I have a confession to make: I’m dissatisfied. Utterly dissatisfied. I have been for a while now. Why? Glad you asked! Here’s why: I’ve been reading stories in the Bible about people’s encounters with Jesus. Here’s just a few of them:
I read about the the woman at the well, who after encountering Jesus “left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, ‘Come and see the man who told me everything I ever did! Could He possibly be the Messiah? So the people came streaming from the village to see Him” (John 4:28-30).
I read about the disciples, who were constantly “amazed” and “astonished” at the words and miracles of Jesus (Matthew 8:27, 19:25).
I read about the leper who Jesus healed. “When he saw that he was healed, [he] came back to Jesus, shouting, ‘Praise God!’ He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him for what He had done” (Luke 17:15-16).
I read about the time when Jesus went to Nazareth and announced His kingdom manifesto, so to speak. “Everyone spoke well of Him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from His lips” (Luke 4:22).
I read about the shepherds, who after seeing the Christ child “hurried to the village” and “told everyone what had happened and what the angel said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished…The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:16-20).
There are dozens more stories like these in the Gospels, where people who encountered Jesus were so elated over what they had experienced with Jesus that they could do nothing less than exclaim it to everyone around them, while praising and giving thanks to God.
Are you starting to see why I am a bit dissatisfied, even a little annoyed at myself? Jesus, the very God-of-the-universe in the flesh, came to bring good news and abundant life for all, and somedays, if I’m being honest, I could care less.
See, I’m an engineer by training; I love to solve problems. I love to analyze every detail of a problem and figure it out, or come to a solution. That’s what I’ve been doing in every homework assignment for six years – solving problems, analyzing the data given to me, and figuring out the answers based on that analysis. “Just the facts, ma’am.”
As I continue to read the Bible and let it soak in my soul, one thing I’ve come to learn is this: God is not a problem meant to be solved; He’s a mystery waiting to be experienced. You might think it odd for me to talk about God and Jesus as a mystery, but take it up with Paul; he describes Jesus as the “mystery of God” in his letter to the Colossians (Colossians 2:2). Robert Capon in The Mystery of Christ describes Jesus as being “a gift hidden in every particle of creation, a gift that goes by the name of the Mystery of Christ.” There is an imbedded sense of mystery in the world in which we live, the sense that things are what they are, but also, at the same time, point to invisible realities outside themselves that we can’t quite understand, but experience all the time.
Ah…experience. That’s the key. Let me explain. It’s possible to know all the words to a song, without ever actually hearing it. It’s possible to place so much emphasis on being correct and right that you have no idea what it means to be filled with wonder anymore. It’s possible to be so caught up with what God did back then that you’re not open to the new thing that God is doing right here, right now. It’s possible to have your quiet time everyday, and not be inspired. It’s possible to have a consistent doctrinal statement and not be astonished and amazed.
It’s possible to know all the facts, and not know Jesus.
Acknowledging God as a mystery waiting to be experienced echoes Paul’s prayer in Ephesians: “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to fully understand” (Ephesians 3:16). God doesn’t want to be fact-checked; He wants to be enjoyed.
My question to you, and me, is this: Have you experienced the mystery that is in every single particle of creation? Have you tasted and seen that God is good? When is the last time you’ve been so elated about Jesus and His good news that you could do nothing but shout it out and tell everyone? Or fallen to your feet in humble, overwhelming gratitude? Have you experienced the love of Christ and the good news that He came to bring?
Or are you merely content with “just the facts, ma’am?”
Jesus, your name is power,
Breath, and living water,
Such a marvelous mystery.