“Though You Never Saw Him, You Love Him”
“Though you never saw him, you love him. Though you are not looking upon him at present, yet you exercise faith in him and are greatly rejoicing.”—1 PETER 1:8.
1. Although no one on earth today has seen Jesus, how do some religious people endeavor to show devotion to him?
NO ONE alive on earth today has ever seen Jesus Christ. Yet, millions of people profess to love him. Each year on January 9, in Manila, the Philippines, a life-size statue of Jesus Christ bearing a cross is pulled through the streets in what has been described as the most massive, most spectacular manifestation of popular religion in the country. The excited crowd pushes and shoves; people even climb over one another in a frenzied effort to touch the image. Many who are present to observe this are attracted mainly by the festive procession. Yet, some of them are undoubtedly people who feel sincerely drawn to Jesus. As evidence of that, they may wear a crucifix or may regularly go to church. However, can such idolatry be regarded as true worship?
2, 3. (a) Who among Jesus’ followers actually saw and heard him? (b) Who else in the first century loved Jesus and put faith in him, although they never personally saw him?
2 In the first century, there were many thousands in the Roman provinces of Judea, Samaria, Perea, and Galilee who personally did see and hear Jesus Christ. They listened as he explained heartwarming truths about the Kingdom of God. They were eyewitnesses of the miracles that he performed. Some of these became his devoted disciples, convinced that he was “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) However, those to whom the apostle Peter wrote his first inspired letter had not been among these.
3 Those addressed by Peter were located in the Roman provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia—all in the area of modern-day Turkey. To them Peter wrote: “Though you never saw him, you love him. Though you are not looking upon him at present, yet you exercise faith in him and are greatly rejoicing with an unspeakable and glorified joy.” (1 Peter 1:1, 8) How had they come to know Jesus Christ to the point of loving him and exercising faith in him?
4, 5. How did those people who had never seen Jesus learn enough about him to love him and put faith in him?
4 Evidently, some were in Jerusalem when the apostle Peter witnessed to the crowd attending the festival of Pentecost in 33 C.E. After the festival many disciples stayed in Jerusalem in order to receive further instruction from the apostles. (Acts 2:9, 41, 42; compare 1 Peter 1:1.) On repeated missionary tours, the apostle Paul carried on a zealous ministry also among the people who lived in the area to which Peter later sent the first Biblical letter bearing his name.—Acts 18:23; 19:10; Galatians 1:1, 2.
5 Why were those people, who had never seen Jesus, so strongly attracted to him? In our day, why do millions more, around the globe, deeply love him?
The Things That They Heard
6. (a) If you had heard Peter witness about Jesus at Pentecost 33 C.E., what could you have learned? (b) How did this affect some 3,000 who were present?
6 If you had been in Jerusalem when Peter spoke to that festival crowd in 33 C.E., what would you have learned about Jesus? Beyond all doubt the miracles he performed showed that he was sent by God. That, although sinful men had put Jesus to death, he was no longer in the grave but had been resurrected and then was exalted to heaven to the right hand of God. That Jesus was, indeed, the Christ, the Messiah of whom the prophets had written. That through Jesus Christ, holy spirit had been poured out on his followers so that they were quickly able to witness to people from many nations about the magnificent things that God was doing by means of his Son. The hearts of many who heard Peter on that occasion were deeply moved, and some 3,000 got baptized as Christian disciples. (Acts 2:14-42) If you had been there, would you have taken such decisive action?
7. (a) If you had been in Antioch when the apostle Paul preached there, what might you have learned? (b) Why did some in the crowd become believers and share the good news with others?
7 If you had been among those present when the apostle Paul taught in Antioch in the Roman province of Galatia, what else might you have learned about Jesus? You would have heard Paul explain that Jesus’ being condemned to death by the rulers in Jerusalem had been foretold by the prophets. You would also have heard about eyewitness evidence of Jesus’ resurrection. You would surely have been impressed by Paul’s explanation that by resurrecting Jesus from the dead, Jehovah confirmed that this one was indeed the Son of God. And would not your heart have been warmed as you learned that the forgiveness of sins made possible by faith in Jesus could lead to everlasting life? (Acts 13:16-41, 46, 47; Romans 1:4) Recognizing the significance of what they were hearing, some in Antioch became disciples, actively sharing the good news with others, even though doing so meant that they would face intense persecution.—Acts 13:42, 43, 48-52; 14:1-7, 21-23.
8. If you had been at the meeting of the Ephesus congregation when Paul’s letter to them was received, what could you have learned?
