Jesus is now in heaven with his heart open in love towards his Father. Nevertheless, his heart remains open in love towards us. For in the presence of his Father he constantly prays for us (Romans 8: 34). What sort of things does he ask for? Jesus’ prayer (John 17) gives us some idea.
He says, Father, these people belong to us. However, they are still in the world that is dark and hostile. With this in mind, he asks his Father to protect his friends from the evil one and to make his joy complete in them. He goes on to ask that his Father may sanctify his friends in the truth.
Jesus also asks that all of us may be deeply one. “Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
However, he also says, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” Jesus simply wants us to be with him where he is with his Father. Jesus finds great joy in each one of us. And what he wants is for us simply to be with him where he is. He wants us to share with us all he has in his Father’s presence.
Just before Jesus died, he told his friends some astonishing things about his love for them and for us. For example, he says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you (John 15:9). The Father’s love for Jesus is beyond measure and so Jesus’ love for us is also beyond measure. Can we really believe this is true? Well, the one who says this to us is himself The Truth. He doesn’t just say things to us that are true, he IS the truth. So, when Jesus says he loves us as the Father loves him he is speaking the truth.
Furthermore, Jesus sends the Spirit to us as the Spirit of Truth to bear witness to himself as The Truth (John 16:13). So, when the Spirit enables us to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, it is all true. But we may ask, will the Spirit also leave us just as Jesus has left us? Jesus says, No! The Father…will give you another helper who will be with you FOREVER (John 14:6). And he will be with you and in you as my own personal presence with you.
Right now, Jesus is in the presence of his Father. He is also present with us showing the fullness of his love for us as he continually gives himself to us. And we can be fully sure that it is all true and will always remain true. So, don’t allow the father of lies to tell you lies about Jesus. Listen only to the Spirit of Truth as he points you to Jesus as the Truth.
The Ascended Jesus is present with us where we are. However, he is present as the absent One. He is absent because he has left this world to be with his Father. He is now at the very centre of the heavenly sanctuary representing us before his Father. Nevertheless, he is with us by the Spirit he sends to us. Jesus and the Spirit are One, just as Jesus and his Father are one. And so, in the presence of his Father, Jesus is still deeply involved with us.
All the good things the Spirit gives to us during Jesus’ absence are the expression of Jesus’ own heart toward us. Jesus says, “I will send him to you” (John 16:7). And he sends the Spirit for the purpose of standing in his place to act towards us, as Jesus. So, The Spirit communicates the heart of Jesus towards us and is delighted to do so.
The Spirit of Christ can communicate Jesus’ thoughts about you, even at the very moment when he is thinking them! Indeed, he tells you that Jesus never stops thinking about you. So, with the Spirit in us, we know Jesus’ heart as if he were physically present with us, or should we rather say, more deeply? So, we do not merely engage in logical deductions concerning Jesus’ heart towards us, for Jesus communicates his own heart to us and in us by his Spirit.
As I view the harrowing scenes in Ukraine I want to pray. But what do I pray for? How do I even begin? Paul says, “… the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words” (Romans 8:26-27). Paul does not offer a new technique to overcome my weakness in prayer. Nor does he tell me how to pray more intelligently.
No, he rather tells me that the Spirit is interceding in me with groans too deep for words. Earlier in the passage, Paul speaks graphically about the whole of Creation groaning for its future liberation from bondage into the freedom and glory of the children of God. Creation yearns to share in our future liberation. We too are groaning for that day of liberation. We are yearning deeply for our own freedom and the freedom of all creation. However, our groaning doesn’t come simply by observing the broken world around us. The groaning comes from the indwelling Spirit. For before we and creation groan the Spirit groans within us with sighs too deep for words. God is not “up there” detached for all the pain in Ukraine; he is in us groaning over the distress within his own creation.
As we view the scenes on T.V, we may wonder what we can pray for Ukraine. But instead of trying to form our own ideas about the best thing to pray, it might be better to simply groan. Those groans arise from human feelings for our fellow humans. However, we cannot separate our groaning from the groaning of the Spirit. He is distressed over the situation and he expresses his distress, through us, in sighs too deep for words.
We may want to find a list of items to pray for so that our prayers might be more “intelligent”. But then we are left simply bringing a list of our own observations and maybe with a sense of futility as we bring the list to God “up there”. It might be better to simply groan with the groaning of the Spirit. Our prayers will then be wordless, but more real as they move from the Spirit within us, through Jesus to the Father himself.
While Jesus was with his friends his heart was always open towards them. And his feelings towards them will remain constant even after he leaves them and is exalted to his Father’s side. Jesus says, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. How will he come? He will give the Spirit to be his own presence in them. Jesus and the Spirit are one just as Jesus and the Father are one. Wherever the Spirit is present, Jesus is also present along with his Father. The three cannot be separated. So Jesus goes on to say, “In that day (the day the Spirit comes) you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”
By the Spirit, we are in Jesus and he is in us. Within this living union, we don’t simply make deductions about how Jesus might feel towards us. He actually dwells within us by the Spirit with his heart always open towards us in love. Indeed, he wants to communicate to us the same feeling of affection as there is between the Father and his dearly loved Son. Furthermore, by the Spirit, the indwelling Jesus wants to tell us that it is impossible to break this knot of love and turn his heart away from us. Nothing can turn the Father’s heart from Jesus and Jesus’ heart from his Father. And nothing can turn the heart of both Father and Son from us. We know this as we live in them and they live in us by the Spirit.
