There are just two weeks left in this Easter season. Two weeks before Pentecost and the celebration of the Holy Spirit coming in power upon the first disciples.
In these first five weeks of Easter, where have you glimpsed the risen Christ?
I’ve heard him in the joyful laughter of my young friend staring death in the face and seeing right through it to the face of her beloved Jesus. I’ve felt him in the arms of my seventy-something friend who hugged me close after my talk. I’ve heard His voice in a conversation on the way to the bus, been fed chicken soup and spaghetti and salad prepared by Him through the hands of His people, seen His humility and passion, His love and gentleness and longing as I watched a group of leaders fight a love-battle for each other’s hearts and the hearts of those they lead.
The risen Jesus is in His people.
I know that.
That’s why my answer to the question, "Where have you been most surprised to glimpse the risen Jesus?" makes me laugh with amazement and joy.
I may get chills when I hear His words from the mouth of another, but I’m not surprised to hear Him there. Somehow I expect Him to be in them. But when, for a few days, He opens my eyes to see Him orchestrating conversation after conversation, putting His words in my mouth, hugging through my arms, Him in me, I stand in awe.
Maybe it’s because I know my inner landscape all too well. Who would have expected to meet Him here? But He has chosen, and He has come, and this is where He wants to meet me. Not just out there. In here.
I find myself identifying with the disciples’ wonder as they discovered the authority given to them. They remind me of growing-up children discovering that the matches they’ve been given really light, the microscope really works, the gun they’ve been given is loaded and live and intended to be used to fight for the freedom of hearts. “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” (Luke 10:17) They’re surprised. Rejoicing. Perhaps still a little unsure what to make of all this. Who are they, really, and how do they live this new life?
Jesus reassures them. He has been watching the whole process. “I saw Satan fall like lightening.” (v. 18) The Greek verb means “to observe something with sustained attention.” (BDAG) I think He was watching with pleasure, delighting to see His beloved ones come to life, begin to discover who they were and where they fit in the structure of the universe.
He wanted them to know that, standing in His strength, they had nothing to fear from the enemy. “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” (v. 19) In Greek, the verse begins with the command, “Look! Pay attention!” “Look! I have given you authority. . . You do not need to live in fear of the enemy!" (cf. 1 John 4:4; Col 2:15; Eph 1:19-23) He wanted them (wants us!) to know this.
But then he turns their attention. “Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (v. 20)
Don’t delight in being powerful, but in being loved.
Don't focus on what you can do, but on who you are. Beloved. Sought. Chosen.
Don't think your security is in your ability to defend yourself and others from the enemy, though I want you to have and use that authority. Your safety is in the eternal hand that holds you and will never let go, that loves and pursues and writes your name in indelible red ink in the Lamb’s book of life.
Isn't it wonderful? The One who passionately pursues us isn’t willing that anything – even doing His work - should distract us from pressing in close to Him, living the intimate wonder that we are loved.
Go in peace, dear friend. You are loved.