When John wrote his first letter, one of his main goals was to counter the effects of a false teaching known as Gnosticism. Gnosticism was this thought that you had to have this special knowledge in order to connect with spiritual things. “Gnostic” actually means “knowledge;” a special knowledge. Gnosticism had this main tenant: Physical things are bad, spiritual things are good. Therefore, if everything physical is bad and everything spiritual is good, then Jesus Christ must not have been a real man walking the face of the earth.
But Jesus had flesh. He was real. You could touch Him and feel Him. So they said, “No. He can’t be the Christ if He was a physical man. We don’t believe that.” For them, Jesus had to be a spirit, but we have to be clear about this. The physical death of Jesus, the physical life of Jesus, the physical resurrection of Jesus—this is pivotal to our faith. The central aspect of Christianity is not just the teaching of the principles of Jesus. It is that Jesus Christ was a real man who walked on Planet Earth, who lived a life we couldn’t live, who died for our sins and came back to life again.
It says in Hebrews that He was tempted in all things, but yet He was without sin, so that He could pay for our sins. He really went to the cross. Real nails went into His wrists and feet. The crown of thorns really hurt and drew blood. The spear went through His side. He really died. He really resurrected from the grave. That’s why He said to Thomas, “Put your finger into my hands. Put your hand into my side.”
Why is this physical life of Jesus central to Christianity? Because you are a real person too. You are going to walk this life and will die one day. You and I needed a physical Savior who lived a life we couldn’t live, died a death we should have died, so that we could know that we will rise again and spend eternity in heaven with God. So John, from the very beginning of his letter, is saying, “I saw it. I heard it. I touched it. Don’t tell me He wasn’t alive. I was there.”
We all need a real encounter with Jesus. He is real. He is not a ghost flying around somewhere. Today can be the day you ask Him to come in.