"How Well Does Jesus Know Me?"#90-50
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on August 13, 2023
By Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
Copyright 2023 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: John 1: 48-51
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Dear Lord, You know us, and in spite of seeing us clearly and completely, still love us and have sent Your Son to save us. Grant that all who this day do not know You may be brought to saving faith in the Christ, their Lord of life. Amen.
The most memorable wedding anniversary party I ever attended was for a couple who had been married for 75 years. Actually, it was for twin brothers who had married twin sisters on the same day. Amazingly, 75 years later all four were still alive. And although some of their bodies were showing some significant signs of wear and tear, everybody's minds were still running on all eight cylinders. Even today, many years later, I can still remember how their extended family came together to heap praises upon these gentle, loving souls who had shown it is possible to love in sickness and health, for richer and poorer, in good times and bad, in happy times and sad.
One at a time they got up on the stage and offered standard bits of wisdom like: "Never let the sun set on your anger" and "Always spend twice as much time listening as you do talking." Coming from these silver-haired souls, those expressions carried some weight. Then the fourth member of the group, one of the wives, came up to the microphone. She stopped for a moment and looked down at all the eager faces. She smiled sweetly and with a twinkle in her eye said, "As a new bride I don't feel qualified in giving you advice on how to succeed in marriage. But if you'll come back in a few years, I'll let you know how this husband of mine is working out and if I think the marriage has any possibility of surviving." With that she turned, and began to walk off the stage. The audience was silent for a moment, and then, realizing she was having fun with them, they erupted in applause.
As she was coming down from the podium, her husband leaned over and said to me, "Pastor, there's just not enough time." Confused, I quickly replied, "There's not enough time for what?" With his eyes still proudly watching his bride, he said, "There's not enough time for me to really get to know this wonderful lady the Lord has given me." Well, all four of those sweet souls are gone now, but the comment of that husband still lives on in my memory. The passing of the decades has convinced me he was right: try as hard as we can, there's never enough time for any of us to really know somebody else.
Oh, we can work at it. And we do figure some things out. After 47 years of marriage, I know that when Pam says she doesn't want anything for her birthday, she really doesn't mean she wants nothing. It means she wants me to think about and personally pick a present that is very special. It doesn't have to cost a lot, but it does need to be special. I know that when she says something is "Just fine!"—and she says it with that tone—it's not fine. I even know that when she says, "We need to talk," she really means she needs to talk, and I need to listen. And I will be a dead man if my eyes glance over to the TV to see the instant replay of a 103-yard kick-off return.
Still, all these things I've studied and all these things I've learned are just the tip of the iceberg. Looking at my delightful helpmeet, I realize I will never know all she is, never understand all she feels, never be able to predict all she does, and never anticipate all of her dreams. She is a joyful mystery of unknowns and undiscoverds. And the man was right. There is not enough time to know the incomprehensible intricacies of her ... or anyone else for that matter.
And, I suppose that's a good thing. You see, all of us, every one of us, have things in our lives we don't want anyone to know about. Amazingly, if we're being honest, really, truly, honest, most of us prefer it that way. That's because most of us have thoughts, actions, feelings of which we are deeply ashamed. These are things which we have tried to bury, wall off, and put so far behind us, they will never again see the light of day. Yes, we try to keep these past things in the past, but we're never sure when someone might stumble across them. One day, in jest, Mark Twain said, "I once sent a dozen of my friends a telegram saying, 'Flee at once. All is discovered.'" He reports, "They all left town immediately." I'm not surprised. Look at how many honorable, highly respected men and women decline to have their names put up for public office because they know they will never survive the private investigation and the public scrutiny. They know there are things in their past which would be so shocking, so surprising, so sad and sinful that, if these things came to light, the public would turn their backs on them and they would, without further discussion, reject them. So that the secret sins may stay secret, most people believe it's a good thing that nobody, I mean nobody, really knows everything about them.
It might be a good thing if it weren't for two difficulties. The first of these difficulties is this: even though we try to keep our sins hidden, they still are there inside us. They are inoperable cancers of the mind, soul, and spirit, which, if left unchecked will destroy us. Even if you are not a Christian, even if you no faith in any deity you know this to be true. Let me ask: why do these actions and thoughts from the past bother you so much? Why is it every time you think of them in detail your blood pressure goes up a few points, you stomach starts to feel queasy, and you have to pause yourself to calm down by repeating all the work you have done, remembering all the walls you have built to make those sins undiscoverable. Still, in spite of all your precautions, down deep you know that someday, in some way, you will to account for these wrongdoings. That is difficulty number one.
