All day I kept remembering what happened at the car rental desk. The young man helping my niece was wearing a necklace but I couldn’t see what was on the end of the chain, so I asked him about it. He pulled out a figure of Jesus with arms spread wide but no cross was attached. (It looked something like this picture.)
I expressed surprise and delight but didn’t know exactly why. He responded by saying that he liked it because it reminded him that Jesus is alive and always present to him. He’s no longer on the cross.
As he spoke, I realized that’s what had drawn me so deeply me to the image on the end of his necklace. The outstretched arms followed the crossbeam of the cross, but they also showed how Jesus constantly invites us into relationship and into new ways of looking at life. A very much alive and well Jesus is working in the world and loves to partner with us in that work.
The Apostles understood this. N.T. Wright says the book of Acts could be titled, “The Acts of Jesus (II)” with Luke’s gospel being Part 1. How could that be? Jesus ascends in the first few verses. Yes, but Jesus is present everywhere in the exciting events recorded in that book.
The mysterious presence of Jesus haunts the whole story. He is announced as King and Lord, not as an increasingly distant memory but as a living and powerful reality, a person who can be known and loved, obeyed and followed, a person who continues to act with the real world. (NTW)
This doesn’t diminish the cross or Christ’s work on the cross. It does, however, highlight Jesus’ presence and work in the 2000 years since. The truth is that as we do mundane or important things all day long, Jesus is a living and powerful reality in our lives—guiding us, nudging us, even challenging us. At any moment we can take a moment to sit down with Jesus as if on a park bench to debrief about a difficult conversation, to ask for help with a project, or to give us an extra measure of love to pass on to a difficult person. In that relationship, we can know and love Jesus; we experience what the rich young ruler experienced: being looked at and loved (Mark 10:21). We can experience satisfaction and joy in doing things God’s way and seeing how things turn out so much better that way. We can admire how Jesus continues to act within our real concrete everyday world and then partner with him in promoting good and blessing others.
That is real life! Consider how boring a so-called normal life is without this. Without Jesus, we are only half alive.
Grace and peace,
For more about such a life, see Enjoying the Presence of God. ©Jan Johnson