In our world today, it seems that there are so many opportunities to be familiar with people, ministries, books, authors, friends, movements, diets, blogs, and the list goes on and on. If I’m not careful, I will be more familiar with my friends and family, or familiar with the writings and research of so many ‘good’ things while becoming less and less familiar with the person of Jesus.
Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines familiar like this:
Accustomed by frequent converse; well acquainted with; intimate; close; as a familiar friend or companion. Affable; not formal or distant; easy in conversation. Knowing by frequent use. Well known; learned or well understood by frequent use. Unceremonious; free; unconstrained; easy, frequent and intimate. a close companion; one long acquainted; one accustomed to another by free, unreserved converse.
What does being familiar with Jesus look like and what does familiarity with Jesus produce?
The beloved disciple John shows us.
If you were around Jesus during His days on the earth, chances are you would find John right next to Him. John observed, interacted with and encountered the people Jesus healed, delivered and set free. Jesus ministered to and cared for the masses but John, it seems, has this ‘knowing’ that Jesus really enjoyed being with him individually too. I love the way the Amplified Bible highlights the familiar scene after Jesus washed the disciple’s feet and begins to share with his closest friends about his upcoming betrayal.
John 13:21-23: After Jesus had said these things, He was troubled (disturbed, agitated) in spirit and said, “I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, one of you will deliver Me up [one of you will be false to Me and betray Me]!” The disciples kept looking at one another, puzzled as to whom He could mean. One of His disciples, whom Jesus loved [whom He esteemed and delighted in], was reclining [next to Him] on Jesus’ bosom. So Simon Peter motioned to him to ask of whom He was speaking. Then leaning back against Jesus’ breast, he asked Him, Lord, who is it?
Let’s pay attention to the real emotions of Christ here… He was disturbed, agitated, deeply troubled in His spirit. What does it actually look like when someone you love is deeply troubled? Possibly tears, a raised heart rate, faster breathing, flushed in color… not at rest. The writer of John is so intimately acquainted with Jesus and acknowledges this troubled spirit by the way he writes.
The disciples began looking at one another for what to do in response to Jesus’ deep sadness. Peter looks across the room at John who is reclining near Jesus (literally leaning against Him at the table) and motions to him to find out more. This is a scene we have all experienced at some point. Someone in the room is deeply troubled and you are looking at your friends wondering what to do, how to approach this person, the right questions to ask, wanting to find out more but wanting to be sensitive, etc. The one that is the most familiar or the closest is usually the one called upon to take the next step.
In this scene, John (the youngest of the disciples) was that friend. And what does he do in response to Jesus? The one that has already described himself as the disciple whom Jesus loves, delights in and esteems, LEANS IN. He was already close, and now John leans in closer. Don’t miss this precious moment. Being secure in our identity as dearly loved ones, through familiarity with Jesus gives us confidence to lean in and ask questions.
As we follow John’s life throughout the Scriptures we see so many beautiful displays of real relationship with Jesus. While Jesus was being crucified He appointed John to care for His own mother, Mary. John was the last remaining disciple who had the honor of receiving the Revelation of Jesus while exiled on the island of Patmos. His faith was unshakable. The One to whom he was devoted to remained his first love. Jesus was the One that was worth it all to John and the One that he continued to have deep fellowship with until he again saw him face to face.
In 1 John, after many years of faithfully serving Jesus and after seeing his friends and fellow disciples martyred, John writes, “We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.”
Joy is something that I have been asking God to increase in my life. As I have prayed through this, I’ve realized how closely related my joy is to my nearness to Jesus. Psalm 16:11 says “In your presence is fullness of joy.” The presence of Jesus and our nearness and familiarity with Him is the well of joy for us to drink from. Fellowship with Him will produce joy, even in the dry, painful and confusing seasons…His joy is our strength. John fully displays this throughout his life.
What are some practical ways to be familiar with Jesus? 1. Be familiar with His word. Let’s be more familiar with what the Scriptures say than what any other human on the planet says. This takes time and discipline to choose shutting off our screens and stilling our minds from so many things that distract. 2. Be familiar with His Spirit who always leads us to love Jesus more. Pray in the Spirit. Praise the Lord with songs and allow worship to flood your environment often! 3. Be familiar with His people - those that are alive on earth and those that have already run their race. Put yourselves around people that love Jesus with their words and actions. Read biographies of men and women that have gone before and be inspired by their lives of faith in Christ. If you would like some recommendations, feel free to email us (Amy Carmichael and Corrie Ten Boom are great ones to start with)!
I pray that 50 years from now our love for Jesus would be like the Beloved disciple John, remaining strong and pure as our familiarity with the living God increases more and more every day.