And the second difficulty? The second difficulty is this: even though this message has been saying, "Nobody truly knows you," that statement is wrong. It is wrong because God, the Triune God, knows everything about you. After humankind fell into sin, Adam and Eve did their best to keep their transgression hidden from their Creator. It was a feeble, futile, fruitless effort. God came looking for them and, with questions to which He already had the answers, had them confess their disobedient act which had corrupted His perfect creation. With the same complete knowledge, the Lord called Cain to account for the murder of His brother. Again and again, the Bible narrative bears out this truth: God knows us.
Two-thousand years ago, when Jesus was calling His disciples, He picked a fellow named Philip. As often happens when people meet Jesus, Philip immediately went and shared the good news with a friend by the name of Nathanael. When Nathanael found Jesus had come from the nondescript community of Nazareth, he was not impressed. Even so, at Philip's urging Nathanael decided to check out the new Messiah. When Jesus saw Nathanael coming down the path, He commented, "Look at that, an Israelite in whom there is no guile." It's another way of saying, "Hey, here's a guy, when you look at him, what you see is what you get."
Nathanael, overhearing Jesus' comment, was taken aback. He asked, "How is it You know me? I can't recall that we've ever met before." Jesus reply is an interesting one. Almost matter of factly, He answers: "Before Philip talked to you; when you were sitting under that fig tree, I saw you." That seemingly unimpressive bit of information absolutely overwhelmed Nathanael. In less time than it takes to tell, he does a 180-degree turn. His skepticism and cynicism is replaced by a powerful statement of faith: "You are the Son of God," he says. You are the King of Israel." I can't tell you what secret information Jesus shared in His conversation with Nathanael, but I do know it was enough for Nathanael to be instantly brought to faith, to be instantly convinced Jesus knew him, really knew all of him. It was a feeling, a faith, which stayed with him the rest of his life.
God knows us. That truth should stay with you as well. In Psalm 139 we are told the Lord knew all about us before we were born. It says, "For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made ... My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret ... Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me ..." In short, God knows us. He knows the good and He knows the bad, including those sins you have tried so hard to cover. Not only does He know those sins, being a just God He is compelled to punish those sins, both in time and in eternity. Now I am fully aware that all of what I've said so far is not going to make you feel that good about yourself—or your future. Truth is it's pretty depressing. Now, the knowledge we are destined for hell is totally depressing.
And this is the spot where things change. They change because my friends, I have good news for you. No, that's not right. God has good news for you. A few weeks ago, we celebrated Christmas. Do you remember what the angels said to the shepherds? They said, "I've got Good News of great joy ... for you a Savior has been born." That sentence changes your world, and it can change your eternal destiny. That angelic announcement says that the Lord who knows you—and all of your dark and despicable deeds—has decided to send His Son to be your Substitute, and the Sacrifice who will pay for your sins.
Most certainly, He is the divine Judge, but He is also a God of mercy and grace. Looking upon you and your helplessness, He has, in the Person of His Son, thrown you a lifeline—a rescue from the fact which once seemed so inevitable. That rescue becomes reality when the Holy Spirit places faith in your heart. At that moment, your sins are forgiven. No longer can the world and Satan successfully accuse you; no longer can the grave lay claim to you. You are redeemed, you are rescued; you are restored and recycled. That is also the good news of great joy.
God knows you. He knows the evil that was there and which now is erased by Jesus' shed blood; He knows the sins you have committed and has forgiven them because Jesus carried them to the cross. God knows you. No longer are those words terrifying. On the contrary, the knowledge that God knows you and brings hope and spiritual health is your destiny for tomorrow and your constant source of security for today. Faith is all that, unless you say, "No, thank You, God. I'd rather do things on my own."
My friends, God knows you. He knows every bit, piece, and part of you. That truth can either be a comfort or it can be a curse. It will remain a curse if you try to carry or cover your sin by yourself. It will eat at you and it will haunt you from this day until the day you die. And then on the day you die, your unforgiven sin will drag you down for an eternity in hell.
But also remember the fact that God knows you can be a comfort. It will be a comfort if you acknowledge Jesus Christ as God's Son, the Savior who was sent to carry that sin to the cross. God's knowing you will be a comfort if you recognize that the crucified Christ has, for you, said, "No!" to the temptations of this temporal life, and has defeated the devil. God's knowing you will be a comfort if you go to the Savior's empty tomb and trust that the resurrection of the Redeemer says death no longer has a choke hold on you, and life eternal is yours because of the Christ who, knowing you and your helplessness, offered Himself to change things for the better. God knows you. If you believe that, you can join with King David and say, "Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!"
