“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish….” (Philippians 3:7-8 NIV). What an extraordinary statement- one which literally electrifies and grips us! The apostle Paul, in this passage, highlights all his achievements and privileges and says that nothing in the whole world- no attainment or event- can ever compare to the experience of knowing Christ! For him, a personal relationship with Christ superceded everything else and surpassed anything else this world could ever offer.
Verses such as these make us suddenly pause and seriously ponder. How many of us could truthfully say the same thing, that everything else in this world is just ‘rubbish’ (human excreta- the literal word Paul uses) and we desire nothing more in this life than to know Christ and do His will. To see the world’s highest offerings and richest treasures as a waste-product, to count our own lives worth nothing to us, to consider death itself as gain- this requires a clear vision of Christ!
What was it about Jesus that made His disciples leave everything behind the moment He called them to follow Him? What was it about Jesus that various women were willing to break their precious alabaster jars of expensive perfume and pour it all on Him? What was it about Jesus that made Mary Magdalene arise very early in the morning and rush to the tomb forgetting both the dangers along the way and at the tomb itself? What was it about Jesus that innumerable individuals were willing to lay down their lives for Him?
The apostle John, in his gospel, gives us seven images of Jesus. While Mark emphasises ‘what Jesus did’, and Mathew and Luke highlight ‘what Jesus said’, John focuses on ‘who Jesus is’. And through meditating on these seven pictorial representations of Jesus, we can begin to behold His beauty and see His glory.
The Bread of Life (John 6:48)
Bread sustains life. It satisfies our hunger and gives us strength. When Jesus describes Himself as the ‘Bread of Life’, He claims very clearly to be the only One who can meet our innermost longings and deepest needs. He is the One who gives us true fulfillment and complete satisfaction.
The Light of the World (John 8:12)
On the first evening of the Feast of Tabernacles, there was a big ceremony where the Temple was illuminated. The lighting was so bright that every courtyard in Jerusalem was literally lit up with the brilliance.
It was in such a setting that Jesus declared Himself to be the One who brings radiance and light whereby people can walk with clarity and certainty along life’s journey, no longer needing to grope around in darkness or wander about in confusion.
The Gate for the Sheep (John 10:9)
During the hot season, sheep were taken to the hills for the purpose of finding pasture. When it was evening time, they were gathered and kept together in a space enclosed by a wall but which had no door. The shepherd himself would lay at the opening of this enclosure and function as the gate. The sheep could go out to find pasture and return to safety through this area.
Jesus is the Gate through which people can experience a life of rest, refreshing and renewal. He has come to give us abundant life, which is literally life in such measure that it overflows- peace that passes understanding, joy which is inexpressible and a hope beyond imagination.
The Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14)
A faithful shepherd would risk his own life to save his sheep from wild beasts. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus has laid down His life so we can live. And this love is not confined in its expression to the Cross- if the Father were willing to sacrifice His own Son for us, He will also along with Him, give us all basic things we need for our earthly life (Romans 8:32). Jesus is described as good not only in terms of skill or efficiency, but also in terms of being sympathetic and understanding.
The Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25)
Lazarus had fallen sick and died. He was soon buried in the tomb. After four days, Jesus visited the broken family and manifested Himself as the Resurrection and the Life when He raised Lazarus from the dead. This same power is available to us through the Holy Spirit.
The apostle Paul longed to experience the power of Christ’s resurrection in increasing measure and prayed for believers that they too would know this incomparably great power in their everyday lives (Ephesians 1:17-21). When the Spirit of God works, both hopeless situations and people are completely transformed.
The Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6)
Jesus was sharing with His disciples of how He was going to return to the Father’s house to prepare a place for them. They did not quite understand what He meant and asked Him to help them know the way to get there. Jesus explained by saying that He Himself was the One through whom they could have a relationship with the Father and ultimately live in His literal presence.
He is the Way (the One who leads us to the Father), the Truth (the One who teaches us the heart and ways of the Father), and the Life (the One who gives us the life which the Father wants us to have).
The True Vine (John 15:1)
In the Old Testament, Israel was pictured as the Vine or Vineyard of God. But it had become ruined. Henceforth, merely being a Jew would not save anyone.
It is Jesus now who is the True Vine, the One who has the seal of the Father. And as we abide in Christ, we too will receive approval from the Father and experience a fruitful life.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you!