What Manner of Man
(A weekly program for knowing and following Jesus Christ)
By Richard and Linda Eyre
Years ago, we had the privilege of writing a book that attempts to focus our attention on a different and separate aspect of Christ’s nature and personality each Sunday of the Year. It has helped us focus and center our own lives and those of our children. We hope it will do the same for you.
We are pleased to share it with all who visit our ValuesParenting site, and hope you will use it week by week and pass it on to friends and family.
Blessings, Richard and Linda Eyre
Prologue: Recognizing the Need to Know Christ
Another Sunday afternoon—I am sitting in church, observing people as they receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. What thoughts are happening behind these faces? Every week, fifty times a year, some of these people partake of these emblems and they covenant to remember Christ, to strive to know Him, and to follow Him.
I watch the faces. Some are hard to read, but I can see the thoughts behind some. Some aren’t thinking about Jesus Christ at all, and some are thinking the same thing about him that they think every week (a “vain repetition?”). Some (many?) are trying to remember someone they never knew (at least not in this life).
How about me? How do I use these several sacred moments which are set aside for us to “always remember him”? Do I know enough to remember? If I were remembering my own father twice a week, I’d think of so much—things he said, ways he looked, how he did things—because I knew him. I didn’t know my father only as words on a page—I knew him.
Do I observe the sacrament properly? Do I derive from it the tremendous blessings it is designed to give? I begin to realize that the purpose of the sacrament is the same as the purpose of life: “And this is life eternal, that they might know—Jesus Christ.” My initial observation had now turned into a worry—a personal worry about me.
I decided that I would study and pray intently about our Lord—that I would make the attempt to know him as a great friend. I decided that each Sunday I would remember, and focus, and ponder, and know one real aspect of who he was. I decided to ponder a new aspect each week for a year with the hope that, by the end of the year, I could begin “to always remember him.”
The process of writing this book was a process of striving to think about one new facet of the Savior each time I partook of the sacrament or each Sunday as I reflected on He whom I believe to be my Savior. In the spirit of that special covenant time, I found that things did come to my mind—special thoughts, some of which can be only suggested through written words. Each of the following forty-eight facets is intended to be a “thought-trigger” to accelerate the mind to the speed where the spirit can take over during my reflection.
We are told, by scripture and by symbol, that the sacrament is a time to remember Christ’s sacrifice for us. “The body bruised, the lifeblood shed, A sinless ransom for our sake.” We are told and retold the same thing through the scriptural sacrament prayers. We are committed to witness unto God that we will keep his commandments and that we will always remember him.
As with so much sacred scripture, that last phrase has at least two clear meanings:
- We will remember and be aware of his hand in all things. (Scripture tells us that only two things offend God: not obeying his commandments and not confessing His hand in all things.)
- We will remember his life and teachings and model our lives after his.
It is the second meaning with which this book deals—the process of starting to know him in a real enough way that we begin to have a friend to remember.
(We should also realize that remembering his life and teachings is very helpful in remembering his hand in all things.)
My objective, then, has been to start to know Christ in the way he tells us to—as a real and loving brother, a being with body, parts, passions, and certain qualities of personality and character:
–Qualities made hard to know because of our differences (his perfection);
–Qualities made easier to know because of our similarities (our common Father and common origins);
–Qualities we must try to know because he has asked us to know them and has sent us here for that very purpose (see John 17:3).
You might wonder at the irony of sending someone away from you so that they might know you better (as God the Father and Christ did with us), but is it not true even in this life that “getting away” is often the key to knowing both ourselves and those close to us better? Think of the philosophers and poets of this world, the “Thoreaus” who sought to know themselves by going to their “Walden Ponds,” by getting away from those who knew them. And think of the more common experience, wherein true appreciation and “knowing” of parents comes only after we have left home.
I felt that if, in addition to remembering his sacrifice and recommitting my life each week, I could just focus each week on a separate aspect of who Christ was and what he was, by the year’s end I would have a forty-eight-facet gem of great value—such value that I would perhaps start to know him as my friend.
A small child once found one of his father’s complex jigsaw puzzles, spread out the pieces, and started trying to put it together. The father passed though and warned, “You won’t be able to do that one, Jimmy. It’s a picture of a technical drawing, an engineering plan. You won’t know what goes where.”
Fifteen minutes later when the father returned, the puzzle was completely put together. His reaction was one of delight mixed with puzzlement: of course his son was smart, but how did he do it?
