First Mennonite Church
April 2, 2017
Embodying the Presence of Jesus
Text: 1John 1:1-3
Many times when I greet Kenny, I say, “Good morning, Kenny; how are you today?” Kenny answers me, “Well, here I am, still taking up space!” The expression “still being here and taking up space” connotes being present, real and visible. And sure enough, to prove that, Kenny usually greets me with a hug.
The New Testament testifies to God making himself present to his people through his Son. The Gospel of John, chapter 1, verse 14, reads: And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. Later when John wrote his letters he wrote these words:
We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— 3 we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that our/your joy may be complete.
The disciples witnessed God’s presence in Jesus; thus they were compelled to live and proclaim a message even when putting their lives at risk. But not only that, their very lives witnessed to have been with Jesus. In Acts 4, when the authorities realized the boldness and authority with which John and Peter spoke, they concluded that these men had been “companions of Jesus” (v.13). After the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, John, Peter, James and the rest of the Eleven began to comprehend how the words and deeds of Jesus revealed God’s presence in him. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit made possible that in spite of Jesus not being with his disciples any longer, they were able to demonstrate by words and deeds that Jesus was with them as he had promised them. In Matthew 28, verse
20, Jesus said to his disciples, “And remember, I am with you always, to the ends of the age.” The disciples exuded the presence of Jesus.
We should remember that the promise of Jesus’ presence is made to every believer of Jesus. That means, we too are recipients of that promise. Jesus is with me from Monday through Sunday! Jesus is with me everywhere I go. Jesus is with you every day and everywhere you go. In other words, I should embody the presence of Jesus when I go to the grocery store, when I drive on Highway 101, when I am with my friends, etc. And you should too, everywhere you go. But in reality, do we? Think of what you did this week. Were you aware that you embodied the presence of Jesus while you were with your friends, at school, at work and at home? Were you aware that your words were supposed to reflect the presence of Jesus when you spoke to your demanding boss, your nosy neighbor, the tired store clerk, to your spouse when he or she was frustrated, and so on? That is the challenge we have.
Why do we have difficulty embodying the presence of Jesus in our daily lives? First of all it’s because we are always busy. Our busy lives overwhelm our mind, distort our priority, and cloud sensitivity to the presence of God. These effects of our busy lives not only affect our sensitivity to the presence of God outside the context of the worship service but sometimes even during the worship hour. Tell me if it does not. Our busy life keeps us rushing throughout the day. We run here, call there, take care of more than one task at a time, and before long our day is gone. You see, when our mind is overwhelmed by the various activities we have to accomplish during the day, our mind is held captive by those tasks scheduled for the day. Our mind has no time left to commune with God in a way that nourishes our soul. Reflecting the presence of Jesus in daily life is only possible when our soul overflows with the presence of God. Reflecting the presence of Jesus in daily life only happens when we contemplate the glory of Jesus on rather a regular basis. Paul says in 2Corinthians 3, verse 18, “And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” It is when we gaze at the glory of our Lord that we are transformed into his image. It is only when we bask in the light of the face of Christ Jesus that we can reflect his light. But gazing at the glory of Jesus requires that we take time to do so, which is almost impossible if we are running all day long.
A busy life also distorts our priority. Our priority, which is to love God with all our soul, mind, and strength, is overrun by the tasks we need to accomplish. Our second priority, which is to love our neighbor as ourselves, is also sidelined by our preoccupation of fulfilling our commitment either to ourselves or to whom we are responsible. What is more, when our goal is to get the task done, we hardly have time to take notice of the neighbor we are to love. In the worst case, if the neighbor shows up or calls us, or comes disguised as the needy, beggar, or indigent, it becomes an inconvenience we prefer avoiding. A busy life easily distorts our priority of loving God and neighbor as ourselves.
A busy life also leaves us exhausted and drained, not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually. At the end of the day we just want to eat dinner and sit down and have “no one to bother us.” It should not surprise us if at the end of the day we are irritable. And although our spirit is drained we prefer get distracted by sources other than God. So we read books, watch TV, or surf the internet. Some even prefer drinking some wine or beer. I know I am not exaggerating.
So how do we develop a life style that embodies the presence of Christ to God’s people and the world? We must first begin by finding rest in God. The invitation of Jesus is the remedy to every busy man and woman:
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28, 29).
Do we not have worries? Are we not often carrying heavy burdens in our heart? Are we not often tired and exhausted? We might be worried for legitimate reasons. We could be burdened by real necessities of life. But Jesus wants to remind us today that no matter how real and legitimate our concerns are, worrying and busying ourselves to death are not the solution. And he wants to give us his rest, his peace. Jesus wants to remind us today that God knows what our real necessities of life are. But if he is a God who concerns himself to feed the birds of the air and to dress the beautiful yet seasonal plants, how much more will he not take care of his children. God is concerned for you, my dear sister and brother. It is not the will of God that we go through life weary and carrying heavy burdens. He wants to give us rest and rest of the soul. But rest of the soul requires the eyes of the spirit to gaze into the face of Jesus. And that takes time. Which means, you and I have to find time to be in intimacy with God. That leads to our second point: intimacy with God.
Intimacy with God means knowing God. But a busy life often does not allow time to know God even when he is everywhere. It is said that one day Joshua Bell, the world famous violinist, showed up at the New York train station. There he began to play the same beautiful pieces he performed the night before in a sold-out concert. He took out his famous Stradivarius violin and left the case open for people to make donations if they willed. Some train commuters stopped by. Some out of pity dropped off some change or a dollar bill. And another said, “Here you go, buddy. Help yourself with a sandwich,” and left him a sandwich. Along came a woman who had attended the concert the night before and she recognized Joshua Bell. She missed her train, arrived late to her appointment, and regardless of having heard the same pieces the night before, she could never have enough of Joshua’s music. How often God wants to meet us during the hustle and bustle of our daily life, but we fail to recognize him. How often we treat God the similar way as people often treat beggars—giving them meager pennies and crumbs or the left-over of our time, or even with contempt.
The greatest obstacle Christians have that prevents them from embodying the presence of Jesus to his people and the world is their busy lives. Somehow even we, God’s children, have embraced the idea that security, success in life, and control over our destiny are achievable if only we stay focused in life, which translates—staying busy. So, we live life with clenched jaws, tunnel vision, and short breaths forfeiting the rest of the soul that Jesus offers. We live our life oblivious of the presence of God in the daily and mundane activities of life. But more sadly, we fail to fulfill the purpose of our calling to represent Jesus to those God sends our way.
This week, take time to gaze on the glory of Jesus. Take time to commune with God in prayer. Pray to God to help you embody the presence of Jesus, our Lord and Savior during your day. Pray to God to help you see every encounter with friends, co-workers, and strangers as an opportunity for you to radiate the presence of Jesus to them. May the Spirit of the Lord raise us up to be his presence to God’s people and the world. Amen!