Yes, two gospels and the book of Acts describe Christ’s post-resurrection departure to heaven. In about a month, much of the Christian world will celebrate Ascension Day, a reminder of that departure. It’s comforting to know that Jesus is waiting for us at God’s right hand, praying for us until our safe arrival (Romans 8:34).
But other passages describe His current location in a different way, a very intimate way, which also matters to us:
- “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…” (Galatians 2:20)
- “…Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)
- “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…” (Ephesians 3:17)
I don’t pretend to be able to fully explain the dynamics of the situation, but I don’t need to explain it in order to believe it – Christ is in heaven, and He is in me! He sits with His Father, and He walks with me. He receives the worship of angels, and He hears my stumbling and distracted prayers. The very idea amazes me, and at times I find it hard to grasp. But I choose to believe it, and when I do, it is delightful.
As I have developed a more contemplative approach to my Christian life, the presence of Christ has become more significant to me. When I take a Sabbath hike, like the one I took this afternoon, I have a very real sense that I’m going on a walk with Jesus Christ. I acknowledge His presence when I get to the trailhead, thanking Him for the offer of rest that I’m about to embrace. I sing worship songs to Him as I walk. I thank Him for the beauty of the flowers along the trail, the clouds in the sky, for the butterflies and the lizards (no, I am not yet spiritual enough to thank Him for the snakes). And as an unexpected benefit, my awareness of His presence on my Sabbath hikes has made me more likely to be aware of His presence the rest of the week.
He is here. With me. Me! I shake my head as I type, because I don’t deserve this.
But I won’t turn it down. And I won’t argue with Him.
I regret the many years in which I saw Jesus as mainly a figure of history. I know, we rarely describe Him that way, at least not word-for-word. But we treat Him that way, don’t we? We emphasize His birth, His death, His resurrection, His departure, and His return. In the meantime, if we’re not careful, He becomes a somewhat distant figure – admirable, of course, and worthy of praise. But distant.
We need to remind ourselves of His presence. Every day. In all that we do.
His last words in the first gospel show us how much this truth mattered to Him: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
What if we lived as if He meant it?
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