Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” (John 21:7)
Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:35-36 35)
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. (Luke 19:5-6)
“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” (Matthew 11:19)
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
“Fix your eyes on Jesus.”
It’s a common application offered at the end of a sermon.
It’s a good exhortation. It’s straight Scripture.
Last time I heard it, I got to wondering how it might be understood by a congregation. By saying this and no more, have we marched deeply enough into the listener’s heart and head and life to lodge an effective, meaningful, full-orbed application?
As a gospel declaration, “fix your eyes on Jesus” can be a call to repent, to trust, believe and obey Jesus, and in doing so receive forgiveness and reconciliation. And that is a mighty wonder. I certainly don't mean to diminish that wonder. It points us to Jesus who is the way, the truth, the life, the Saviour, the Redeemer—the Lamb who was slain, whose blood “can make the foulest clean.”
This is the view of Jesus that we get when we focus on Paul’s letter to the Romans—a letter that especially frames our evangelical, reformed gospel understanding. I remember taking the best part of a year to study Romans back in my youth group days: it was stunning. Each week unfolded another rich layer of God’s redemptive purposes. We chatted about it in between studies—the place was full of gospel wonder. The mechanics of sin, salvation and reconciliation—the vision of perfect, sufficient, divinely engineered grace—were, and are, magnificent.
But what worries me is that our way of focusing on the Functional Jesus can make him an “it”or a “what” to fix our eyes on. And Jesus isn’t an “it” or a “what”—he’s a “him” and a “who”…
“Fix your eyes on Jesus.” Without forsaking Functional Jesus, I need to see the man. The friend. The mate. Living, breathing, thinking, sleeping, working. Organic. Relating to us. To him, some were especially precious; some moved him to tears; some he inexplicably pursued; some invited him to their party; some reclined at the table with him…
Relational Jesus. Our “fix your eyes” default doesn’t always do the job when it comes to a friend; a “who”; a “Him”.
Knowing the Saviour
I know Jesus through saving faith. But how, as a disciple, a child of God, how do I continue to get to know him? The same saving faith walks, trusts, weeps, sings, prays, questions, praises, asks, laughs, sins. “More than just the ticket, it’s the ride”, I once sang.
Friendship is untidy. It flips and it flops, it says sorry, endures sickness, sadness, monotony, melodrama. It shares secrets, contends with mistakes, misunderstands, eats and walks and listens. Friendship takes together time, the slow and steady path to appreciate and celebrate one another.
We mustn’t simply play the “Jesus is my best friend” card. He’s infinitely more. Jesus is Lamb, Lord, Saviour, King—Only Begotten Son of God.
Does that just put us back where we started? Is this one of those annoying evangelical “Got to find the balance” things where you swap a twenty dollar note for two tens? I’d love to do the work and see if there might be some value to add in thinking this through with you.
Because my Jesus is Grace Winner and Friend of Sinners. There’s no fight between the Functional and the Personal. One Jesus, perfectly God, sharing my humanity.
When I fix my eyes on Jesus, I see the Son of Man, the Ransom. I encounter the power of his blood to wash me white as snow, break the power of sin and death, reconcile me to God, seal me with his Holy Spirit, assure me of eternal life with him.
When I fix my eyes on Jesus, I see tears at the grave of Lazarus, an outrageous self-invitation to Zacchaeus’ house, a stubborn knock at the door of the damned because he is pleased to eat with the wayward and outcast, I see a lover of men, a friend above all friends, a wedding guest, kids climbing all over him.
By Word-centred faith, in the power of the Spirit, to the glory of the astounding God of grace, may we fix our eyes on Jesus. In every way possible, he truly is our Greatest Friend.
…I will come in and eat with him and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)