As Jesus’ death drew near, he began to tell his friends that he was returning to his Father to share the glory he always had with his Father. How would Jesus feel about his friends when he was exalted in splendour?
Jesus is glad to return to his Father, for he is always close to the Father’s heart. Nevertheless, he will never stop caring for his friends. He tells us that he will prepare a place for us in his Father’s house (John 14:1). Furthermore, he says, “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also (John 14:3).” Jesus is now with his Father, but he still wants us to be with him. He wants to take us to himself so that we are with him where he is. Even though he is full of joy in the Father’s presence he still wants us to be with him never to be parted again. And that’s also what his Father wants for us and for his Son.
It sounds like Jesus is saying, “The truth is, I never want to live without you. That’s why I’m coming back to get you. I want you in my Father’s presence with me. That’s how much my heart is set on you. All the glory of my Father’s house will never cause me to forget you. Indeed, you will share in all the glory I have with my Father. For when I appear in my full glory, you will appear with me sharing in my glory.
Jesus is now exalted to the highest place and given the name above every name. How does Jesus feel about us as he reigns supremely on high? Does he really care about us from his lofty position over all? We may feel that since Jesus is now exalted to such an infinitely high place we cannot really count on him in our struggles. Surely, he cannot be fully focused on me!
Well, Jesus is now exalted as royal PRIEST. And as Hebrews 4: 15 says, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses”. The heart of Jesus is open to us with real feelings for us. He understands how we feel because he actually shares our feelings. He feels in his heart just as we feel as we struggle with our weaknesses. So, we can always draw near with boldness, through him, to receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need.
Because Jesus shared our humanity, he knows human weakness from the inside even the weakness of being tempted. And so, though he is highly exalted over all, he tenderly feels for us in all our weaknesses. Yes, the King is high and lifted up and yet he has a tender heart towards us and so is always ready to move towards us in our needs. More positively, we can be sure that he is always ready to include us in the communion he enjoys with his Father.
God the Father raised Jesus by his Spirit. Now, Jesus is reigning at his Father’s right hand. As the risen and reigning one, Jesus continues his work in and for us. He also continues his work through us for the sake of the world. So the risen and reigning Jesus must always be the centre of our vision. He is now seated at the right hand of God occupying the place of power to bring his people and all of creation to the final goal.
Because we are in union with Jesus, we share in his life and all he is doing. We do not stand as spectators looking passively at what Jesus is doing. Nor do we move in and do all the actions ourselves. Jesus is the main mover. And by his Spirit we get to participate in what he is doing
So our focus must never be on something that we must do, but rather on Someone. Our eyes are fixed on Jesus who reigns supremely over all and in us. We are attentive to who he is and what he is doing. And we always aim to move with him participating in all that he is doing. We pay constant attention to what he continuing to do in and through us. And when we fail to keep our attention on him, we can be fully assured that he is constantly attentive to us. We never lose him in the midst of doing “Christian work”. That’s the way he wants us to live in him by his Spirit.
Jesus came among us as the Lord who serves his Father and us in deep lowliness. He did so to the point of death on the cross. Therefore, the Father raised Jesus from the dead as the new man in a new creation and God’s Spirit joins us to Jesus to share in his life. As those alive in Jesus, we actually share in his communion with the Father by the Spirit. And we walk with him in newness of life. A newness marked by joy and hope.
If Jesus is not raised and we are not joined to him then all we seek to do is in vain. And we will never live and move in joy and hope, but rather in weariness and despair. However, Jesus is the risen and reigning one and we are now in living union with him. Jesus lives! He lives in me. Now I no longer live but the risen Jesus lives in me by his Spirit. Jesus loves! He loves in me. In the past, he loved me and gave himself for me and now he continues loving me and giving himself to me as he loves in and through me. And he does so now as the Lord who reigns supreme over all.
All this means that our daily living and serving is not about us. It’s all about Jesus. We have been raised with Jesus and our lives are hidden with him in God. And now we simply get in on what he is doing as risen and reigning Lord.
When we focus on Jesus, our minds may shift first to what he once did for us in the past. He loved me and gave himself for me. He reconciled me to God by dying for me on the cross. So we may think of him more for his work in the past than for his activity with us and for us now. And with our attention on the past, we are not really enjoying his presence with us now. Nor are we anticipating his future with us in the age to come.
Jesus is alive and present with us by his Spirit. Attentive to this Jesus, we must always be asking ‘Who is Jesus for us today and what is he doing here and now? We don’t try hard to live his way asking what he would do if he were here. He has promised to be with us. And Paul says, “I no longer live but Christ lives in me,” Because he is always here, we now ask what is he now doing in me and through me for others? He is our living Lord reigning over us as he lives in us.
When we ourselves have no idea what our next step might be we recall that Jesus is right here with us and for us. So often we find ourselves unclear, uncertain, and anxious about our lives. That’s because we feel that we are left alone to work out what the next step might be. And once we know, to make the effort to do what should be done. We must rather be attentive to what Jesus is doing seeking to get in on what he is doing in and through us.
You are not alone!