Monday, September 14, 2015

CHRIST IN THE MIDST

This article is from a friend of mine brother Alfred Bouter.

There are seven key passages, mentioning the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst. These seven Scripture passages all speak of His centrality, prominence and pre-eminence. The expression itself, “en mesoi” is found 27 times in the Greek New Testament. Is the Lord Jesus the Centre of our lives? Before this can be the case, one must recognize oneself to be a sinner, confess his sins and accept God‟s wonderful salvation in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Once saved, by God‟s grace, He ought to have the central place in our lives.

1. Christ in the Midst - in His Teaching First, the author of the gospel of God‟s grace presents many details concerning Christ‟s coming into this world. Then the evangelist briefly describes Christ‟s youth and writes how God the Father took care of Him (fulfilling Isa. 50:4), so that He grew according to God‟s thoughts: “And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him” (Lk. 2:40 NKJV). Then, at the age of twelve, we see Him “in the temple, in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers” (vv.46-47). The Lord Jesus did not take a teacher‟s role, as He would do later in His public ministry, but He took a place that suited Him by reason of His young age. However, morally, even at that moment, unmistakably He was the true Teacher. He was marked by a holy zeal for God‟s interests, expressed in the words to Mary and Joseph, “Did ye not know that I ought to be occupied in My Father‟s business?” (Lk. 2:49 JND). May we follow Christ‟s example: His humility, devotion and consecration to God‟s interests, as well as His obedience and submissiveness! 

2. Christ in the Midst - in His Sufferings on the Cross “Where they crucified Him, and with Him two others, one on this side, and one on that, and Jesus in the middle” (Jn. 19:18 JND). Having accomplished His work among His people, but rejected by them, yet in John‟s gospel the Lord is presented to us in His greatness. For instance, when the soldiers came to arrest Him, they all fell down before Him, the great “I Am” (Jn. 18:6); in the world to come every knee will bow before Him (Phil. 2:10). This draws our attention to Him who always must have the first place, even while in the place of condemnation and dishonour! What blessing has been the Lord‟s presence “in the midst” for the malefactor who repented and recognized the person and work of Christ (Lk. 23:39-43)! 

3. Christ in the Midst - in His Resurrection “Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, „Peace be with you.‟ And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, „Peace to you!‟” (Jn. 20:19, 26). One could hardly overestimate the importance of the resurrection of the Lord. There are a good number of elements to underline in this chapter, but we will only consider Christ‟s place as the true centre. As Head of the new creation, risen, He comes and stands in the middle; He is the new Centre, and all depends on Him. Thus, in resurrection, He now has a family. While the Jews had rejected Him, Christ has His own disciples (Mt. 12:50) and He is the true Centre and Head of this new company (Lk. 24:36-53). “When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days (Isa. 53:10; cf. Ps. 22:22). Compare also: “I will declare Thy name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly will I sing Thy praises” (Heb. 2:12 JND). 

4. Christ in the Midst of the Sea – in Life’s Trials “Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by” (Mk. 6:47f). Our Lord Jesus is now at the right hand of the majesty on high (Heb. 1:3), but at the same time He takes care of God‟s children on the earth. This is strikingly illustrated in the brief story Mark reports. Applying this account, Christ is with us in our trials, whether in illness or a traumatic experience, like the loss of a dear one: in trouble great and small, He is right beside us. David experienced this, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me” (Ps. 23:4 JND). In Mark 6, the Lord permitted the adversity of a sudden storm, but then He tested His disciples also in a different manner, when He acted as if He would pass by them. He wanted to be certain they wanted to receive Him. The Lord does not impose Himself; He likes to be invited by us. 

5. Christ in the Midst - in the Assembly “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt. 18:20). He is the centre of attraction (“to My name”). As the true Leader He gives orders (“in My name”). He is the foundation as well: the two or three are gathered on the basis of His name. Lots of books and articles have been written concerning this passage. I would like to simply underline that the Lord must have His central place. Do we recognize and honour Him as having all rights? Are we happy to be in His presence, or do we try to impose our own thoughts? 

6. Christ in the Midst of the Seven Assemblies “These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands” (Rev. 2:1; 1:13). In the beginning of the history of the Church, the seven stars were in the right hand of Christ glorified. In other words, the believers of that day acknowledged the rights of the Lord Jesus, submitting to His authority. Later, this was no longer the case (3:1). Do we honour Christ as the One who possesses all authority (1Pet. 3:22)? One day all will be required to submit to Him (Phil. 2:10), but the Lord likes to see that we, living in this world that crucified Him, will be subject to Him, out of love for Him and by faith. When Christ was on earth, He was a living example of this submissive attitude, “But I am in the midst of you as the One who serves” (Lk. 22:27). 

7. Christ in the Midst of the Throne – the Lamb Just Slain “And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing, as slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God which are sent into all the earth” (Rev. 5:6 JND). This expression “in the midst” refers to Christ because He is the Lamb, and it underlines His greatness, His moral and spiritual superiority. When we will stand around Him in the glory, we will see Him as the Lamb: He became Man to die. But we will see Him at the same time in His divine attributes: seven horns (His omnipotence); seven eyes (His omniscience); seven spirits (His omnipresence). What power, what love and what greatness are concentrated in Him and manifested by Him!

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