How Jesus Reveals Himself To Us As The Christ
Monday of Week 5 in Eastertide
Acts. 14:5-8 & Jn. 14:21-26
The response that Paul and Barnabas received from town to town ranged from physical violence to hero worship. In one place they would be lucky to escape with their lives from their enemies. In another they would be smothered with flattery from their friends. We read of these varied responses in today's first reading. Paul and Barnabas had to flee for their lives in Iconium but in Lystra they were literally hailed as gods when Paul healed a lame man who had never walked. When the crowds saw that miracle they were convinced that Paul and Barnabas possessed divine power. In fact they were convinced that they were the living embodiments of the gods Zeus and Hermes.
This incident is a clear example of confusing the gift with the giver. Paul and Barnabas did have divine power. In this regard the people of Lystra were totally correct. But they had received it as a gift from God and were no more divine than the next person. The only thing that set them apart as special was their willingness to be used by God to accomplish His purposes.
This story is a wise warning against giving people too much credit for the power they wield or the good they achieve. There is a sense in which genius of any kind is always a gift. The people who do great things are channels of the gifts God gives for His glory and the good of the universe. They are intended to be shared by all people. While we properly recognise the special talents that such people have, we ought not to forget the Giver behind these gifts.
There must have been times when we have envied those who lived when Jesus was on Earth. How much simpler life would seem and how much stronger our faith would be if we could meet Jesus face to face! Surely that personal encounter would have set our priorities straight and settled all our doubts. But if we read the New Testament we find that people had as much difficulty believing in Him back then as today. They recognised Him as the carpenter from Nazareth who went about proclaiming the Kingdom of God. But there were many, who despite His moving words and the marvellous works that He did, refused to believe in Him. They were no more able to recognise Jesus as the Christ by seeing Him in the flesh than we are by reading about Him in the Gospels.
How then are we to recognise Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God and the Saviour of the world? Jesus answered that very question in today's Gospel, “Anybody who receives My commandments and keeps them will be the one who loves Me; and anybody who loves Me will be loved by the Father, and I shall love him and reveal Myself to Him.” There is nothing in this answer about seeing Jesus in the flesh in order to recognise Him. The Apostles were no closer to recognising Jesus as the Christ than we are despite not having seen Him. The only way to recognise Jesus is to immerse ourselves in His love.
Holy Spirit, give us a loving heart. For to love as Jesus loves is to be with God.