His Invisible Presence

Post by the Husband

“That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.

While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?”

And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” (Luke 24:13-18)

In this midst of this crises, most of us are reading the news, perhaps more than ever. In amongst the facts and figures are opinions and predictions, some we chew on and speak to with our friends and family.

For the Christians, we may try to make sense of what God is doing “behind the scenes”. Perhaps we do bible studies about suffering, sovereignty, hope or healing. We do our best not to worry about ourselves, and to encourage ourselves and others. We tell people “it’ll be okay”, “God is in charge”, or “I know God is working in this situation”, and other cliches. 

Yet, in all this analysis, there is Someone else walking alongside us, hearing everything we are saying and knowing everything we are thinking. This Person is walking beside us as we read the news, talk to our spouse, and message our friends and families.

He’s right next to you as you talk and discuss about all the things that are happening in our media today. 

But, we don’t recognise him, we are too busy analysing and discussing everything. After all, isn’t what is hot from the press the thing affecting us the most?. 

Perhaps to the two walking along the road to Emmaus, they were also thinking; this was a really unusual thing to happen! They had heard that the Rabbi had died on the cross, that there was talk about Him coming back to life; and they must have been so engrossed in their conversation that Someone had to interrupt them – “Hey guys! What are you guys talking about?”

It’s so interesting that they did not recognise him. It reminds me of when Mary saw Jesus at the tomb and thought He was the gardener 🙂  

There is a psychological trick of the mind that might explain this – something along the lines of confirmation bias, which explains how we are basically finding what we are looking for. So if you walk to a tomb looking for a dead man, you don’t expect to have a conversation with the dead man. When the man you are looking for starts talking to you – your brain has basically excluded the dead man from the category of “people who talk” – so you assume it’s someone else. Despite evidence to the contrary – we still hold on to what we have believed before. 

Secularists will argue that religious people suffer from confirmation bias all the time.

Of course we argue that they do too – we all do. Confirmation bias is a byproduct of our brains trying to be efficient. We can’t let ourselves change our minds with every new bit of information coming in – so we consolidate information – even if the information may disagree with our previously held beliefs. 

Perhaps the two men walking along talking about Jesus had some bias too – they had never seen a man raised from the dead – so it’s not really expected that Jesus would be walking with them. Even if they believed such a thing had happened – why on earth would Jesus Christ be walking next to them? Wouldn’t he be doing something more important? Making a speech to thousands or defeating Rome?

In a similar way, here we are sitting in our homes, observing and discussing the strange events around us. Despite all of our theology – most of us are not expecting Jesus to be near us right now.

I mean, of course we say we believe He is with us – He is Emmanuel, God with us, after all. But really? Actually with us in our conversations? Right next to us when we are brushing our teeth? Picking up another conference call? Reading the news? Even if Jesus had the ability to be with us, why would he bother with such a mundane existence like ours? 

Yet today, He looks at you and me, right into our eyes, and asks us “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?”

Many of us will look at Him and not recognise His quiet presence. We will mistake this gentle whisper in our hearts perhaps as our own voice, and we will inadvertently question Him back: “Don’t You know this biggest thing happening with the American election today?”

He will have the patience to ask “What things?” – and we will explain about all the things that are going on, and how God is probably using all this to draw us close to Him.

Then the penny will drop.

The Lord was here the whole time. He has never left us. He will never forsake us. 

All the conversations, all the reading, all the wondering, all that analysing – was done as He sat right next to you. 

Dear friend, know that God is with you. Not just in a mystical way, but in a very real way. Don’t miss His presence because you are not expecting Him to be there. He sits besides you, walks next to you, and is even in on every video conference call. 

There’s a line in a worship song that says it perfectly: “Let’s not talk about Him as if He’s not in the room”. Let us acknowledge his Holy Presence in amongst the seeming chaos of the world. Let us have a reverential fear of Him as we plan our days at home. As we talk about this pandemic situation, as we pray to Him to keep our loved ones safe.

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