Jesus meets us right where we are. He loves you just as you are. Even more so he likes you just as you are. But of course, way too much to leave you just as you are.
So when Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life,and have it to the full,”1 he wants to meet you right where you are, just as you are, full of holes and voids, not to mention a few bullet holes from past wounds and mistakes. He plans to heal your wounds and plug those holes, as he fills you up full with his love and grace.
But you have to let him.
We all have holes, voids, but many of us are foolishly trying to fill them with anything but Jesus. Or perhaps you are aware of the futility of that kind of vain pursuit, but you remain unconvinced Jesus is the only path to peace, so you are seeking fulfillment in “Jesus-plus.”
As in, “I know you are the only way to Heaven, Jesus, but I’m not convinced you are the only way to Heaven on earth.”
Let’s take a quick look at two of my favorite characters who are prototypes for so many of us today. The Samaritan woman at the well,2 we’ll call her Samantha for short, and the rich young ruler,3 whom we’ll call Richie. (Forgive me for that, but I couldn’t resist)
Samantha and Richie, like so many of us, have holes they are desperately trying to fill. Samantha is foolishly trying to fill them with anything but Jesus. Richie is trying to fill up withJesus-plus.
As we look in on their encounter with Jesus, remember Jesuswill meet you right where you are, and love you right there, full of holes. But he loves you too much to leave you there.
Samantha is on her way to the well at midday, a clue the Apostle John gives us that she is ostracized from the rest of the community of women, who visit the well early and late, so as to avoid the midday heat. She’s ostracized because she has been married five times, and is currently living with a man. Jesus meets her right where she is, with no judgment, but instead a request for help. What? She is shocked, and says so: “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”
Jewish men did not speak to women in public; they did not speak to Samaritans at all. Jesus showing vulnerability to this wounded woman is indeed barrier-breaking. Which was his intention. He wants to meet her right where she is: vulnerable, thirsty, empty.
But then, knowing Samantha and her needs intimately, as he knows you and your needs intimately, Jesus speaks the truth in love, as he will with you: “The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.”
And Jesus is saying to you, “The fact is, you still think work, success, activities, performance, he, she, it will fill you up. It won’t, but I can. And I will.
“But you have to let me.”
Richie on the other hand seeks out Jesus in pursuit of Life to the Full, but for him its Jesus-plus. He suspects Jesus might be the only way to Heaven, that’s why he approaches him. But he’s not convinced Jesus is the only way to Heaven on earth.
His Jesus-plus is two-fold: money, and what money can buy, as well as his performance. He asks Jesus to give him a checklist, so he can perform his way into Heaven. He has performed very well so far, accumulating his wealth, so he thinks he already has Heaven on earth.
So he asks: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What must I do…?” Sound familiar? If not, look all around you, in your own church, and perhaps even in your own mirror.
Jesus, meeting Richie right where he is, gives him his precious checklist: “Perform all the commandments,” he replies. But Richie, probably being from the South, is sure he has performed pretty darn well, at least much better than most..
If you were in Jesus’ place, would you be irritated by his ignorant pride? Or by your ignorant pride?
Yet watch Jesus’ response, in love and with grace, but with too much love to leave him in his empty ignorance: “Jesuslooked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’”
Jesus is also beckoning to you and to me, “Let go of all that stuff and follow me and I will give you Life to the Full. I’ll fill you up. You won’t find it in yet another relationship, or yet another thing, or purchase. And you sure won’t find it through your performance.”
Are you trying to plug your holes, and fill up with anything butJesus? Or perhaps with Jesus-plus … with him, her, or it? It won’t work, you must know that by now. Haven’t you tried long enough? And aren’t you still thirsty for more? Thirsty forJesus’ peace?
Jesus is the only way: to Heaven, and to Heaven on earth. May you find in Jesus “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”4