My friend, at the beginning of this message I told you of the married man who said to me, "There's not enough time." He was right. Time is not unlimited, which is why I extend this invitation: if you need to know more about this Lord who knows and loves you, please call us at The Lutheran Hour." Amen.
Reflections for August 13, 2023
Title: How Well Does Jesus Know Me
Mike Zeigler: We're visiting with Pastor Kurt Klaus. He serves as pastor for Messiah Lutheran Church in Lakeville, Minnesota, and is the son of the late pastor Ken Klaus, whose sermon we just heard. Thanks for visiting with us, Kurt.
Kurt Klaus: Thanks for having me, Reverend.
Mike Zeigler: Kurt, in the sermon we just heard, your dad is talking about growing deeper in personal knowledge of God, who knows each of us completely. That's the theme of the sermon, and he compared this to growing to know his wife, Pam, through 50 years of marriage. I was present to hear you preach at your dad's memorial service this last April and you shared this story, beautiful story, about how your parents met. Would you briefly re-share that story with us now?
Kurt Klaus: I don't think either of them know exactly when they met because I think they knew each other from babies. Because their parents lived just down the street from each other, so there was that aspect. The point that they remember both, well, I'm not sure if Mom remembers it, but Mom's Mom definitely remembers it. They were like three or four years old and they were in Sunday school at Zion Lutheran Church in the South Side of Chicago. They had just got done with class and my Mom's Mom, Elsie, went down there and was just about to pick Mom up and says, "Pammie, come on in," and so Mom came running to Grandma, when Grandma asking Mom about what she learned and all the fun stuff, my Dad just comes running up and goes, "Miss Elsie, Miss Elsie, Miss Elsie," and she's like, "Yes, Kenny, what do you need?" "I'm going to marry Pammie." I'm sure that Grandma was like, "Sure, yeah, whatever."
Mike Zeigler: He's three years old at this point?
Kurt Klaus: Yeah. Like, "Yeah, sure, I believe you." Well, 18 years later they were married in front of that altar at that church and were together ever since. I mean, after they got married, I want to say it was almost 20 years before they actually spent a day apart.
Mike Zeigler: Wow!
Kurt Klaus: They were quite the dynamic duo.
Mike Zeigler: A lot of old married couples will say, "Oh, I've known him for his whole life" or "I've known her for her whole life," but for your mom and dad, that was literally true. They really did grow up together and then by the time we're hearing this sermon, they have been married for 46 years. I'm amazed that your dad can still refer to your mom as a joyful mystery of unknowns and undiscovereds and that what he has come to know of Pam is still just the tip of the iceberg of who she is, at least in the sight of God. What does that insight tell us about this, not only the mysterious depths of knowing a human person, but what does it mean to say, "We know God?"
Kurt Klaus: Well, I think if we can say that about human beings and about each other, about our wives, our kids, our spouses, it's infinitely greater with God. I always love when I look at the creation and I look and I see the complexity of it. And I think, okay, we used to think there was nothing smaller than what we can see. And then we found out there's this whole microscopic world. And we thought that was as small as we could see. And then we found that there were atoms, and we found there were neutrons, protons, and electrons. And then we found there's these things called quarks or something like that. And we're assuming that we're going to keep on going down and it gets smaller. But the God who created that, that created the building blocks of all things and put it all together in an amazing way and created life, and just did all those things. The God that could do that—it just amazes me how much greater that God is than I am.
When I had my son and I looked at him at the age of one or even just a few months, there was absolutely no way that my son could comprehend what I was thinking and what I was going through and what I was trying to do. When I think of that distance and I think about the distance between us and God, about how great God is and how lowly we are, there is so much more about God we can constantly be learning and constantly growing in. There's so much of Him that is just to be still discovered and learned and it's just a blessing to see all this that he has given us.
Mike Zeigler: It makes me think of that passage from Isaiah 55, where the Lord is speaking, He says, "As high as the heavens are above the earth, so much higher are My thoughts than your thoughts." Exactly like you said, if each human being is a mysterious complex of wonders and undiscovereds after a whole lifetime of knowing them, how much more with God. Why is it important to remember that knowing God in this personal way is actually the goal of our faith? It's not the means to some greater goal, but it is the goal. Why is that important for us to remember that's the goal?
