Longing for Jesus
Several years ago I found my heart longing, lonely, and hungry for something authentic. In the depths of my soul something was awakening and being stirred by an unknown hand, an unseen Helper. My heart could barely stand the thought of another “unique teaching” or “keen insight” from one more “anointed” vessel. I was aching for Jesus, wanting Him and Him alone, undone by the piercing depths of His heart, life, and love.
For years in ministry I fed on many other things, setting my hand to various missions. I have run enough leadership gauntlets surrounding the latest church growth fads and have had quite enough of three-year cycles of implementing the latest relevant approach to ministry. Enormous amounts of time, energy, and resources were spent on methods, applications, and “how-to’s.” During those years our churches grew by the twenties and fifties, but our people remained plundered by disease, debt, despair, doubt, and deception. In the midst of it all I ached for what the apostle Paul called “the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3), wondering if somehow the Serpent had deceived me, just as he had Eve (2 Cor. 11:2–4).
Endless debates on methodology and incessant emphasis on practical preaching, with its how-to’s and down-to-earth applications, have swept us into the seduction of compelling need and the enticement to be “unique.” However, little mystery and majesty concerning the person of Jesus is preached. Our taste for the eternal and the glorious fades as we exchange the burning gaze of the seraphim for the unyielding boredom of Dr. Phils dressed in preachers’ garb. O God, save us from the insightful sages of our day, and give us the ancient once again. Give us that which, throughout the ages, has mystified the saints and terrorized devils.
Could it be that we have lost sight of the one thing needed, the one thing that fulfills all godly and noble desires—Jesus Christ?
Christ was the longing of all the Old Testament saints. Adam and Eve yearned for the promise of a coming Seed, a coming ruler who would triumph over all the works of the Evil One. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Gen. 3:15). The lineage of this coming Anointed One would be traced from one generation to another and carefully recorded. The hope of all humanity was to be fulfilled in this promised Seed. Abraham beheld His glory, saw Christ’s day, and was glad (Jn. 8:56). He then left everything for the promise of bringing forth the Seed, One who would bless all the nations of the earth (Gen. 12:1–8; 15:1–7; 17:1–19; Jn. 8:52–58).
Moses foresaw Jesus as the coming prophetic king (Deut. 18:15–19) and esteemed the reproach of Christ to be greater riches than the treasures of Egypt (Heb. 11:26). Balaam, hired to curse the children of Israel, was preempted by the terror of the Lord and trembled before the vision of the coming Star who would destroy all the sons of tumult.
15“The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor . . . 16who sees the vision of the Almighty, who falls down, with eyes wide open: 17I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult.”
Joshua fell before the majesty of the Commander of heaven’s armies (Josh. 5), and Samson’s parents pondered their encounter with the beautiful Man whose name was wonderful (Judg. 13:18).
David sang of the glories of the coming Messiah even before this Child was born through his lineage. In fact, the hand of the Lord rested heavily upon David as he viewed the heavenly order of worship where the angelic creatures gazed upon the glory of God in the heavenly sanctuary (1 Chr. 28:19; Ps. 110). Upon witnessing such splendor, David, as his first act as king over all Israel, gave the nation an earthly reflection of the worship of heaven by placing the ark of the covenant in a tent with the veil removed.
For thirty-three years David funded Levitical singers and musicians to stare at God’s manifest glory resting over the mercy seat between the two cherubim and commanded the Levites to worship the Lord in the beauty of His holiness (1 Chr. 16:28–30). Many times, when God’s glory rested over the mercy seat, David peered into the future and prophesied of his coming son, who was also his Lord before time began (Ps. 110:1). Prophetic traces of a coming ruler who would suffer, die, and rise to rule over all things were revealed in that tent (Ps. 2; 8; 16; 22; 24; 40; 45; 68–69; 72; 102; 109; 110; 118). So awesome were those traces of the Messiah that David summed up his life vision in one, holy longing:
4One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. (Ps. 27:4)
David declared, “You can strip me of my kingdom and remove my military might, but this one thing I seek. My greatest desire is to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to commune with Him in His temple. Oh God, if I could be like the sparrow that nests in Your tabernacle, I would perpetually remain in Your presence.”
Other prophets after David also experienced Christ’s fascinating effect. Isaiah saw the glory of the Lord, high and lifted up, seated on His throne. He heard the burning seraphim crying out to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isa. 6:3; cf. Jn. 12:41). Soon after, Isaiah discovered that the same King of glory, seen high and lifted up, was to come as an infant and grow up before the people as a “tender shoot” (Isa. 53:2, NIV). The root of Jesse would also be the offspring of David (Isa. 11:1; Rev. 22:16).
Isaiah foretold the coming of Immanuel, meaning “God with us.” This One from all eternity would take up flesh and blood. How could this be? The Seed promised from the first moment of humanity’s fall would also be the Lord of heaven. The Child to be born and the Son to be given to establish the throne of David would be “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). What is even more astounding is that God would not only come to humanity in human form, but that He would then serve the nations by giving His life as an offering for sin.
