When you close your eyes and picture yourself with Jesus, what do you see? In the midst of a particularly challenging situation, I imagined myself leaning into the chest of Jesus. I knew that if I could get close, I’d be okay, and I was. I felt a calming peace wash over me. It’s a picture I often return to, and it recently got me thinking about our pursuit of Christ. Why it matters and what keeps us from pressing in and staying close?
Jesus said that the only way we can live a fruitful life is by abiding in him (John 15). All our efforts at doing good fall short, but when we intentionally seek out his will and do it by the power of his Spirit, we produce something beautiful that lasts.
What’s keeping you from pursuing intimacy with Jesus?
Let’s look at men and women from the Bible who had every right to stay hidden, and far away from the Messiah.
In Luke 19, we read the story of Zacchaeus. As chief tax collector, he was a despised man. Hated by the Jews for working on behalf of the Roman rulers of the day and never truly accepted by his employers because he was Jewish. Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was in town, but because he was a short man, he had to climb into a tree to catch a glimpse of him. The Bible rarely highlights someone’s appearance so perhaps we’re being given an insight into the impact of Zacchaeus’ physical stature on his character. Maybe it’s the reason he chose a profession that would allow him some semblance of authority and power over others. Jesus spotted Zacchaeus in the tree and invited himself for a meal at his house. People were shocked. Jesus was in the home of a notorious sinner, and yet this one act of kindness completely transformed Zacchaeus. As Jesus was enjoying the meal, he stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” (v. 8).
Is your sin and pride, the way you see yourself or the condemnation of others keeping you from leaning in close to Jesus?
How about the woman with the issue of blood? In Luke 8:42-48 we read how she suffered constant bleeding for twelve years. The culture of the day would have forced her out of her community. Perceived as unclean, she remained hidden and removed from human connection. She’d likely not been touched for twelve years, but when she heard Jesus was in town, she knew she would be healed if she could just press through the crowd and touch the edge of his garment. And she was. Her faith made her well.
In the presence of Jesus Christ, something good always happens.
Is trauma, illness or rejection keeping you from the loving touch of the Messiah?
In Mark 10:46-52, we read the story of blind Bartimaeus. When he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, he knew he had to act quickly, so he shouted out. Those around him yelled at him to be quiet, but he shouted all the louder. Bartimaeus was brought to him, and Jesus asked what he wanted? It seems a strange question to ask a blind beggar, but physical sight is not always what the blind are hoping for and Bartimaeus made his living from being blind. He did want to see though and because of his faith, Jesus healed him.
Do people around you spur you on in your pursuit of Christ, or are they telling you to be quiet about your faith? I hope Bartimaeus’ story will embolden you in your urgent and passionate hunger for more of Jesus.
And finally, when a woman with a bad reputation heard that Jesus was eating at the home of Simon the Pharisee, she went to see him and brought with her a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. She knelt behind Jesus at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kissed his feet and put perfume on them. When the Pharisee saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!” Jesus knew what Simon was thinking and responded to his thoughts with a parable about a man who had loaned money to two people – 500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. Neither man could repay him, so he forgave them both, cancelling their debts. Jesus asked, “Who do you suppose loved him more after that?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” “That’s right,” Jesus said. “I tell you, her sins – and they are many – have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50).
Has shame and accusation kept you from wholehearted surrender and devotion to Jesus and stopped you from receiving his grace and forgiveness?
“I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord”Romans 8:38-39
Pursue Christ relentlessly. Know that nothing can separate you from his love, which casts out fear and releases you into your true identity.
© 2022 by Ruth O’Reilly-Smith