by John D. Barry
If Jesus seems distant to you, you are not alone. For many, Jesus is abstract. He is like that piece of modern art you just don’t get and have trouble relating to. But this is not the Jesus in the gospels nor of early church tradition. Jesus is right here, right now—and that idea will renew your life.
1. Jesus is indeed fully human and fully God—that changes everything.
In the moment when God becomes flesh, God is with us in a more profound way than ever before. Jesus took on the form of a person in order to forever bond the spiritual and physical—to bridge the gap sin had created.
“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)
This changes everything, right here, right now. If God is with us, then what can stand in opposition (ref Romans 8:37–39)? God is dwelling among us:
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
The word translated as “dwelt among us” has the connotation of “setting up His tent.” Jesus becomes a refugee; right here on earth. Jesus built a tent; His tent is flesh.
So often we profess Jesus as Lord, as God, but we forget h
His humanness in the process. It was His humanity that allowed for Jesus to be our suffering servant (Isaiah 53:10–12) and it is His humanity that allows for Him to directly relate to us (Hebrews 2:10–18).
This is why the early church fathers so adamantly opposed a belief known as Docetism—the idea that Jesus was not a real person but instead only spirit (or God). Yet, today, we often act like Jesus is somehow far away—that He is only spirit. Let’s reclaim Him as a servant too—as God and human among us.
2. Jesus is seen in the faces of the hurting and oppressed.
Near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He proclaims h
His purposes by quoting the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”
I see the face of Jesus crying out to me in the faces of my hurting friends—like those I know living in poverty in Bihar, India. He cries out the same cry that he did then: “freedom—physical and spiritual freedom. Work alongside me to bring renewal.” This is profoundly seen when Jesus explains to His disciples that at the end of all things the following will happen: “Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:37–40)
Jesus tells us, when we serve the hurting, we serve Him: We see Him. I have held the hands of the hurting Jesus mentions and heard them cry out prayers to God for redemption. I have felt their pain. I have seen Jesus stand alongside them in their anguish, but I have also felt the burden of the great needs of our generation in the process. Jesus is among the hurting and the oppressed. The question is will we also be?
3. Jesus is sitting beside you—and can be in you—through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus sitting beside you, in conversation—it’s a wonderful picture and one that a dear friend tells of often. I long to feel that close to Jesus. To picture Him there, talking with me. And this is precisely what Jesus wants. This is the type of relationship He envisions through the Holy Spirit in It is through the Holy Spirit that renewal is brought to our lives. And it is the Holy Spirit that guides the process of bringing renewal to the world.
4. Jesus is there when we break bread together in his name.
After his resurrection, Jesus shows up on a road, walking with two disciples. At first, they don’t recognize him (Luke 24:20). The disciples tell Jesus of all the events that have occurred with the crucifixion and the subsequent account of His resurrection. But despite Jesus’ words about the necessity of His death, according to “the Prophets,” they still don’t recognize him (Luke 24:25–26). They hear, but do not yet believe. But then this happens: “And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.
And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.
And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?”
It is in the meal, that the disciples see Him, as He is. Their hearts may have burned, but this is when their eyes are opened. Hospitality, blessing, a focus on Jesus’ sacrificial act—this is how we see Him.
5. Jesus is in the movement to bring the gospel to the unreached.
Jesus, as a person and as our God, is not merely an idea. We must take action. Jesus wants to offer physical healing to our generation—to our earth—and we have the blessing of being able to be part of it. But the poverty of our world runs beyond what can be seen; it is also spiritual.
I have seen with my own eyes the desperate need for the good news of Jesus in unreached places, like Bihar, India. I also know the facts—that only 0.3% of the Church’s resources are allocated to areas where the Church is not. The idea of Jesus among us, in us—right here, right now—is also an urgent cry to stand up, lift up, and take action. To bring the gospel where it is not accessible.
Matthew’s Gospel records that after Jesus’ resurrection, he met his eleven remaining apostles and said to them: “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
Let us be the generation that brings God with us to every nation, to the end of the earth. Let us live as if Jesus is sitting beside us, right here in it all—because He is. He is right here. What will you do with that?