Have you ever tried to recreate a moment for a picture? Like that time your friend tripped down the stairs into the man walking on stilts or the time you opened up your big Christmas present when you were five or the first time you looked at your future wife and knew she was the one. Whenever these once in a lifetime moments happen, the camera never seems to work fast enough. So we try to reenact it, try to recreate it so that we can capture that memory on film forever, to show our friends and family and future children.
But the truth is, those pictures are never as good as the original moment. We always show those pictures and qualify it by saying, “You should’ve seen it in real life, this picture just doesn’t do it justice.” It’s just a stale imitation of what it originally was.
Sometimes I think the way we present and think about the gospel is a lot like a reenacted picture. The story and picture we show our friends doesn’t come close to the profound experience of it.
John 17:3 says, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
Although I had read this verse before, the impact of what Jesus said had never really hit me. When I think of the gospel I always think of the Romans road, or the giant canyon with me on one side and God on the other and the cross being the only bridge across. But when I read this verse, I get the impression that there is something more to the gospel than just the facts.
Eternal life is knowing God, and Jesus whom He sent. Eternal life isn’t knowing the facts or the belief systems. It’s the difference between looking at a picture of the Grand Canyon and driving through northern Arizona to experience it for yourself.
I think this helps me to understand the lack of impact the gospel can have on people here in America. All I present to people most of the time is just a reenacted picture of the real thing. I’m not bringing them with me to meet God and see for themselves, I’m not showing them how it feels to be completely loved and redeemed and walking in the presence of the ever-mysterious, infinitely majestic, and joyfully frightening God.
And that’s why much of the world responds to the gospel with, “Maybe if I had been there…”