9. Jesus of Nazareth

One day two of John the Baptist’s disciples followed Jesus along the riverbank. When they asked where he was living, he invited them to “Come and see.” What that meeting did to them was fondly recalled by the apostle John many years later. He even records the time of day. After all, it was the most decisive moment of John’s life. He gave the rest of his life over to being a follower of Jesus (see John 1:35-42).

Many of those who met Jesus of Nazareth found themselves wanting to be with him for long periods at a time. What they experienced in his company was above all a deep reassurance. Even before they knew who he really was (which they came to realise after his resurrection), what they seemed to know when they were with him was that they mattered to God. And when you matter to God, you matter! You matter regardless of anything and everything that could ever happen to you. Knowing this changes everything. It is life-giving, even in the face of death.

Faith...not a leap in the dark so much as a step into the light.

Jesus’ followers were shattered when they saw him put to death. But then the joy of seeing him alive three days later gave them even greater reason for hope than they had before his death. Now they knew that no evil of any kind, sin, injustice, or death itself, could stand in the way of what God was doing in our history. If on the face of it, it seemed that suffering, injustice, and death had the last word over goodness, love, and life, now they knew the opposite was true.

Faith is believing against appearances. But it’s not a leap in the dark so much as a step into the light. A letter attributed to Peter written after Jesus’ resurrection puts it this way:

Blessed be the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time. In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials ... Although you have not seen him you love him and without seeing you now believe in him, and rejoice with an indescribable joy, touched with glory because you are achieving faith’s goal, your salvation. (1 Peter 1:3-6, 8)

Jesus’ disciples had heard him speak often and fondly of his Father. One day Phillip said to Jesus, “show us the Father.” Jesus replied that in knowing him they already knew what the Father was like. Jesus is what God looks like when God comes into our world, our history, and our lives.

Now that Jesus is risen, he is as truly present to you as he was to his followers when he was alive. He is the same person who said and did the things they saw and heard. Now you can talk to him about those same things, just as they did.

There is so much to talk about. Everything beautiful you have experienced, every tender moment, every sacrifice made from love, every act of courage, of endurance, of reaching out, everything that is precious to you has been made worthwhile forever, by him who made your life worthwhile forever.

By turning to the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, you can enter each scene in Jesus’ life. This involves using your imagination, but it is not mere fantasy; it is really happening because Jesus is really present to you. The events of his life become a catalyst for what is taking place in your life.

Make your own some of the questions and the requests that the people in the gospels asked of Jesus. You will be praying with a sense of how he responded to them, and responds to you. No one ever came away from Jesus with less than they had asked for.

For Practice

  • Spend some quiet time reflecting on the following passage. Use your imagination to put yourself in the scene with Jesus. 
    As the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various kinds of diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on each of them and cured them … At daybreak he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea. (Luke 4:40, 42-44)
  • What might Jesus have said to you if you had had a few minutes with him that evening?

For Prayer

Here comes with power the Lord God,
who rules by his strong arm;
here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care.

Isaiah 40:10-12