5He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. 6 . . . The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isa. 53:5–6)
Though the Servant’s labor would appear to be in vain, Yahweh would make Him ruler over all things (Isa. 49:1–8). The Servant of rulers would establish the kingdom of God, rule on behalf of the poor, bring justice and peace to the whole earth, and even restore all of creation from the curse of sin. Isaiah testified that one day the knowledge of His glory would be revealed to all flesh as beautiful and glorious (Isa. 40:5; cf. 4:2–6). The earth will be in agreement concerning His stunning splendor and awesome power. In the day of His might, Jesus “will be for a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty to the remnant of His people” (Isa. 28:5; cf. 40:5).
The captivation of the prophets continued as Micah declared that this One would be Israel’s peace, turning the nations’ swords into plowshares (Mic. 4:1–3; 5:4–5). Jeremiah prophetically saw Christ as the Branch of the Lord, the king from David’s household, who would also be “The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jer. 33:15–16). Ezekiel braved the whirlwind of glory and beheld Him as the image of the “likeness of the glory of the Lord” (Ezek. 1:26–28). Daniel saw the Christ coming as the Son of Man on the clouds of heaven (Dan. 7:13–14), and Haggai called Him the “Desire of All Nations” (Hag. 2:7).
The prophet Habakkuk declared that God’s glory would cover the earth like the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14). Zechariah joined the witness, exclaiming that Messiah would be the Branch of the Lord that bears the glory, and that as a priest on His throne He would build the temple of the living God (Zech. 6:12–13). Malachi closed the Old Testament with the promise that Christ would come as a “refiner’s fire” to cleanse the priesthood (Mal. 3:1–3), and that as the “Sun of Righteousness” He would rise with healing in His wings to vanquish all the enemies of love (Mal. 4:2–3).
Beholding the Glory of Christ is the Fulfillment of all Godly Desires
Christ was the longing of all the Old and New Testament saints. The awaited One was the great anticipation of Israel. I often ponder the feelings of Simeon, tears streaming, as he held baby Jesus up before God. Years of waiting and longing turned to holy words as he said, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel” (Lk. 2:29–32). “The Consolation of Israel” (Lk. 2:25) has come, yet today we must ask ourselves if we, with our own eyes and in our own generation, have looked upon the very One whom Israel had waited for.
The apostles were set on keeping Christ central in both doctrine and church life. Corinth was divided, with factions following the personality cult of the day. Some were exalting Paul, some Cephas, and others Apollos. Paul responded to their disputes by displaying the greatness of Christ compared to His servants, saying,
5Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? . . . 11For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ . . . 18Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God . . . 21Therefore let no one boast in men. (1 Cor. 3:5, 11, 18–19, 21)
No one compares to Christ, because He is the fullness of God in bodily form, and in Him we live, move, and have our being (Acts 17:28). Ministers of the gospel are workers in God’s field, but Jesus Christ is the very image of God’s radiance. In Him are hidden all the riches and wisdom of God. Paul continuously cautioned the churches throughout Asia Minor, Macedonia, and Greece to keep Jesus central. He charged the believers in the church at Colossae:
6As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. 8Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. (Col. 2:6–10)
Paul counted all things as dung compared to the experiential knowledge of Christ. In fact, Paul stated, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). He charged the Philippians to remember the centrality of Christ over all other forms of religion:
8Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness.(Phil. 3:8–9)
The revelation of Jesus Christ birthed a cry in the hearts of the apostles Paul and John, “Maranatha! O Lord, come!” (cf. 1 Cor. 16:22; Rev. 22:20). Jesus was revealed to the apostles in such a way that their one insatiable desire was to labor for His return and to see His kingdom set up on earth as it is in heaven. Peter pled with Jerusalem to repent, so that the Father might send Jesus back from heaven for the restoration of all things; the love of Christ compelled Paul to preach the gospel to the nations (Acts 3:19–21; 21:13). Such was the glory of Jesus that His brother James would call himself Jesus’ bondservant (Jas. 1:1) and become known as “camel knees” due to his praying to his older brother for long periods of time.
Have you beheld the glory of the one and only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth? Has your heart experienced the wounding of desire because you have seen His splendor and tasted of His love? Until you have personally encountered the indomitable force of His life and personality, you have yet to brave the true meaning of your created purpose, which is to commune in love with the God of pleasure, light, and power. You were not created for religious forms and duty. You were created for loving communion with the Maker of the universe, who has forever joined Himself to you in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Father of glory, turn our hearts to the One who inflames the Seraphim and causes heaven to cry, Holy. Give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation that the eyes of our heart might be enlightened to the glorious splendor of Christ. Reveal Him to us until we long for Him like all those before us who have tasted of His goodness, power, and love.