What would it have been like to have been with Christ?
Was there ever a man in more demand than Jesus of Nazareth? Thousands upon thousands of people waited eagerly day after day to see, hear, and meet Jesus the long-awaited Christ. Royalty wanted to meet with Him. Religious leaders wanted to meet with Him. The sick and infirmed queued to touch Him. All the while Jesus was on a mission of paramount importance and not only had all these enormous physical demands laid upon His shoulders, He also had unimaginably evil forces attempting to oppress, distract and thwart Him. Yet, with all this happening, the Gospels are punctuated with individual encounters with the Christ.
He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
¶ The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”
A night with Jesus by Nicodemus
I’m trying to learn from Christ. This involves paying prayerful attention to what He taught, but it also involves how He taught. For me this encompasses how He interacted with people. His interaction with Nicodemus is fascinating.
The first thing I notice in John’s third chapter is that Jesus risked His reputation by befriending someone from a group of people He had publicly condemned for hypocrisy. Jesus didn’t just spend time with those who were already His friends.
And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that He was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to His disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus was surprisingly accessible to individuals. Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. Jesus made Himself available. Perhaps He had developed a habit of being in a particular place at night. Nicodemus knew where to find Him. When Nicodemus met with Jesus He attempted to give Christ His due, and while many preachers would welcome the stroking of their egos, Jesus immediately overlooked this and looked directly into Nicodemus’s heart, and answered the Pharisee’s unasked question. This exchange exposed Nicodemus’s religion as mere cold formalism – and not the heart-connected, soul-satisfying, intellectually enriching, entrance into GOD’s intimately love-drenched presence. Christ was not intimidated by speaking to ‘The Teacher of Israel’ and was prepared to give the first properly done rebuke in human history.
Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.
The rebuke that Christ had offered in public to the Pharisees, He now gave personally in private. Unlike our rebukes, Christ’s must have been tender and soothing. Nicodemus welcomed what followed. What followed was Jesus giving the light that Nicodemus lacked.
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Jesus was a friend to Nicodemus.
In John chapter 4, Jesus befriends a Samaritan woman and heals her soul.
In John chapter 5, Jesus befriended an invalid and healed his lame legs.
In John chapter 6, Jesus has a conversation with Philip, then a small boy, and then Simon Peter, and then feeds them.
In John chapter 8, Jesus spoke with a woman dragged out into the dirt to be stoned and saved her life.
And so on.
In each of the nine days that John selects to paint a picture He depicts Christ as being present with individuals. Now that Christ has been resurrected and glorified, and dwells in eternity, how much more does He now have time to be with individuals?
What did people feel who had been with Christ?
It’s possible to be physically and geographically with someone but not present. What I am learning from Christ’s interactions with this sample of people whom He was present with, is that being present is a demonstration of God’s love. With each person that Christ engaged with, whether it was a religious Pharisee, a woman with a reputation, an elderly invalid, a young boy about to eat his lunch, an adulterous woman, a blind man, a grieving sister, a Roman Procurator, a thief on an adjacent cross, a beleaguered disciple, Christ was present.
We busy people are generally lousy at being present. We can be with someone and be a million miles away at the same time. While someone is chatting with us we are continually checking our phone screens. This is rude and a denial of our presence. Presence involves seeing and hearing. It involves connecting to some level with someone’s heart. This all takes practice. In the Gospels I see Jesus being present. What must people have felt when Jesus was present with them? We can do more than surmise the answer, we can experience it now.
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am (present) with you always, to the end of the age.”