8 What if you had been associated with the Christian congregation in Ephesus, in the Roman province of Asia, when Paul’s inspired letter to the disciples there was received? What could you have learned from it about Jesus’ role in God’s purpose? In that letter Paul explained that through Christ all things in heaven and on earth would be brought back into harmony with God, that God’s gift through Christ extended to people of all nations, that individuals who had been dead in God’s sight because of their trespasses were being made alive through faith in Christ, and that as a result of this provision, it was again possible for humans to become beloved sons of God.—Ephesians 1:1, 5-10; 2:4, 5, 11-13.
9. (a) What can help you to discern whether you personally grasp the significance of what Paul wrote to the Ephesians? (b) How were the brothers in the Roman provinces mentioned by Peter affected by what they were learning about Jesus?
9 Would appreciation for all of this have deepened your love for God’s Son? Would that love have influenced your day-to-day life, as the apostle Paul encouraged in chapters 4 through 6 of Ephesians? Would such appreciation have moved you to examine your own priorities in life carefully? Out of love for God and gratitude to his Son, would you have made needed adjustments so that the doing of God’s will was truly the focal point of your life? (Ephesians 5:15-17) Regarding the way that Christians in Asia, Galatia, and other Roman provinces were affected by what they were learning, the apostle Peter wrote to them: “Though you never saw [Jesus Christ], you love him. . . . You exercise faith in him and are greatly rejoicing with an unspeakable and glorified joy.”—1 Peter 1:8.
10. (a) What undoubtedly contributed to the early Christians’ love for Jesus? (b) How can we also benefit?
10 There was something else that undoubtedly contributed to the love for God’s Son that was felt by those early Christians whom Peter addressed. What was that? By the time that Peter wrote his first letter, at least two of the Gospels—Matthew and Luke—were already in circulation. First-century Christians who had never seen Jesus could read these Gospel accounts. We can too. The Gospels are not fanciful accounts; they bear all the marks of the most reliable history. In those inspired records, we find much that deepens our love for God’s Son.
The Spirit He Showed
11, 12. What is there about the spirit that Jesus showed toward other humans that makes you love him?
11 There in the written record of Jesus’ life, we learn how he dealt with other humans. The spirit he showed touches the heart of people even now, over 1,960 years after he died. Everyone alive is burdened with the effects of sin. Many millions are victims of injustice, struggle with illness, or for other reasons feel crushing disappointment. To all such, Jesus says: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.”—Matthew 11:28-30.
12 Jesus showed sensitive concern for the poor, the hungry, and those sorrowing. When circumstances made it necessary, he even fed large crowds miraculously. (Luke 9:12-17) He freed them from enslaving traditions. He also built up their faith in God’s provision to put an end to political and economic oppression. Jesus did not crush the spirit of those who were already downtrodden. With tenderness and love, he skillfully lifted up the meek. He refreshed those who were like bruised reeds that had doubled over and those who were like smoldering flaxen wicks about to be extinguished. Right down to the present, his name inspires hope, even in the hearts of those who have never seen him.—Matthew 12:15-21; 15:3-10.
13. Why does the way Jesus dealt with sinners attract people?
13 Jesus did not approve of wrongdoing, yet he showed understanding toward people who had made mistakes in life but who manifested repentance and turned to him for help. (Luke 7:36-50) He would sit down and have a meal with people who were despised in the community if he felt that this would provide an opportunity to help them spiritually. (Matthew 9:9-13) As a result of the spirit he displayed, millions of people in similar circumstances who have never seen Jesus have been moved to get to know him and have put faith in him.
14. What appeals to you about the way in which Jesus helped people who were ill, disabled, or bereaved?
14 The way that Jesus dealt with people who were ill or disabled gives evidence of his warmth and compassion as well as of his ability to bring them relief. Thus, when a diseased man filled with leprosy approached him and pleaded for help, Jesus did not recoil at the sight. And he did not tell the man that, although he felt pity for him, the case was too far advanced and nothing could be done to help. The man implored: “Lord, if you just want to, you can make me clean.” Without hesitation, Jesus reached out and touched the leprous man, saying: “I want to. Be made clean.” (Matthew 8:2, 3) On another occasion a woman sought to be cured by inconspicuously touching the fringe of his garment. Jesus dealt with her in a kindly and reassuring manner. (Luke 8:43-48) And when he encountered a funeral procession, he was moved with pity for the grieving widow whose only son had died. Although Jesus had refused to use his God-given power miraculously to provide food for himself, he freely used it to resurrect that dead man and restore him to his mother.—Luke 4:2-4; 7:11-16.
