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If Jesus is Alive, Why Don't We See Him?

Updated: Mar 8, 2021

The books of Acts is a fascinating, exciting, and challenging book. It is the story of the early Church, fueled by the Spirit of God but also young and green like a fawn struggling to get used to its new legs. Even though He is usually veiled to human sight, throughout the book of Acts, Jesus is still very present with His people; in fact, the book of Acts should be considered to be the story of the continuing acts of Jesus through His Church (Acts 1:1-2). So, the book is about Jesus but not quite like the Gospels. In the Gospels, we have the red letters, the direct words of Jesus. In the book of Acts, Jesus is still present but He is usually communicating and acting through His people, the Church. So, in a sense, we have Jesus filtered through the lens of the Church. But why isn’t Jesus walking around Galilee today in the way that He was before? Wouldn’t believing in Jesus be easier if He was visible?

The difficulty with believing in Jesus is not chiefly due to the lack of visibility. This may be demonstrated in the peculiar statement that Matthew makes as he ends his gospel:

“...the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him, but some were doubtful.”
Matthew 28:16-17

If the difficulty of having faith in Jesus is mostly due to the absence of His physical presence, this verse is very shocking indeed. There are also many other examples recorded in the Bible of those who saw Jesus and his miracles and yet did not acknowledge His claim to Lordship. Apparently, it is not mainly physicality that creates belief, and similarly, it is not a lack of physicality which suspends belief, though it does play a part. It is mostly the ramifications of Jesus’ claim to Lordship and the radically shocking image of God that He presents to us that provides the greatest challenge to our acceptance or acknowledgment of Him as Lord and God.

We all have expectations for how God would and should act if He were God and if He were involved with our lives. If those expectations are not met, then our allegiance to God is often withheld. And maybe we are even uncomfortable with saying that we have or are seeking any allegiance to “God” at all but prefer to say that we are seeking “the truth”. That is fine. Let us start there. But are we as honestly committed to the truth as we claim? That is a tough question to answer because we are all motivated to find “truths” that are convenient to our ambitions, just as we are equally motivated to find “gods” that are convenient to our ambitions.

Therein lies the challenge. Not the physicality of Jesus but rather Jesus Himself. If God raised Jesus from the dead, then that means that we have to take Jesus and His claims seriously. And the claims that Jesus made were that the Kingdom of God was and is being established on the earth, in and through Him. Jesus claimed that He is the Lord of the cosmos and that God fully approved all that He did and said. The conclusion we are led to draw is that if God were to come down and demonstrate for us what a human being is supposed to do and to be, He would look and act like and in fact be Jesus. What human beings struggle to accept is the God who is rather than the God we would create. If Jesus has been raised from the dead, then we know who God is. The challenge we have is to accept and readjust our minds and lives around the fact that God looks like Jesus and calls us to accept this image of Him as the ultimate truth.

But still, the fact that Jesus isn’t usually perceivable to the human eye or accessible to the touch of the human hand can be a stumbling block to many potential followers. Especially in our Western culture that doesn’t want to define anything as “truth” if it cannot be felt, touched, smelled, or seen. Why doesn’t Jesus reveal Himself in the flesh today? It seems that Jesus is still not acting the way we think He should if He were God...

This is a very significant question and to answer it we must go back to the beginnings, the foundation, the purpose found in the book of Genesis. Genesis (or “beginnings” as the word means) makes the claim that human beings were designed to reflect the image of the creator God into the world. According to Genesis, the human race was designed to carry forward God’s creation project, bringing God’s wise and fruitful order to bear on the planet. But humans rebelled and fell into chaos, thus causing the earth to descend into chaos. The story of the call of Abraham, also found in Genesis, is the story of God’s calling of a particular family to become His rescuing agents for the creation project. All the world had been cursed in Adam’s failure but all the world would be blessed in Abraham’s family. Through Abraham, the image-bearing vocation of the human race would be put back on track. That is the promise. What was cursed in Adam would now be blessed in Abraham.

“In your seed (family) all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 22:18

With this in mind, we can begin to see that it was never God’s design to make us only spectators of His works or “strangers visiting this planet” before going to “our real home in heaven.” Rather, it was God’s intention to share the creation project with us and to put the creation project back on track by restoring the human race to its sacred vocation of bearing His image. One main ramification of the Gospel is that, through it, the human race is put back to the work of bringing order and fruitfulness out of God’s cosmic garden. This is a major part of what it means to “reflect God’s image.”

The way that God generally wants to reveal Himself to the world and accomplish His purposes today is through the Church. As the Church is conformed into the image of Christ, Christ becomes unveiled to the world and interestingly, in this way, Christ is actually revealed. And this seems to be the way that God has always intended the world to be run. In fact, even the Gospels, with their red letters, are still presented to us through the different lenses of four different human beings, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. So now our main source of information about who God is provided through the work of human beings. If God Himself took on flesh in the person of Jesus, I suppose that we shouldn’t be surprised if God chooses to continue to carry His purposes forward through the flesh of His followers. And if this causes us to balk at God’s wisdom, we should ask ourselves why we expect God’s wisdom to hold no surprises for us?

Some people believe that it is beneath God to be known as a human. Yet, other people cry out that if God wanted them to believe in Him, He would make Himself known physically and subject Himself to their scrutiny. How appropriate it is then that God should be made known to us both as the One who is Holy, that is, completely other than us, but also as the God of flesh and bone that we have come to know and love in Jesus.

The bottom line is that, while God has met our criteria in many ways, we would be fools to imagine that coming face to face with God would not also bear its share of surprises. If Jesus has chosen to remain hidden from the view of the naked eye the majority of the time, that is His prerogative. God has chosen to carry His purposes in the earth forward through His people instead of through Jesus alone for the purpose of conforming the Church to the image of Christ.

This is the exciting and challenging message of the book of Acts: that we are called to continue the work of Jesus in the world through the wisdom and power of His Holy Spirit. What the world needs now are the red letters of Jesus in the Gospels and the word-made-flesh-people of God who are filled with the Spirit of Jesus to do the works of Jesus.

So let us not allow evangelism to become merely the reciting of theory, philosophy, dogma or doctrine. Evangelism, the proclamation of the good news of the arrival of the Kingdom of God, needs to be a reality that people can taste, feel, see and know - if it is going to be anything at all. The best proclamation of the Gospel is a changed life that is being conformed into the image of Jesus.

May the world see the continuing acts of Jesus in and through our lives. #Thechurch #Jesus #Missions

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