What Is the Difference Between Knowing Jesus and Knowing about Jesus?

This is where one starts to learn more about who Jesus is, and what that means to them personally. As they learn more, superficial knowledge takes root and comes to life in their understanding. Jesus prayed this prayer for people to truly know him.

Danielle Bernock
Woman praying over a Bible

To know Jesus and to know about him are two different things. However, it’s not that simple. There are different levels to both knowing about Jesus as well as knowing him. It’s important to see the difference so you can employ your God-given power of choice to know Jesus as deeply as you, and he, desire.

Knowing about Jesus

There are two ways you can know about Jesus:

1. You heard about him. This type of knowing can be compared to being shown a photograph, having read a news headline, or heard about some new restaurant in town. This is the most superficial way to know about a person or place. There is no elaboration or depth of any kind.

Concerning Jesus, this could be applied to people who claim to be a Christian because their parents were, or because they’re American. However, this is just a label and means nothing.

2. Learned about. This type of knowing goes a step deeper than just having heard about. It can be compared to how fans of famous people feel like they know them because they’ve read about them, or maybe even studied them. A fan might know their birthday, favorite food, or where they like to shop — but this isn’t knowing them.

The same is true about that new restaurant in town. You can study the menu, choose a favorite entrée, and read about the ambiance — but if you’ve not been then it’s just information without experience.

To know about Jesus is to know information about him. Concerning Jesus, this can be dangerous because one might feel as if they know him due to the abundance of knowledge, but, in truth, not know him at all.  Some may even go to church and do religious things but if there’s no relationship, there’s no true knowing. Jesus talked about some who “never knew” him but thought they did.

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules” (Matthew 15:8-9).

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’ (Matthew 7:21-23, ESV).

Jesus wants us to know him, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:11-13).

Knowing Jesus

To know Jesus is to experience him. There are three levels where we can truly know Jesus:

1. Meet. When you’re introduced to someone, you have a shallow knowledge of them, but your encounter is valid. In this encounter, you hear their voice, maybe notice some mannerisms and facial expressions. You can choose to move forward with a relationship or not.

Concerning Jesus, although there is much more to Jesus than just meeting him, it can be enough for salvation when you choose him as Savior. Consider this story of the two thieves on the cross. When they met him, one chose Jesus, and one rejected him.

One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:39-43, NAS).

2. In a relationship. Every deep relationship begins here. After meeting someone and deciding to take it a step further, there’s the adventure of getting to know one another better. Oftentimes this phase is full of emotions and is quite exciting.

Concerning Jesus, this is where one starts to learn more about who Jesus is, and what that means to them personally. As they learn more, superficial knowledge takes root and comes to life in their understanding. Jesus prayed this prayer for people to know him.

This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent (John 17:3).

3. Deep intimacy. Relationships continue through commitment. But commitment alone isn’t enough for intimacy. Married couples can stay together for a lifetime and never experience true intimacy. To develop a deep intimacy in a relationship requires sharing and vulnerability on both sides.

Likewise, with Jesus, a deep relationship with him isn’t established through time alone (how long a person has been saved) but through the intentional choice of seeking the face of God.

God makes himself vulnerable to us through his spirit.

…these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:10-14, ESV).

We make ourselves vulnerable by coming to him for help trusting in his love.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16, ESV).

Knowing about Jesus might be interesting, but actually knowing him takes relational work and brings life and satisfaction to the soul.

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/doidam10


Danielle Bernock is an international, award-winning author, coach, and speaker who helps people embrace their value and heal their souls through the power of the love of God. She’s written Emerging With Wings, A Bird Named PaynLove’s ManifestoBecause You Matter, and Compassion Was Born. A long time follower of Christ, Danielle lives with her husband in Michigan near her adult children and grandchildren. For more information or to connect with Danielle https://www.daniellebernock.com/


Originally published August 20, 2020.