“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 also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” – John 14: 18-20 (NRSV)
While visiting fellow YAGM Elle Janss in the north-east province of Limpopo, I was blessed enough to tag along to a Young Adult’s Prayer meeting. As we listened to the message given by Elle’s host mom, Musi, I felt a little…strange.
The reading for the day was a passage from Mark 6 in which Jesus returns to Nazareth and is met with such intense unbelief in his home community that it’s worth Mark’s time to write it down, one of two Gospel writers to do so (Luke 4). It’s a small enough event with no large incidents of note, really. So why it left me feeling so unsettled is, at the least, confusing and at most is down right illogical.
Until we factor in that this was the Wednesday directly following Easter Sunday.
Just three days prior, we had celebrated the rising and ascension of Jesus. He died, God’s incomprehensible sacrifice was paid, and we all awoke to new life Easter morning. Somewhere in all of that, Jesus left the tomb, appeared to his disciples, and then ascended to heaven.
End scene, roll credits.
And then Mark 6. Jesus is now living, breathing, and preaching? But he ascended, right? He left, right? He peaced out, said adios to the disciples, and is now lounging at the right hand of God, with, I hope, a stiff drink and his feet up after a grueling couple of days. Isn’t he?
The answer to my unsettledness came a few weeks later. Watching the gospel channel with Baba, a common occurrence in our house, a preacher came on that didn’t seem to be entirely genuine. Baba scoffed and said, “We want real passion. Real, not pretend. That is where Jesus is.”
Jesus’ life wasn’t a movie, wasn’t a novel you just can’t put down. There was no ending. To his life on earth as a human being, maybe, technically, yes, there was an end to that, but he didn’t just leave. He didn’t pack his bags, throw up a pair of deuces, and leave. There was no ending. He continues to live within the world, in every sunrise, in every child’s smile, in every hug from an old friend. Every time a hand is reached out to someone in need, Jesus is there. Every time a shoulder is offered to cry on, Jesus is there. Every time voices rise up against injustice, greed, violence, discrimination, Jesus is there. He comes when called with real passion, comes to comfort and heal. And that is the Jesus we celebrate on Easter morning, that is the Jesus we praise every Sunday, the Jesus we pray to, the Jesus who lives on in the world. He’s not always obvious, not always noticeable, but he’s around. He never really left.