness descriptions, were the reason for his conviction. Before the original trial, an eyewitness was shown a picture of Burton and informed by the interrogator that it was the murderer. She responded that the person she saw commit the murder had much lighter skin, and stated “you have the wrong man.” Another eyewitness made the same observation, but the police officer taking the statement, deliberately misstated the account to incriminate Burton, who was freed in 2008 for constitutional rights violations during the original trial.
To go back to where we started, knowing someone is very different to just knowing of them and never has a character been so misunderstood, than that of Jesus. Not only was He misunderstood in the bible but he remains misunderstood today. The reason being the same. People wanted to make Jesus who they wanted Him to be, based on their own thoughts and perceptions, rather than fact.
In the bible, some viewed Jesus as a military leader set to vanquish Rome and rule Jerusalem on a literal throne. Examples of this can be found in (Matthew 20:21; John 6:15 Luke 24:21; Acts 1:6). Others viewed Jesus as another prophet from God (Matthew 16:13-14; John. 4:19), not appreciating who He really is. Others saw Jesus as an imposter and rebellious to Abraham and the law of Moses (John. 5:45-47, 8:38-40, 53-58; Matthew 27:63). Many felt their power and influence threatened by what Christ said and what He represented. Therefore, they lied about and tried to make people believe that Jesus was an imposter so that they would not lose the “power” they had.
There were however a few, who understood that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ (John. 3:2, 4:25-29, 42, 9:33-38; Matthew 16:16). These few are what made all the difference in Bible days. These are the ones who taught the truth of Christ wherever they went.
Today, Jesus is viewed by many as a mere prophet, refusing to accept that He is the Son of God. At this time of year when depictions of the nativity abound, Jesus is seen merely as a baby in a manager and this element of Jesus life is readily accepted, whilst His power and sovereignty is rejected. Others still, view Jesus as their “genie,” who they call on only to make them rich. Such as the “gospel of prosperity” taught by many today. However, despite the misjudgement, Jesus used the prevailing ignorance at the time,to see through His plan of redemption. Completely innocent of the crime he was crucified for, He chose to bear the weight of our sins so we would be vindicated from the death of sin.
The difference between knowing Jesus and knowing of Jesus is quite literally the difference between life and death. Knowing of Jesus is the accumulation of information, not necessarily from trustworthy sources, that becomes our knowledge base. It goes without saying that an unreliable knowledge base, leads us to reach unreliable conclusions! When we know Jesus, we understand His character and the foundation of knowledge is built on truth with deep roots that are not easily uprooted by trials and adversity.
What can we do?
So how do we get around this issue of treating people based on improper and inaccurate conclusions? There is no big secret to reveal here. It’s a matter of Occam’s razor, in that the simplest answer is the correct one. If you want to cultivate relationships on an every day level, you simply invest the time to do so. The more time you spend, the more you develop a sense of trust and the more is revealed. Getting to know Jesus is exactly the same. You need to invest time in cultivating your relationship. Reading the bible equips you with an accurate knowledge base and when you couple that with prayer for understanding and wisdom, you will be privy to all kinds of revelations that enhance, cement and grow your relationship.
Don’t be swayed by the ill-informed opinion of others because the truth of the matter is, he suffered unimaginable persecution, taunting, was stripped of His dignity and humanity, so that you could experience eternal life. In Isaiah 53:3-5 we read: “He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.”
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.
To know and accept this about Jesus elevates Him from being a character of fiction, a prophet or a political leader, to the Son of God who died so you could live. As you go through the week ahead, challenge yourself to consider if you know of Jesus, or if you actually know Him. What does your personal relationship look like? What is it built on?
Father God, please bring me into a loving relationship with you, based on wisdom and understanding. Open my eyes to truly appreciate all you have done for me, and allow me to know you more each day. Amen.