Knowing God – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

Each of the gospel writers has come to know Jesus and in his gospel is trying to convey his understanding to others in order that they, too, might believe in Jesus.  For Mark, Jesus is the “Son of God,” proclaiming the good news that the “kingdom of God” has come near (Mk 1:1,14).  For Matthew, he is “the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Mt 1:1).  For Luke, he is the “Son of God” (Lk 1:35), the one whose miraculous birth was foretold by an angel (Lk 1:30-33).  For John, he is “the Word” who was “with God” and who “was God” from before all time, and who has taken on himself our human nature (Jn 1:1-2, 14): “The Word became flesh and lived among us,” John tells us.

 The gospel writers declare openly what they believe about Jesus’ identity, but throughout their narratives, we see people – including Jesus’ own disciples – struggling to grasp what the evangelists have already come to believe.

In today’s gospel passage from John, the question of Jesus’ identity is, once again, at the forefront.  The people of Jerusalem have heard of this teacher-healer from Nazareth in Galilee and know that the authorities are trying to kill him.  They wonder aloud why Jesus is being allowed to preach so openly among them.  But they also claim to know him, or at least know something about him.  “We know where this man is from,” they say, “[how can he be the Messiah?]”

Jesus acknowledges that they do know something about him, but he expands their understanding by explaining that he has been sent by God, and that he knows God because he comes from God  (Jn 7:29). He identifies as one of them, but he also sets himself apart as one who possesses an intimate, first-hand knowledge of God.  “I know [God],” he says quite plainly.

What is it like to know someone?  Think for a moment of someone you know well.  When we know someone, we will certainly know some basic facts about them, but we may also be able to describe their personality or temperament; we may be familiar with their likes and dislikes, their strengths and their weaknesses, the ways in which they tend to act and the sorts of things they prefer.  With our most intimate friends and companions, we might go even deeper: we may know their most deeply held values, their secret hopes and fears, their sense of their own vocation or calling in life, and “what makes them tick.”

Jesus knows God in this intimate and deeply personal way and therefore claims an authority which others do not and cannot have.  He, unlike any other, is from God and has been sent into the world by God.  But he also makes clear that he has come to share this knowledge of God with us; he has come to reveal God’s person and God’s purposes to us.

One question we might pose to ourselves in this Lenten season is, “How well do I know God? And how well do I know Jesus?”  We might reflect on what we know, and on what we don’t yet know or understand.  We might consider how our understanding has changed over the years; how the God we knew as children differed from the God we knew as teenagers, and how the God of our youth differs from the God we know now.

Recognizing that there is always more to learn about God, just as there is always more to learn about our human companions, we can ask ourselves, “How am I continuing to learn about God?  How am I growing in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son, Jesus?  Has my knowledge of God deepened?  Am I in intimate communion with God day by day?  Am I growing in intimacy with God?  What do I know about God’s desires, God’s values, God’s purposes in the world?”

To this end, the Church urges us to observe this season of Lent “by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word” (BCP, p. 265).  Day by day, we are to draw closer to God, coming to know God (and to be known by God) more intimately.  Gradually, we are becoming one with God, uniting ourselves with God by taking on God’s priorities, values and mission.

How well do you know God, and how are you coming to know God better?

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