Jesus Is Our Everything
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” -John 14:6
Recently, while sitting on a park bench, reading Karl Barth’s book, The Epistle to the Romans, I noticed it took me fifteen minutes to digest just one paragraph. Barth is considered to be the most important Protestant theologian of the 20th century. Certainly, one every theological student will have to study at some point. His wording is complicated and extraordinarily dense. Leading to a very interesting, but hard attempt to understand what he has to say.
The process of mining Barth’s valuable insights is hard and cumbersome. For many, Barth becomes inaccessible. This is also true for many other worthy and great theological writers. Making theological study, primarily an academic exercise.
There is a need, however, to move Jesus to the kitchen table. I see this within many of the people I talk with and listen to, as they give their thoughts. For them, Jesus isn’t an academic exercise. Nor is it an exercise in judging, which I see far too often. For most people, knowing Jesus more intimately is an individual exercise in strengthening their faith in the Risen Lord.
One of the things I have also noticed is each of our relationships with Jesus is very personal and developed differently. Sometimes we find Jesus through the crisis and other times through slow steady steps. Regardless, each of us arrives at knowing and finding Jesus- individually. Our relationship with Jesus is always unique, intimate, and extraordinarily personal.
So while I thoroughly love reading Barth, I don’t because I agree with everything he has to say. It is more that he expands my mind in thinking about Jesus and helps me to know Jesus better. And I am sure Barth would be more than satisfied with this viewpoint.
And while I love talking to professors of Theology, I don’t agree with everything that they have to say. I like to talk with professors, because like bumblebees they drop theological pollen into my thoughts that expand my relationship and understanding of Jesus. And each of my professors would be happy with that answer as well.
Not everyone needs or desires to know Jesus through Theologians like Barth. Nor do they have to study Barth. For many individuals, Jesus arrives in their lives in unique and different ways. For some, like myself, the study of Jesus is helpful. For others, it is through life experiences. For others, it with through church as a youth. But for all, it is Jesus pursuing us as well. And when we encounter Jesus, His purpose is to make Himself our everything.
Here is what I mean by this. I love to post on Twitter, theological questions, like Who is Jesus to you? And always I see an extraordinary and varied outpouring of answers. I become amazed and inspired by the large and extraordinarily insightful responses to this question.
It has made me study why. This question of who is Jesus to you; makes people share profusely and not academically. The answers are not judgmental responses. They are a sharing of their joy. They love Jesus and they are real expressions of faith.
One recent response on Twitter from a mother of three best highlights and summarizes this point. She tweeted back to my question; He is all around me every day….I just don’t always recognize Him. He chooses so many different ways to move to touch my life…ways that He knows will get my attention. In her expression, she is both describing her desire for Jesus and Jesus’s pursuit of her. You can feel her yearning for Jesus to be her everything.
By far and away, I find in their responses; Jesus is their everything. For them, as John 14:6 states; Jesus is their way, the truth, and the life. This simple response, that Jesus is their everything, reveals so much about their relationship with Jesus. It tells about their experience with Jesus. That somewhere in either their distant or recent past, Jesus called to them and helped them. That this encounter wasn’t made up, but so extraordinarily personal and intimate, they have let go of their worldly trusts and fully submitted to Jesus. A faith to seek.
They rely on Jesus for everything. When they need help, they seek Jesus. When they are content, they thank Jesus. This statement doesn’t mean they don’t fail, for surely they do. It doesn’t mean they are perfect, for none are. It simply means that their guttural response is to seek Jesus. Their faith is deep and pervasive.
And I am sure, they all would want to be better. And to be better they know to stay focused on Jesus as their everything.
So for some, reading Barth is a great exercise in discovering of how a wonderful theologian thinks about Jesus. Certainly, the professors of Theology are very valuable in helping frame thoughts and to think critically about Jesus. And minsters that guide and nurture stronger relationships with Jesus are wonderful hands-on helpers for Jesus.
Our individual task is and should be to take these positive influences and our life experiences with Jesus to shape our faith. Always knowing that it is primarily our personal encounter with Jesus that cements our faith. Professors, writers, and minsters can help in our journey to Jesus, but it is our responding to the persistent call of Jesus that creates our faith. No one individual has the exact answer for us, as each person’s relationship with Jesus is very intimate and personal. Our individual faith is special in its uniqueness and is a private journey with our heart to Jesus.
Jesus is our everything because we have been with Jesus and in turn submitted our lives to Jesus.
As an end note, Barth visited America just one time, in 1962. During this visit he asked by Theologians to summarize the millions of words he wrote; he responded, Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so!
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman