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WEEKLY REFLECTIONS

~ Boldly Accessing the Christ ~


During His incarnational years on earth, people approached Christ in a myriad of ways. One ran ahead of His entourage and climbed a tree to wait for Him. A sick woman stalked Him, determined to get close enough to just touch His robe, not expecting to speak to Him. Lepers called loudly to Him from afar. A prostitute “crashed” a dinner party to anoint Him with a year salary’s worth of oil and a lifetime of tears. A Gentile woman kept hounding Him saying even dogs get to eat the scraps from the master’s table. Others sent messengers with requests. Some were timid and others were quite assertive. Jesus Himself told a story of a widow who relentlessly approached a judge for justice until he granted her request to be rid of her.

Jesus honored all these people’s ways. Each of these approaches has a spiritual counterpart in the ways we approach Christ today, reflected in our different ways of seeking and praying.

One of the most intriguing approaches is recorded in Mark 2:2-5, 11-12: “So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’…’I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’”

One dimension of this approach is how the seeker was helpless and fully dependent on his friends to do all the work. Our lives present times when we are so spiritually paralyzed and despondent that we need others to pray for us and carry us where our own strength cannot take us.

What is most intriguing of this approach is that the man’s friends accessed Jesus from above, literally dropping down on Him. Jesus was impressed! The man’s friends were bold, even rude. While they were destroying the roof of someone’s home, they were also making plenty of noise, interrupting Jesus’ preaching, diverting the attention of the crowd from Him to them.

Should people attempt something similar today to access a featured speaker and healer, security personnel would be quick to stop and arrest them. The speaker would probably be annoyed and indignant at the interruption. Not Jesus. He honored this approach as all the others.

What would the spiritual counterpart of this bold approach look like? The delightful answer is there is no need for one, no need for a dropping in from above. Today there are no human bodies to circumvent, no physical obstacles to overcome. Today we are urged to “fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace – the throne of God’s unmerited favor [to us sinners]; that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need – appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it” (Hebrews 4:16, Amplified Version).

The writer emphasizes the dimension of fearlessness, confidence and boldness in our approach. Being timid is not the same as being humble. The children who clamored to be in Jesus’ presence were not timid. They were quite bold in a day when a child needed to ask permission to speak in the company of adults. Culturally, Jesus’ “security personnel" were rightfully keeping the children at a distance. “Access denied.” But Jesus ordered them to free the children to come to Him, remarking their spirit of humility was a condition of participating in the kingdom of God.

I imagine how wondrous it would have been for me to live in Jesus’ incarnational life on earth and walk and talk with Him in the flesh. I realize such a desire is based on the unfounded assumption I could access Him. It’s very likely I would have been frustrated at my inability to get around or penetrate the sea of human bodies pushing to get access to Him.

Jesus explained, “Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you.” He was speaking of His Holy Spirit, accessible to all the people. So He went and we are now free of any work, of having to cut through roof tops, climbing trees, stalking, pushing and shoving through crowds, or crashing formal dinner parties. In that sense, we are more blessed than those who lived during His human days on earth. We can access Him at any time, in any place or space, whether we feel weak and drained or exuberant and energetic.

Evidently Jesus still looks for and honors three attributes of our approach. Love for Him is the basis of our union. Humility (reverential fear as opposed to pride) is another pre-requisite. (“Follow Me, for I am humble and gentle of heart,” Jesus said.) The third is boldness. Timidity evaporated at the Pentecost. Boldness was an attribute that characterized all the disciples, early church fathers and martyrs (literally “witnesses”). Jesus likes boldness, in both our witness to His presence in us and in the world, and in our prayers and meditations.

This attribute of boldness tempered with humility seems to span the spectrum of our spirituality. We are not just to be bold in being witnesses to the truth and to the Word who is Truth, or to name the masquerades of evil for what they are despite the risks of repercussion, but even in approaching “the throne of grace.” The prayers of the Psalms are truly bold, many of them almost seeming irreverent. Let us remember, however, how Jesus honored such approaches to Him. Of course, He still does.

Following up on my mention of the widow who hounded the judge, Jesus had this to say: “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:6-8, NIV).  In the same breath, Jesus provides a promise and a chilling question. Is this not a warning? Without faith on the earth, how can we access our God?

Despite the level of faith in the communities of the earth and those around us, we can exercise our personal faith, love and devotion, relying on the covenant Christ proclaimed to us as a Church, as His body, and as personal brothers and sisters to Him: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b).
 

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
~ Education, Research and Advocacy
   in the Christian Faith ~
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