Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, narrates the fictional storyline of a young boy who has escaped the sufferings of an abusive home. Much of the story is as the title implies, adventurous. Up, down, and all around the “mighty Mississippi River” on nothing but a make-shift raft Huck and Jim scurry along mischievously terrorizing much of the Arkansas river villages. Near the ending, due to the dishonesty of the King and the Duke, Jim lands in a pickle of a situation that only Huck Finn can deliver him from. Huck Finn, stealthy as a house cat, lurks around the planation estate looking for Jim. Eventually he is spotted by the woman, who along with her husband, is owner of the plantation. She jumps out of her wagon and approaches the infamous Huck Finn with a frantic urgency. Huck is a nervous wreck. Convinced he is finally busted, once and for all, he is shell-shocked when she yanks him up and peppers him with affectionate kisses and tears. She begins to exclaim, “Tom! Tom! It must be you! It is so great to see you, we have been waiting for weeks for you to arrive. My goodness Tom you have just grown all up!” In happy confusion Huck Finn cunningly navigates his way through her interrogating questions on the journey to the plantation house. The shrewdness he has learned throughout his adventures is serving him well right about now! As the reader we are still in the dark until Huck finally meets the old woman’s husband. Upon their initial meeting the man asks “Who is this?” And before Huck Finn could answer, the woman joyfully shouts, “Why don’t you recognize him. It’s Tom Sawyer!” Huck Finn’s thoughts are priceless, “By jings, I most slumped through the floor.” Using his life-long friendship knowledge of Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn tells them all about the family, the village, and so forth. The chapter closes on a humorous note, “Now I was feeling pretty comfortable all down one side, and pretty uncomfortable all up the other. Being Tom Sawyer was easy and comfortable… till I hear that steamboat coming down the river. —Then I says to myself, ‘Suppose Tom Sawyer is coming down on that boat?’” The moral of the story is quite simple from the perspective of the old man and woman: You can know someone’s name without truly knowing who they are.
“Who do the crowds say that I am?” Is the question our text opens with and from the answer that is given we can conclude: the crowds don’t really know Jesus. This reminded me of an evangelistic effort a former Bible study conducted a few years back in this area. We live in the belt buckle of the Bible belt area. I mean everyone knows who Jesus is, right? That is a faulty assumption and the results showed. In our conversations with people, it was quickly learned that for the majority: Jesus was a man their grandmother told them about, a historical figure, a founder of a religion, a good example to live by, the person all those people sing to at church every Sunday. The answers to our questions was as broad as the Grand Canyon but the conclusion was incredibly narrow. I don’t know who these people met named Jesus, but it certainly was not the Jesus of the Bible. Jesus to them, just like the crowds, was nothing more than a impersonal famous distant person, that essentially was irrelevant to their personal lives. Forget the crowds for a moment though and focus on the second question from Jesus: But who do you say that I am?
Let’s cut to the chase. How do you truly ‘know’ a person? There is only one distinction between “thinking you know” and “truly knowing” who a person is and that is a relationship. We can all agree there is a difference between an acquaintance from work and your best friend you share all your secrets with. You know them both by name and general facts about each person, but there is a difference. Relationships are how you “truly” get know a person. Let’s look then, at the most intimate of relationships, marriage. One of the most beautiful truths about marriage is that when my imperfections show, my wife can’t leave. It’s a beautiful thing for our human flaws to show and yet be bound by a covenant to sit there and deal with it, work it out, and accept it. Friends one of the most beautiful truths in marriage that I am learning is two-fold: I not only really really know this person, but I am really really known by this person. In this thinking, I believe we discover the second rule of relational love.
- Rule number one was: Love gives, it never takes.
- The second and equally important rule must be: Love commits, it doesn’t abandon.
To truly know and too truly be known calls for a love that commits. And friends this is most fully seen in the mission of Christ. This is gloriously displayed in the cross of our Savior. Listen to His words… “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Luke 9:22) Don’t passively glaze over that monumental word “must.” There was no other mission. There was no other plan. There was you in your sin separated from God bound for an eternal torment. There was you in your poor, weak, and helpless estate. Jesus saw all your imperfection, all your failures: past, present, and future. He saw every single one of your flaws and He said “I must go to the cross.” Jesus knew your flaws and He didn’t abandon you, He committed Himself to loving you by going to the cross. Love commits, it doesn’t abandon. To truly know Christ is at the same time to be known by Christ, for truly knowing Christ is only possible through a relationship with Him.
Here’s the big question I would encourage you to wrestle with. Do you know Jesus like that old woman knew Huck Finn or do you know Jesus like a husband and wife know each other? As Jesus asked His disciples, He is now asking you: Who do you say that I am?