“Well, Dad, I turned the pieces over, and there was a picture of a man on the other side. I just put the man together and turned the puzzle back over, and the plan was together.”
The gospel, the commandments, the Church, the Lord’s pan can seem large and complicated and “too much” until we learn that knowing Christ is knowing the gospel.
The gospel is totally fulfilled and exemplified and focused in him. Unlike any other leader in any other era in any other cause, he was (and is) all that he taught.
Scripture captures the deepest goal of life’s experience when it tells us that the purpose of life eternal is to know God and Jesus Christ. Or is it more important to love God, for is not this the “first and great commandment”? Should we be more interest in knowing or loving? Or is being the key—working toward the perfection of being like him? John 17:3, Matthew 22:37, and Matthew 5:48 seem to define life’s objectives:
To know Christ,
To love Christ,
To be like Christ.
Are there three objectives? Or only one? Can we ever know him without loving him? Can we ever love him without the deepest desire to be more like him? Can we ever improve and strive to follow him without knowing him better and loving him more?
The three scriptures are three ways of saying on thing, and that one thing is the most important thing in life.
This is not a book on the miracles of Christ, or on his history, or on his ministry, or even on his teachings and gospel. It is a small but honest attempt to start to know his personality and character, to know him as he commanded us to, to know him as a person and as a brother. For although he is incomparably superior, he is our brother. And though his life and love achieve perfection, he has asked us to live and love as he did
We know and associate most of history’s “great men” with the armies they led, the books they wrote, the wide travels they made, the weather and splendor of the personal power, or the number of people they employed. But Jesus Christ neither pursued nor accomplished any of these.
Because he did one thing far more influential and important than all of these: he lived a perfect life. His message, which will never be forgotten and which will never fail, was in who he was. Example is the greatest teacher. Perfect example is the perfect teacher.
As I think of my closet friends and as I mediate upon the means by which I came to know them as I do, I realize that it was a piecemeal process. One day (not consciously) I came to appreciate one quality about a friend. Another time I sensed a different aspect of his personality. Then there was the day I learned an additional side of his character.
Our greatest friend has told us that we may know him in a similar way. It can be a building process; each week the partaking of the sacrament can be a time to cut a new facet on the gem of our knowledge of him
I remember once asking my wife just why it was that one of her friends had been so especially close to her for son long. She said, “I guess it is because she is with me so much and she is so dependable and predictable.”
How well, then, can we come to know Christ, who can always be with us, and whose perfection makes him ultimately predictable?
The story is told of a youth who went to his wise bishop with a testimony problem.
“Spiritual things just don’t seem real to me,” he said. “There are 168 hours in a week and you spend at best only 3 hours while you are at church thinking about spiritual things. I guess that’s why temporal things are about 56 times as real to you as spiritual things.”
The solution (for that young man and for so many of us) is found in one of the Ten Commandments: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8.)
Except for the amount of time we spend in church, too many of us have the same thought pattern on Sunday as on any other day. how much better it would be if the whole day were really the Lord’s day!
Too many of us go to church to gain a spirit of worship and love. How much better it would be if we were to take that spirit there with us.
Too many of us see Sunday in the negative sense of what the Church tells us not to do. How much better it would be if we saw that what we should do is to strive toward life’s eternal goal of knowing our Savior.
The notion of this book is that Sunday can be a time when thoughts are focused on Jesus Christ—a time, each week, when one facet of the Savior is pondered and prayed upon. One chapter, well-read and well-thought in the early Sabbath, can prepare us to go to church hungry for the sacrament’s spiritual food, anxious, in the sacrament’s special spirit, to savor and think about a specific segment of our elder brother’s perfect character and to recommit our lives to him.
In scripture, every commandment is related to a blessing, every challenge has a promise, every admonition carries a reward. The most eternal, most encompassing commandment/challenge/ admonition of all is to know Jesus Christ, and it carries with it the greatest blessings/promises/ rewards:
- That we will have life eternal (John 17:3).
- That we will be free (John 8:31-32).
- That we will know Heavenly Father (John 14:7-9).
- That we will go where he is (John 14:3).
- That we will be exalted (Matthew 23:12).
- That his spirit will always be with us (Luke 22:19-20).
- That this earth will be ours (Matthew 5:5).
“But,” one might say, “what an effort, what a difficulty to get to know one who is not here!”
Effort? Yes. But not a difficulty. Rather, a joy, a privilege. And he is here with us ask much as we ask him to be.
