John 8:19, 55
19 So they were saying to Him, “Where is Your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also.”
55 and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word.
8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.
Knowing is a very interesting idea. It is something that I have thought quite a bit about both in my education and my life. I have spent years studying math, history, science, music, art, computers, and theology. I find that I know many things about each of those subjects, but with my poor memory, I likely have forgotten so much more than I remember of what I have been taught in all of my years of training. The things I seem to remember best are the things I had direct experiences with and the things I care most about. I can remember so much more about my seminary class in Romans than I can about my undergrad music history class. Why? I love Romans! I could care less who wrote what sonata and whether it was in B flat or G minor.
Knowing is also a very important biblical concept. John records the greatest injustice in history this way: Jesus “was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him” (John 1:10). How sad. We were created to know the Creator, yet we chose to go our own way. In contrast, Jesus said in John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” J.I. Packer says it well in his book, Knowing God, “What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God. What is the ‘eternal life’ that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God (John 17:3). What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment, than anything else? Knowledge of God (Jer. 9:23). What, of all the states God ever sees man in, gives Him most pleasure? Knowledge of Himself (Hos. 6:6).”
While knowing is clearly important, especially knowing God, I think we can all agree that knowing about someone and knowing someone are two very different things. I know that my favorite actor Liam Neeson is 66 years old, has two boys and had lost his wife to a skiing accident in 2009, but I don't know him. I know John MacArthur is 79 and has been the pastor at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA for almost 50 years, but I don't know him.
The people Jesus was talking to in John 8 were convinced that they knew God. Schooling for the 1st century Jewish boy from age 6-10 primarily involved the memorization of the Torah (the first five Old Testament books). They certainly knew about God. They knew about things that he had said, including His legal requirements for their nation; they knew about many of the things He had done, including miraculously delivering the Israelites from enslavement; they even knew about certain things that were revealed concerning His character, but Jesus clear states that they did not know God. Jesus actually uses a different word for “know” in the first phrase of John 8:55. It is a word that emphasizes knowing by experience. It is the kind of knowing that is gained by becoming familiar with or acquainted with someone. This is personally knowing another.
This knowing is the kind that I have with my family and friends. It can only come by spending time with another person. Seeing who they are and how they react to different situations. This knowing deepens when we open up and share our lives with others. I can still remember my insatiable desire when Melissa and I were dating to know everything about her. No detail was too small. I wanted to know every moment of her history, every facet of her personality, and every possible way I could make her smile. While that pursuit has lasted almost 20 years, I still find that my knowing her grows every year. Knowing Christ was so valuable to the apostle Paul that he was willing give up everything in the pursuit (Phil. 3:8). Really, is there anything more valuable than that?
May we run from the shallow waters of knowing things about our Lord and give all in the passionate pursuit of knowing Him and allowing ourselves to be known by Him.