“O good Jesus, may you also be Jesus for me.”
This is how Johann Gerhard begins his meditation on the name of Jesus in his Sacred Meditations [p. 31]. Gerhard was an extremely gifted and productive theologian. That being said, I’ll admit I enjoy his devotional and pastoral works much more than his doctrinal volumes. That’s not because they’re bad. They’re beyond anything I could produce. I just don’t get too excited for that sort of theology. It’s good. It’s necessary. Someone needs to do it. But I tend to really love the stuff that preaches, homiletical more than systematic theology, I suppose you could say.
Gerhard’s meditations are gold, though—pure gold! He wrote them after a prolonged period of sickness and melancholy, after having immersed himself in the great devotional works of the Christian Church and the Scriptures. And of all his meditations, this one is perhaps my favorite, this contemplation of the name of Jesus. Do you remember what Jesus’ name means? It’s such a comfort! God left nothing to our imaginations when it came to naming His Son. His angel told Joseph, “[Mary] will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Jesus, He who saves, that’s Who from heaven above to earth has come.
Jesus is many things. He’s an example. He’s a teacher. He’s a great thinker and philosopher. But He’s also so much more, and He’s one thing above all else: He is Jesus, Savior. Even more, He is Jesus for me, and for you! He’s come to save us from our sins. He’s come to forgive, to absolve, to make clean.
We can learn a lot from Jesus. He certainly gives us plenty to strive to imitate. Ultimately, though, none of that is why He came to earth. Moreover, none of that is the basis of our relationship with Him. Jesus came to be, well, Jesus. He came to save. He came to save sinners. He came to save us.
So, next time your religion leaves you running on empty, when the devil or even someone within the church has turned your Christian life into a checklist, when it sinks in just how much you’ve failed and fail to resemble Him whose example is perfect, as He is, take heart. Remember where Christian life comes from, namely, from Christ, and remember who Christ is: Jesus!
What a fantastic prayer Gerhard gives us: “O good Jesus, may you also be Jesus for me.” And we need not wonder at His answer. Paul writes of Jesus, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him” (2 Cor 1:20). And so pray away that simple prayer and make sure you end it rightly, confidently, and sure that Jesus can’t help but listen, because here you’ve caught Him in His Word, here you have Him by His name. “O good Jesus, may you also be Jesus for me.”