In the afterglow of Christmas we are treated to the reaction of people to the birth of Jesus. ‘Everyone was astonished … and Mary pondered’ (Luke 2:18,19). We are thrown back to that ancestor in the faith of Mary, Hannah whose child, Samuel, was also born when no one was expecting it. ‘In those days it was rare for Yahweh to speak’ (I Sam 3), and it took time for the prophet Eli to realise that the Lord was in fact calling the boy Samuel. But eventually Eli understood (v 8) and told the child how to reply.
There is a beautiful day in the life of Jesus described in John 1 where the disciples of John the Baptist are fumbling about trying to get to know Jesus. At one point he turns to face them and says bluntly, ‘what do you want?’ They seem to panic at the question for the truth is they don’t know what they want.
So they ask the seemingly anodyne question in response, ‘Rabbi, where do you live?’ If you cannot answer a question ask another question! Then Jesus says, ‘come and see.’ That invitation, of course, is an invitation for a lifetime’s exploration which will end with the words, ‘my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make a home in him’ (John 14:23). That’s where Jesus lives, but it takes time to get to know it.
As for Eli, his sons were ‘scoundrels’ (I Sam 2:12) and the general atmosphere was hostile to anyone getting to know anything about God. The disciples of Jesus were not much better at first and kept misunderstanding Jesus’ words and actions (Luke 9:54). But in the end, despite their desertion (Mark 14:50) and Peter’s denials they do understand and it is moving to read the words in the Acts of the Apostles, ‘Peter stood up and addressed them in a loud voice’ (2:14). What a change in Peter! And what a time it took!
The question arises; do we think we know God? Do we know Jesus? It is not so much how much we know – there are people who will tell you everything in the bible – but the way you know.
The ‘knowledge’ God offers is not a ‘knowing about’ but a knowing the person. This knowledge is not found in books, even the bible, but in a relationship to people and to God. Andrew takes Peter to Jesus and later Philip takes Nathaniel. Ignatius of Loyola says ‘it is not much knowledge that fills and satisfies the soul, but the intimate understanding and relish of the truth.’ That is the ‘getting to know’ that counts.Post published in: Opinions & Analysis