Can you imagine what it would have been like to hear and see the parable of the sower, or the high priestly prayer, come out of Jesus’ own lips? He, the God-man, the living and holy son of God, standing next to you. Can you imagine seeing the paralytic man stand, pick up his own mat, and walk away because Jesus, who is sitting next to you, told him to do so? John saw and heard these things, so he is a primary witness of Jesus. Is that not spectacular? We have words from the man who saw the gospel in action and lived it out under the direct guidance of Jesus.
John was very familiar with Jesus’ life, actions, and teachings and he wrote this letter in his old age to encourage the Church. Notice how Jesus and the gospel are intimate and precious to him. His direct interaction with the living Jesus was about three years, but that time was enough to instill lifelong reverence.
Have you experienced or witnessed genuine reverence? It could be reverence for an astounding human feat, sacrificial act, or for God himself. Have you found yourself in a place of awe and worship?
John opens his letter with reverence because of his experiences. He is talking about Jesus and the story of Jesus as he writes, “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands” (1 John 1.1). See how visceral and very personal John’s description is? He heard wisdom, parables, questions, greetings, and relaxed conversation come out of Jesus’ mouth. He saw his hair grow out, eating at meals around fires and on boats, serving adults and children, teaching thousands, teaching a few. He shook the calloused, strong hands of a first century carpenter. Can you imagine that level of intimacy with the savior of all creation? John experience those things and many more, which he hopes to draw upon for our encouragement.
The witness of John boggles my mind at times, because his account brings me into close proximity with my Messiah. It’s like listening to my wife share her experiences on a trail run with friends. As she describes the weather and scenery I can feel the air flow past, the sun and sweat on my face, hear the rocky dirt crunch under my steps. I can imagine the banter and vocal nuances of her friends and my wife’s reactions. John does not give this descriptive of an account in his letter–that happens in his gospel–but he references experiences that were so full. Even if I am living two thousand years after the life of Christ I can imagine Jesus as if he had been living only a couple of years ago because of the account of John. Amazing!
Do you ever desire to be closer to Jesus? Do you ever desire to gaze into the eyes of Jesus as he speaks encouragement over you? I am both excited and frightened to stand next to Jesus, to look him in the eyes. I will be looking into the eyes of life itself, within the aura of so much love, but I will be standing next to the conquering king with knowledge of the sin that I have committed. That dichotomy frightens me.
John isn’t writing to bring us fear, rather, he is “writing these things that our joy may be complete” (v.4). The letter that follows is meant to give account to the glorious truths of Jesus, to the eternal life given to us by Jesus. As John says, the giver of life, Jesus, “was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life … so that you too may have fellowship with us … with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (v.2, 3). Though it may seem impossible, John is inviting us to participate in the same fellowship with Christ that he experienced so that “our joy may be complete.” This fellowship is accomplished through the revelation of scripture and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Honestly, how do you respond to John’s invitation?
I hope you find some encouragement from John. He, one of the first followers of Christ, desires to share Christ for your joy. He’s not enforcing law and demanding obedience. He’s not shaming us of the twentieth century for our lack of spirituality. On the contrary, he is extending an open invitation full of love and gifts. As I continue through 1 John, I earnestly desire that you might see more of Jesus’ love for you. Hopefully we will see more of that love as we continue through 1 John.