Kurt Klaus: That's what God created us to be. I mean, that was the whole idea of God creating Adam and Eve in the garden and talking about God walking in the garden, that there was this relationship that they knew each other and did they know each other fully yet? No, but that's the whole point, the goal was to have that experience together and to grow together. God created us to know Him and to get to know Him. He didn't create us because He was bored. He created us because He wanted to have that relationship with us, and that's the whole point of the cross. Because we broke that relationship, and so what does God do: He sends His Son to restore that relationship so that once again, ultimately, the Lord sets all things right in the end. We will once again be in His presence and we are going to never be separated from Him again and have the rest of eternity to get to know each other. It's that idea of that continue to growing in each other and the fact that the Lord wants to be in a relationship with us, want us to know Him.
Mike Zeigler: It's that awe that David expresses in the psalms of "What is man that You would be mindful of him?" That You would want to treat him as a son, as a beloved family member for eternity. And I think it's so important for us to continually remind ourselves that this is what the Christian faith is all about. I think sometimes people look at God like a divine butler, that He's there to give us stuff that we want—whether it's stuff in this life or a happy afterlife. He's not the means to an end. Knowing Him is the goal. He's the One we want to be with.
Kurt Klaus: He is the end all, be all.
Mike Zeigler: Amen. Well, let's talk about the how do we get to know Him starting now? If eternity, if eternal life is knowing God, how do we get to know Him more deeply? You mentioned getting to know Him in the intricacies of the creation that He's made, but that's not enough, so let's say more about that.
Kurt Klaus: Yeah. I think if creation is all you're looking at, you're going to have an incomplete picture. You're going to be able to see some great things about God. When you look at creation, you can see beauty; you can see how intricate it is and how everything's connected. You can see so many good things. But we're also looking at a broken creation. In that, you see tornadoes, and you see hurricanes, and you see disease, and you see death. And so if all we have is creation, we'll have an incomplete view of who God is. That's where Scripture is so important because it is God's inspired Word. Because He wanted us to have a more complete picture to see more than just the pain and suffering that is out there in this world. He wanted us to see that, yeah, there is sin, yes, there is death. Why is there sin and why is there death? And what has He done to solve that problem? What has he done to ... so that we can actually get to know Him, know His heart, know that He is a merciful God. Yes, He's a just God, but He's a merciful God and a God of love who cares about us and wants to spend eternity with us and wants us to get to know Him. And what's great about Scripture is the depth of it is so amazing. Just like you can go from the matter you can see to atoms and electrons and keep going deeper and deeper. Scripture is the exact same thing. And it's like if you know people that have read their Bible a hundred times, you go, "Well, how are you reading this still, seriously? It's like you got to have gotten as deep as you can." They'll tell you, "I have just scratched the surface. Every time I go through it I get to know something new about God. I get to grow deeper in my relationship with God." So, yeah, if all we know is creation that's one thing. But it's such an incomplete message. And the Scripture helps us see the bigger picture of who God is and what He's doing.
Mike Zeigler: Every time I hear this story from John 1 that your dad preached on with Jesus and Nathaniel, that's what I want to be saying to Nathaniel from the corner, like "Oh, Nathaniel, you've only just scratched the surface." When Jesus says, "Before, when you were sitting under the fig tree, I saw you." And Nathaniel's like, "Rabbi, You're the Son of God." And I feel like Jesus is saying to him, "Oh, Nathaniel, you've only scratched the surface."
Kurt Klaus: If you're impressed with that, oh just wait.
Mike Zeigler: Yeah, so we have the Scriptures to get to know God personally. It's His Word to us, but then even more than that He gives us words that we can say back to Him. It's like baby talk. He's teaching us how to talk to Him, so we have the whole psalms; we have the Lord's Prayer. So, it's God's Words given that we can say back to Him now.
Kurt Klaus: It's so neat that God gives us that because I think if we were to make up our own prayers out of the blue, we're like "Okay, let's make up our own prayers." It would either be focused solely on us, like, "Hey, Lord, look at me and how great I am. You should probably do some stuff for me." But when we see God's Word, we get to see the Lord's Prayer, the perfect prayer of asking God for what we need. But when we do ask, we're showing how we rely on Him and talk about His grace and who He is and His greatness, asking Him to be part of our daily life, and not just give us food but give us forgiveness, and to teach us to forgive and this wonderful seeing a lot of who God is, seeing who He really is, even in prayer and these kinds of things. I love it.
Mike Zeigler: Thanks so much again for being with us, Kurt. We're going to hear one more sermon from your dad next week, and so we'll invite you back to talk about that one.
Kurt Klaus: I look forward to it.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Search Me, O God" by K. Lee Scott. From The Glory of Christ (© 1996 Concordia Publishing House/SESAC)
"Eternal Father, Strong to Save" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House) Used by permission.