Jesus is Still on Earth!
News flash: Jesus Is Still On Earth!
Matthew didn’t write about a Jesus who is no longer around. The titles he gave in his first chapter
describe Jesus’s mission: “Son of David” because he would bring all of God’s promises to fulfillment. “Son of God” because his mission was to make us divine. “Jesus” because he would take away our sins by letting us die and rise again as his body on earth. And now “Emmanuel,” which means “God with us,” because his mission is to be God’s human presence among us until the end of time.
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
It began, of course, with his presence in the body he received from Mary. Those who saw Jesus in that body saw God. In that body, God spoke to people with human words, touched them with human hands, and interacted with them as human people interact with each other. In Jesus, God was human and acted as human in every way. He never sinned, but sin is subhuman by definition; it “falls short” of what humans should do.
This changed radically our relationship with God. It is true that God spoke human words to Abraham and Moses. But those were not so much conversations as press conferences. God spoke to deliver a message. If dignitaries grant “audiences,” it is not to let people know them. When Jesus dealt with people, however, every word he spoke was self-revelation, even when he was not preaching or teaching. People got to know him through everything he said and did, just the way people get to know one another. He was God with us, God among us, God living his life visibly as a human among humans.
It removed a barrier.
Ever since Jesus, if we deal with God only as God, we are not being Christians. We have to deal with Jesus as a human being, accepting the informality, the lack of distance, even the intimacy that involves.
We first have to familiarize ourselves with his human self-expression while he was on earth. We would not be true Christians if we did not try to learn everything reported in the Gospels about what Jesus said and did.
We need to remember that when we read the word of God, God is present to us at that moment, speaking the words himself. And giving us his Spirit to help us understand them. If we know what we are doing—and what God is doing—just the act of reading Scripture is a mystical experience.
But we need to reflect on his words. The mysteries of God are not something we expect to catch on first bounce. To absorb what Jesus says, to make it our own, we have to “abide in his word” (John 8:31; 15:7). That involves three things: reading, reflecting, and responding. The authentic disciple “hears the word, understands it, and bears fruit” (see Matthew 13:23).
To deal with Jesus as a human means responding to Jesus the way we respond to other human beings. We thank him every time he does something for us. We remember his birthday and other anniversaries. Spend time with him, talking to him and letting him talk to us. We ask his opinion about things we see, hear, or find on the Internet. We talk to him during the commercials. We tell him how we feel and are sensitive to how he feels about things.
We form a human friendship with Jesus just the way we form friendships with other human beings. We do everything for him we would do for a friend, and we ask him for everything we would ask a friend to do for us. We don’t let his divinity stop us from accepting his humanity.
And we make a point of dealing with him through the sacraments. In the sacraments God gives grace through human words and actions. They continue the Incarnation.
Jesus continues his human presence among us by living, speaking, and acting in the body he has on earth today: the bodies of all who have “presented their bodies as a living sacrifice to God” in Baptism (Romans 12:1) to be the living body of Jesus in our world.
This is what Paul summed up in three words as the entire mystery he was sent preach: “Christ in you” (Colossians 1:27). The Jesus Paul knew, the Jesus he met on the road to Damascus, was the Jesus who identified himself with the members of his body on earth: Paul asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5). That is the Jesus Paul proclaimed until the end of his life. That is the Jesus we meet and deal with, the Jesus who deals with us in and through every person whose body he has made his own. We just have to learn to recognize him.
When do we do, we will know what Matthew meant when he said the mission of Jesus was to be Emmanuel, “God with us.”
(See Why Jesus?, chapter five: “Jesus is God Humanly Close.” )
Question: Do you believe Jesus-Emmanuel is living and interacting with you humanly through the words and actions of people who are his body on earth? And interacting with others through you?