Why should we know Jesus? Billions of people around the world would say that we don’t need to. Many others would actively attempt to stop others from ever trying to know about Him. Yet, looking at the first 18 verses in the Book of John, it would appear that the author is trying with great effort to convince us that we should know Him. One might even conclude that, from the way the author communicates, nothing could be more important.
The question is even more serious when the context of the history in which these verses were written is taken into account. The Book of John wasn’t written to the people of modern society, which, for the most part, is largely accepting or at least tolerant of any kind of belief. Certainly in the West, very few beliefs are actually dangerous to hold. Some might be unpopular to speak of or try to share, but rarely will anyone face persecution simply because they hold to a certain religion or worldview. Our world, however, was not the world in which the Gospel of John was written. Christianity back then wasn’t the “safe” religion most people understand it to be today. Under the reign of Domitian, the Roman emperor around the time of the gospel’s writing, Christians could be accused of their beliefs and imprisoned if they did not renounce Christ. Indeed, the longer Domitian held power, the worse he punished Christians in Rome who held to their convictions. In the face of all this, John still wrote his message: Jesus must be known.
What could John say that would convince someone that knowing Jesus was worth the trouble? He begins with a simple point: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made” (vs.1-3). Nothing in or out of the world was made without Him. To say it better, the entirety of existence depends on the Word of God, Jesus Christ. He is the active and powerful Word of God, completing everything which He is sent out by God to do. This is John’s key point in the prologue. Jesus is the pre-existent, self-existent God that made the universe. The entire book of John is devoted to witnessing to this point. He says in 20:31, “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God…” But what does this offer to our original question? How does this show we need to know Christ? Because “by believing, you may have life in His name.” This is what John wants for people, no matter how dangerous their position in life is, so that they may have LIFE. But we only gain that life when we believe in the Creator of that life.
I’m drawn to the words of Colossians 1:15-17, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Not only was creation made through Him, but it was made for Him. Everything in the world exists to show that Christ is the greatest, above everything else. One may ask, “but what about us? Surely we’re important, if not as individuals then at least as members of humanity. We have an intrinsic value even as individuals, so how do we relate to Christ? I thought the Bible taught that no one is greater than anyone else.” My question to that fictitious question asker is this: are you part of the “all things” mentioned in verse 17? If so, congratulations! You were created to show His greatness! I wish I had the time and space to say more, but may it suffice to say this: It is the essential purpose of man to show that “in everything, [Christ is] preeminent” (v.18). No greater achievement can be made than to show the ultimate worth of God in Christ.
But Christ is not just Creator. John continues, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (vs.4-5). What more can be said? As dark as the world may appear at times, it has not overcome the light. Indeed, it cannot. Keep in mind that this was written after Christ had been crucified. If there was any point at which darkness had overcome light, Christ’s death would be it, yet John holds “the darkness has not overcome it.” Darkness had not overcome light before the crucifixion, it did not overcome it during the crucifixion, and it certainly cannot overcome it after. Christ is light and life to everyone who believes, and through this light and life, we may be called “children of God” (v.12). This is echoed by Jesus in different words later in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus is the Light in a world where the darkness is almost tangible. He is the Way when everything else fails and leads to an unfulfilled life. He is the Life and the creator of life.
So why should we know Jesus?
Because, frankly, nothing else in the world is worth knowing in comparison.
Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective, Second Edition. Accessed September 11, 2016.