It’s the middle of the night and you cannot sleep. You toss and turn, calling out to Jesus. But where do you imagine Jesus is as you cry out to Him? Or, you wait nervously in the hospital emergency room, wringing your hands about what the MRI might show, and you’re calling out to Jesus. Where do you imagine Jesus to be as you anxiously wait? When you think about Jesus, do you think of Him as high up in the heavens far away from your troubles and fears?
Ask little children in Sunday School, and they’re likely to get it right. You ask them where Jesus is and they will tell you: “Jesus lives right here in my heart!” I was at a birthday party for a little girl turning four. As she got ready to take her first bite of cake I heard her say, “As this cake goes down to my tummy I want Jesus to take a big bite!” You have to like her theology, as she knows that Jesus makes His home within every believer.
However, I talk frequently with Christians who think of Jesus as being far away in the heavens. Some even think it New Age mythology to talk about God living within us. But one of the important distinctions between the Old and New Testaments is the distinction between God external to people versus God living within people. For instance, in the Old Testament God made His home in the Temple and manifested His presence there. But in the New Testament God makes His home in every believer. The apostle Paul writes about this: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you…?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). While we might not always take seriously that God really does live in us, consider Paul’s joyous testimony: “And it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
There is a wondrous scene in the Bible in which Jesus is talking to His disciples on the night before He goes to the cross. In that scene Jesus tells them that He will be leaving them, but that He will live within them as their teacher, helper, counselor and guide. “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14:18-20). Here Jesus is encouraging His disciples, promising them that He will not be leaving them as orphans on their own. In His very act of leaving them Jesus will be coming to them to make His home in them. So, after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, believers will know Jesus’ life within the Father and within every believer: “you in me, and I in you.”
This is not some New Age delusion or Eastern mysticism, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ! So, at two o’clock on some dark night we can know that Jesus is right there: “you in me, and I in you.” He is not in a temple at Jerusalem or the church at First and Main; we are in Him and He in us. Or, as Saint Augustine so wonderfully expressed: “God is closer to me than I am to myself.”
When we talk with God we are talking to the God who is one with us. We are not trying to get our prayers up through the ceiling into heaven, but enjoying God within. My four-year old friend was right in taking the first bite of her birthday cake. She knew that Jesus does live within every believer. So the next time you are tossing and turning or waiting anxiously, just remember Jesus’ words: “you in me, and I in you”!
Here is a portion of a prayer of Saint Patrick which encourages us to live into the reality of Christ in us:
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down.
Name and reflect on the thoughts and feelings today’s reading stirs in you. Take a few moments to talk with God about them.