In the first part of this article, we read two of the statements that Jesus made about Himself. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life, as well as being the Resurrection and (again) the Life.
These explanations of Jesus’ purpose and His unique position in all of history were backed up by His behavior, by signs that attested to the truth of His words, by prophecies that predated him, and by God the Father’s personal testimony.
Here’s what I noticed about the context of these two statements, though: Jesus shared these things with His friends. While Jesus public and personal messages were consistent, these specific proclamations don’t seem to have been made in especially public settings. They were not campaign promises or boasts; just facts shared with friends, to explain and to comfort. Unlike advertising and marketing that we see today from those whose merits (or whose product) needs to be defended1, Jesus could simply state the truth, having reality, history, sovereignty, and power on His side.
So, why were these defining statements made in private, rather than on the hillside of the Sermon on the Mount, for instance? Maybe they were repeated during Jesus’ teaching to larger crowds, but I believe that Jesus also carefully chose the time, place, and audience to share certain important messages. And, the Holy Spirit specifically guided the writings of the gospel authors, deciding what to include (and when to record it).
For one thing, certain audiences don’t seem to be ready for the truth about Jesus. They may have previously set their hearts and minds against Him, whether because of bad experiences with people who claimed to follow Jesus, or because they lack the humility to give someone else – even a healer of their souls – authority in their lives.
This might sound callous, as if we shouldn’t tell everyone about Jesus. I am not suggesting that the word of God should be kept to ourselves, but Jesus also gave us instructions like those in Matthew 7:6. Maybe we should share the good news generously, but understand that its reception won’t be uniformly favorable, given passages like the following:
Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet: “ ‘Go to this people and say, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’
Acts 28:24-27 NIV
In other cases, hearers of Jesus’ message may not be ready to listen…yet. They may need evidence that Jesus is indeed unique among those who are described as gods in this world. Learning more about the history of Jesus (prophecies that came before His birth, and how He fulfilled them), may be required to help them better understand the context of His arrival and purpose. Learning about the actual teachings of Jesus, rather than creative interpretations of His message, may show them that He is worth getting to know.
So, what can we do in light of Jesus’ statements to His friends?
For our own benefit, we can get to know Jesus better, so that we can learn more fully and more deeply about Him. Like best friends learning more and more about each other as time goes on, drawing closer to Jesus gives us a chance to hear messages that we may not have understood when we were far apart from Him. Jesus isn’t going to give you messages that contradict what He has already said, but He might have something to tell you that first requires your heart to be prepared to hear it. Take the time to invest in your relationship with Him so that He can tell you these things.
For the sake of others, we can live like Jesus did, loving others like God loves them (as best as we can), and serving them with grace (as we have been blessed). This helps them see what Jesus was like (as reflected in His followers), and get some idea of the “abundant life” (see John 10:10) that Jesus offers. In addition, we can tell people about Jesus. This isn’t just telling them that, without Jesus, their eternal destiny is to suffer apart from God. It should also includes an explanation of the nature of God, how much He loves them, and why He wants to rescue them from the consequences of their sin. And, as we genuinely love others, serving them as Jesus served both His disciples and the crowds, we establish a relationship in which we can tell them about the really important attributes of Jesus Christ.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- No, I’m not saying that every commercial is a lie, only that some are definitely misleading. ↩