15. How does reading the accounts about Jesus and meditating on them affect you?
15 As we read these accounts and meditate on the spirit Jesus displayed, our love is deepened for this one who laid down his human life so that we might live forever. Even though we have never seen him, we feel drawn to him, and we want to follow in his footsteps.—1 Peter 2:21.
His Humble Reliance on God
16. On whom did Jesus focus primary attention, and what did he encourage us to do?
16 Above all else, Jesus focused his attention and ours on his heavenly Father, Jehovah God. He identified the greatest commandment in the Law, saying: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.” (Matthew 22:36, 37) He admonished his disciples: “Have faith in God.” (Mark 11:22) When they were faced with a serious test of their faith, he urged them: “Pray continually.”—Matthew 26:41.
17, 18. (a) How did Jesus demonstrate his humble reliance on his Father? (b) Why is what he did so important to us?
17 Jesus himself set the example. Prayer was an important part of his life. (Matthew 14:23; Luke 9:28; 18:1) When the time came for him to select his apostles, Jesus did not simply rely on his own judgment, though formerly all the angels in heaven were under his supervision. Humbly he spent an entire night in prayer to his Father. (Luke 6:12, 13) When he faced arrest and a painful death, Jesus again turned to his Father, praying earnestly. He did not take the view that he knew Satan well and could easily handle whatever that wicked one might devise. Jesus realized how important it was that he not fail. What a reproach failure would be for his Father! And what a loss for humankind, whose life prospects depended on the sacrifice that Jesus was to offer!
18 Jesus prayed repeatedly—when with his apostles in an upper room in Jerusalem and even more fervently in the garden of Gethsemane. (Matthew 26:36-44; John 17:1-26; Hebrews 5:7) When suffering on the torture stake, he did not revile those who taunted him. Instead, he prayed in behalf of those who were acting in ignorance: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) He kept his mind focused on his Father, “committing himself to the one who judges righteously.” The final words that he uttered on the torture stake were a prayer to his Father. (1 Peter 2:23; Luke 23:46) How grateful we are that, with full reliance on Jehovah, Jesus faithfully completed the assignment that his Father had entrusted to him! Though we have never seen Jesus Christ, how deeply we love him for what he did!
Expressing Our Love for Him
19. In expressing love for Jesus, what practices would we avoid as completely inappropriate?
19 How can we give evidence that the love we profess is more than mere words? Since his Father, whom Jesus loved, prohibited the making of images and then treating these as objects of devotion, we surely would not bring honor to Jesus by wearing such an image on a chain around our neck or by carrying one through the streets. (Exodus 20:4, 5; John 4:24) It would be no honor to Jesus for us to attend religious services, even doing so several times a week, if we did not live in harmony with his teachings the rest of the week. Jesus said: “He that has my commandments and observes them, that one is he who loves me. In turn he that loves me will be loved by my Father.”—John 14:21, 23; 15:10.
20. What are some things that will show whether we truly do love Jesus?
20 What commandments did he give us? Foremost, to worship the true God, Jehovah, and him alone. (Matthew 4:10; John 17:3) Because of his role in God’s purpose, Jesus also taught that we must exercise faith in him as God’s Son and that we must show it by shunning wicked works and by walking in the light. (John 3:16-21) He counseled us to seek first God’s Kingdom and his righteousness, putting these ahead of concern about physical needs. (Matthew 6:31-33) He commanded that we love one another as he loved us. (John 13:34; 1 Peter 1:22) And he commissioned us to be witnesses concerning God’s purpose, even as he was. (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20; Revelation 3:14) Although they have never seen Jesus, some five million Witnesses of Jehovah today are moved by genuine love for him to observe those commandments. Their not having personally seen Jesus in no way weakens their determination to be obedient. They call to mind what their Lord said to the apostle Thomas: “Because you have seen me have you believed? Happy are those who do not see and yet believe.”—John 20:29.
21. How do we benefit from attending the Memorial of Christ’s death, which will be held this year on Sunday, March 23?
21 It is hoped that you will be among those worldwide who will gather at the Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses after sunset on Sunday, March 23, 1997, to recall the greatest expression of God’s love toward mankind and to commemorate the death of his loyal Son, Jesus Christ. What is said and done on that occasion should deepen love for Jehovah and his Son and so increase the desire to keep God’s commandments.—1 John 5:3.
How Would You Answer?
□ How had those to whom the first book of Peter was addressed come to know and love Jesus?
□ What are some of the things that early Christians heard that impress you?
□ What is there about the spirit Jesus showed that deepens your love for him?
□ Why is Jesus’ humble reliance on God so important to us?
□ How can we demonstrate our love for Jesus Christ?
[Pictures on page 16, 17]
We feel drawn to Jesus because of the spirit he showed