Yesterday we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The cross is empty as is the tomb. No body was found in the grave and a living, breathing Lord appeared to some. Those appearances were not simply that he was there and those people recognized him though.
One of my favorite stories, and not often talked about, is the story of two of Jesus’ followers walking to Emmaus. (Luke 24: 13-35) They were heavy-hearted and had not been in Jerusalum to hear the rumors of Jesus’ body being stolen, or that he could have risen. As they walked, someone appeared along with them. I can imagine that in their distress they didn’t notice a sudden appearance of someone on the road. He wasn’t there. Then he was. And he talked to them and asked them questions and pointed them back to who Jesus said he was. They sat down to dine together that Jesus broke the bread and recalled his own death. At that moment the men knew! It was Jesus! Poof. He was gone.
Isn’t the journey to faith a bit like this? We hear about Jesus and we may even know stories about him, but wouldn’t recognize him in our midst. Jesus came to those two men and showed himself. It was up close and personal. He never once bragged to them. He wasn’t showy. Nor did he diminish their grief. He listened, comforted them and revealed himself to them. Jesus said in the book of John that he had to go away so that the Comforter (Holy Spirit) could come and dwell within us. We don’t have to look for him on the road once he comes to live in our hearts. But many of use have had to journey and struggle with the truth of Christ before understanding that Jesus was never about a religion or denomonation. He was about a relationship. He came to bring us back into relationship with God. A fallen, sinful humanity, blind to just how lost we are. He reached through space and time (the ultimate Time Lord) and rescued us from our narcissitic folly. When our eyes are opened to the truth of who Jesus is, the veil is torn, the blinders lifted from our eyes and he now walks through all of the highs and lows of life with us.
Yesterday I reminisced about how, 33 years ago, as a spiritually hungry teenager, God revealed himself to me during a Campus Life/Youth for Christ meeting. My journels before that time were filled with prayers and poems and seeking. I served in my church. I wanted so much to know God. But He seemed so distant. Untouchable. Impersonal. That night I learned the truth of Ephesians 3:17: ” . . . so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”
Dwell in your hearts. Can’t get much closer than that. Sometimes I struggle to live with the same passion of that new-found faith, but hopefully I’ve grown and matured over the past three decades plus three. I’m a new creation. I’m still being transformed and once He took up residence, God has not abandoned me. Even when I’ve struggled, He has always been there. Though others abandon or disappoint me, God stays faithful. When life is scary, God provides for my needs and sometimes, even my wants. When depression looms, He is the rock I cling to. Face it. Life is hard for everyone. The greatest love story though is a man who died on the cross to lead my heart through life and somehow, someway, use a fallen, flawed, human being for His purposes and glory.
That is something to celebrate and treasure.