Yes, there is a great deal of difference. Knowing Jesus directly is what they call contemplation. Knowing Jesus indirectly is what is called information.
Contemplation is a gazing at, looking at and beholding Jesus face to face, so to say. The mystics call this the personal experience of Jesus without a facilitator or mediator. Information is knowing about Jesus with the help of written history by people who either knew Him personally like the gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, or who were informed by the eye witnesses.
Both the informational knowledge of Jesus and the experiential knowledge of Him are recommended to everyone. Knowing Jesus through the gospels and other New Testament writers and other commentators, theologians and historians is easy but carries a heavy obligation. We cannot love Jesus, become Christ-like and Christ-bearer if do not know Him. This culpable ignorance of Jesus is one source of our problems today.
Contemplative prayer united to active involvement is highly recommended to bishops, priests and those in consecrated or vowed life. They need this in order to be effective guides of the lay faithful.
The contemplative path though is highly difficult. We need the help of the cloistered nuns and monks, and of those secular institutes of consecrated life established for contemplatives in action. Most of their founders and foundresses were mystics.