One of my favorite sayings, which I stole from a Belgian Roman Catholic priest (eventually he fell under that church’s displeasure) and added to the storehouse of Orthodoxy is this:
“Jesus is still the most active person in the history of the world.”
When I first read this in Fr. Louis Evely's wonderful book That Man Is You, it struck me like a bolt of lightning.
I’d always believed in Jesus' historicity as recounted in the Bible, and I believed along with the whole Church that He suffered, died, was raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven. That meant that He is ‘up there’ at the right hand of Divine Majesty interceding for us, and all the talk about ‘Christ is in our midst’ and ‘I have Jesus in my heart’ had to be just metaphorical, sort of a jumpstart for people's faith, using their imaginations.
But after nearly four decades as a follower of Jesus, my understanding has been transformed gradually. Yes, the Lord Jesus did ascend into heaven, but in a very real and actual sense, He is still in our midst, still among us. He is the truly undead God-Man.
Every other historical person, religious figure, prophet or philosopher, died and that's that.
Some of their believers may think that they can still help them from beyond the grave, but facts are facts, they died, and no amount of prayers to them will help anyone an iota.
But Jesus is different.
We don't have to reduce Him to some kind of ancient guru with powers of bi-location (being in two places at once); that’s what our limited human imagination wants to do. Christ Jesus is, again I say, the undead God-Man.
The dead are buried and gone (or dead and ascended as New Age masters are claimed to be). But this Jesus was dead and buried, but He didn't stay that way.
His presence before the Father now that He has ascended—whatever that means—is actually no different than when He walked the earth as God-Man.
Then, He was present before the Father, and present with us.
The first we (or rather, His original disciples) took on faith, the second they saw with their own eyes.
Now, He is present before the Father (at His right hand, really), and present with us. The first we take as a doctrinal fact, the second we must take on faith.
If Christ really is among us, or ‘in our midst’ as the Orthodox phrase it, then it makes sense for us to walk in His presence, and follow Him bodily into the world where He is going every day, every hour, every minute of every day.
If we exercise our faith, it will develop to the point where we can actually ‘see’ Jesus with us, leading the way.
This is our goal as His disciples, to follow Him as He goes out into today’s world ‘seeking that which is lost,’ and to do what we see Him doing there.
I tell you most solemnly, whoever believes in Me will perform the same works as I do Myself, he will perform even greater works, because I am going to the Father.
John 14:12 Jerusalem Bible
Why does Jesus say we ‘will perform even greater works, because [He is] going to the Father’? Does this ‘going to the Father’ inaugurate a Divine absence?
No, His ascension to sit at the Father’s right hand was a going up in power, inaugurating not a period of absence but, instead, one of hidden presence.
In His 33 earthly years in the old human body, Jesus was limited, self-limited,
‘emptying Himself to assume the conditions’ of our mortality.
Now that He has been raised in an imperishable body, He is limited no more, except by our failure to find Him among us, ‘in our midst,’ and to follow Him as He goes among us, seeking His lost sheep.