Large libraries with extensive religious sections often have thousands of books on Jesus Christ. (In fact, there are hundreds of volumes with the same title: The Life of Christ.) Most of these books are written by Catholic or Protestant historian-theologians who, with their many insights and truths, have two universal and common limitations:
- They draw only from a single source (the New Testament).
- They deal only with one brief period of the Savior’s existence (his life here on earth).
But within scripture there are many references to our Lord both before his mortal birth and after his mortal deal and resurrection. And though personal inspiration we can know things not only about his nature but about his will for us.
I am aware, as you should be, of the danger in humanizing Christ. Jesus was not human in the mortal sense. We cannot come to know him by comparing our weaknesses with his because he had none. We can come to know him only by the opposite process of comparing our strengths, our hopes, and our possibilities with his. Such a process will inevitably bring about four great benefits:
- We will know him better.
- We will know ourselves better.
- We will realize greater humility in viewing our weaknesses about his greatness.
- We will recognize greater potential in viewing his perfection alongside our possibilities.
Ponder for a moment the different levels on which people think of Jesus Christ:
Level One: He did not exist. He is a myth.
Level Two: He was a trickster, a magician, a deceiver.
Level Three: He was a historical figure, but most of what is said about him is fiction or legend rather than history.
Level Four: He was a remarkable and powerful teacher.
Level Five: He was a charismatic leader and teacher who developed the most beautiful philosophy of life ever devised.
Level Six: He was a prophet.
Level Seven: He was the greatest of all the prophets.
Level Eight: He was more than a man, more than a prophet—he was the Son of God.
Level Nine: He was the Son of God and is our Savior. He died and atoned for our sins and was then resurrected.
Level Ten: He was the Son of God and is our Savior. He established his church to preserve and spread his gospel.
Level Eleven: He was the Son of God and is our Savior. He established his church, but because he had given man free agency he knew that parts of his church would be diluted and destroyed.
Level Twelve: He is the divine Savior. His church was established and then changed and tampered with though the dark ages. In our own time much truth has been restored and people are, more than ever, seeking the true Christ.
Level Thirteen: The divine Savior is also the God of the Old Testament. The only Begotten of the Father, the Atoning One, the Creator, and our Judge and King.
Not until a person reaches level eight can he be considered a true Christian. From there on, the levels are consecutive—each level includes the last and adds to it.
How ironic that the world accepts its own Creator, its own Savior, its own Judge on so many different levels.
This book contains twelve sections, each section containing four facets. The reader can study one section each month, none facet each Sunday, in preparation for the renewing of his covenants that day. Hopefully such study will help him to go to church hungry for the spiritual food of the sacrament and will help him to ponder, as he partakes, one aspect of the great elder brother whom he is striving to know.
Each month study a section; each week study a facet. In months with five Sundays, repeat the facet that seems more important to you. Always think first of the Savior’s atonement and sacrifice, then of the particular quality you have read about that morning.
Use this book as a one-year plan to beginning to know our Lord Jesus Christ.
As you read, remember:
“With the intellect alone we can never discover Him, nor with the mere bodily sense, nor with the teachings of the scriptures; only with the inspiration, the intuition, the sudden flaming illumination of the hart as it happened that day in the soul of Peter: “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it to you, but my Father which is in heaven” (Giovanni Papino, Life of Christ, 1923).
Prayer and scripture are the places to learn of Christ. If this book substitutes for either it fails. If it promotes both, it succeeds.
Bear in mind that the facets of the Savior’s personality only help us to know more about him (which is different from knowing him). His facets are like those of a diamond—only revealing and transmitting the radiance that shines from within. No facet is sufficient explanation of itself, and no facet possesses the source of its own luster.
The source, the light within, will not be found on the pages of any book, but on the pages or your heart.
I emphasize that this is not so much a book to be read as it is a program to be followed. It is written to be read one small chapter at a time, one facet each Sunday morning before going to church. It is important to read slowly thoughtfully, and to turn to and read each scripture that each chapter refers to.
Remember, too, that it is not only what you read each Sunday morning that will help you start to know the Savior—it is how you ponder that treading as you go to church and partake of the sacrament.
The savior whom we seek to know is a brother whom we once knew well. The veil is a selective or semi-permeable membrane, blocking thoughts of our first home, but letting through some familiar feelings.
Perhaps this book’s words will prompt the prayer which prompts these feelings. As you read and as you pray, please remember that what you are trying to do is remember.