By the Revd Dr Peter Sanlon
At the heart of the covenantal promises God makes with us is that he will be our God and be with us. This promise was given to Abraham (Gen.17:7) and then repeated to many others (e.g. Jacob, Gen. 28:15, Joshua, Jos. 1:9).
The way that God is with his people changes at different points in the Bible story. In Eden before the Fall, God walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. In the Exodus God was with his people in a pillar of fire and cloud. For many years God was among his people by means of the Temple. The prophets looked forward and promised God would be with his people (Isa. 41:10).
Wondrously, in the Gospels we read of God coming to dwell with us in human form – and so Jesus was named ‘Emmanuel’ which means ‘God with us (Mat. 1:23).
We look forward to the future new heavens and new earth, when we will be with God in renewed bodies, able to see his glory in a fresh physical and spiritual way. We will ‘see him as He is.’ (1 Jn. 3:2)
Today – in this stage of our pilgrimage, we have Jesus with us by faith, in the power of His Spirit. In our hearts he makes known his presence by desires for holiness and love to his people.
Having Jesus with us, in our day to day journey to heaven, impacts us in many ways.
One of these is that we are able to resist materialism and love of wealth. Jesus being with us is worth more: ‘Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ (Heb. 13:5)
A second point made in the Bible is that Jesus will be with us in a special way when we tell others about Him. So the great commission concludes with Jesus saying ‘Lo I am with you to the end of the age.’ (Mat. 28:20) This gives us confidence to actually talk about Jesus with friends and neighbours. As we do we find Jesus is with us.
Thirdly, Jesus being with us makes us happy. The image of a wedding guest being with the central figure of a wedding is used by Jesus to teach this. When Jesus is with us – how can we be downcast? (Mk. 2:19)
So as we press on in our pilgrimage – let us rejoice that Jesus is with us.
The Revd Dr Peter Sanlon is Rector of Emmanuel Anglican Church, Tunbridge Wells.