“A true knowledge of Jesus is our greatest need and our greatest happiness,” Eldredge writes. (140) We were meant to experience Jesus intimately. He is convinced that it takes a bit of uncovering to know Jesus as he is. Hence this book.
Eldredge begins with the account of the resurrected Jesus and hid disciples who have recently returned from fishing (John 21:1-12). “Playful, funny, so human, so hopeful, so unreligious.” (6) The story helps us see Jesus as he really is. “The man is not religious.” (6)
Eldredge writes that for us to know Jesus intimately, it must be as he wants to be known – his personality: playful, cunning, fierce, impatient with all that is religious, kind, creative, irreverent, funny. (12)
With biblical stories and personal experiences, Eldredge illustrates these characteristics of Jesus. He emphasizes how human Jesus was. He got dirty. He was sweaty. He was astonished.
Jesus was a man of disruptive honesty. “One of the things I most respect about Jesus, “Eldredge writes, “is his inability to speak nonsense.” (74) He valued honesty above his own reputation.
Examples of Jesus' humility include his learning to walk as a toddler, learning to tie his sandals (none of us are worthy to untie), the exhaustion, the need to eat. Jesus was truly himself (not who others wanted him to be). Jesus was free from the fear of man.
We were meant to know this Jesus, to share life with him, to live his life. (140) We were meant to love him.
Eldredge encourages us to let Jesus be himself. “Our experience of Jesus is limited most often by the limits we put on him!” (154) “You will find Jesus pretty much as you expect to.” (155)
Eldredge wants us to pay particular attention to Jesus' warning against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matt. 16:6,11) “If you would know Jesus, love him, experience him, you must pay very careful attention to this warning.” (168) Today, the yeast is “religious fog.” The fog might be words and activities that look good but “distort our perceptions of God and our experience of him.” (168) “Lots of really goofy stuff [is] going on out there in the name of Jesus.” (169) It's hard to recognize because the people are so sincere.
More fog is the culture of the church and Eldredge admonishes us to separate it from true love of Jesus. “A wing nut talking about Jesus does far more damage that fifty atheists.” (171) We are to watch out for false reverence, concentration on knowing about God (rather than knowing him), confusing power displays or religious activity, false humility, etc.
“The bottom-line test of anything claiming to be of Jesus: Does it bring life?” (209)
Eldredge has given as a good challenge to know Jesus as he is meant to be known, putting aside our contemporary culture and interpretations.
John Eldredge is the founder and director of Ransomed HeartTM in Colorado Springs. John is the author of many bestselling books, some coauthored with his wife of twenty-eight years, Stasi.
FaithWords, a division of Hachette Book Group, 225 pages.