Pastoral Perspectives

Displaying the Splendour of Christ

After His resurrection, Jesus met His disciples and entrusted His continuing ministry and mission to them. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you,” He told them before breathing on and telling them about the Holy Spirit they would receive (John 20:21). After He ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples at Pentecost and empowered them to share the good news (Acts 2:1–4).

Though Jesus is no longer physically present in the world, He remains spiritually present through the Holy Spirit. And He continues His ministry through us today: the church, the body of Christ, makes Jesus visible (although not always in an exemplary or commendable way), while individuals faithful to Christ will demonstrate His presence and character in their lives. This is how others can see Christ today.

Jesus is not only revealed to us, but also in us (Gal 1:15-16). Oswald Chambers shares this important insight: “God’s ultimate purpose is that His Son might be manifested in my mortal flesh.”

When Christ dwells in us, He is incarnated in our lives—in our thoughts, attitudes, actions, words, and relationships. As we continue to approach Him regularly, obey Him, learn from Him, and imitate Him in action and attitude, our relationship with Him will grow, and we will begin to resemble Him. This is exactly what God wants, for us to be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29) and “transformed into his image” (2 Corinthians 3:18). One day, when Jesus returns, “we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2).

When we are transformed into Christ’s likeness, it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us (Galatians 2:20). So our will becomes His will, our hearts beat in rhythm with His, our minds think His thoughts, our mouths speak His words, our hands perform His actions, and our feet go where He directs. He becomes visible in our lives. We do not become passive automatons in this process, however—in a mysterious way, we will become united with Him such that He manifests in our lives without us losing our individuality.

The fruit of the Spirit is Christ’s character. When we abide in Christ, the Holy Spirit will enable us to bear love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (John 15:4–5, Galatians 5:22–23). This is one of His key ministries. Each of the virtues of the Spirit’s fruit was demonstrated by Christ in His relationships. When we exhibit these virtues, we reveal Christ’s character, which becomes our character. The world will then see Jesus in us and through us.

Another ministry of the Holy Spirit is to give us spiritual gifts, enabling us to do the work of Christ. Jesus told His disciples, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing” (John 14:12). When Jesus is incarnated in us, we become His ears, His mouth, His hands, and His feet.

This idea was expressed by a 16th-century Spanish nun and mystic, St. Teresa of Avila, as such:

Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet, on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
Compassion on this world
Yours are the feet
With which He walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
With which He blesses all the world
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet.
Yours are the eyes, you are His body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes, through which He Looks
With compassion on the world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

The church is now the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27), which we all are members of. As we manifest Christ, we function as parts of His body:

Some of us can act as Christ’s ears, listening as people pour out their griefs and woes. Whether it is a lonely child, a dying woman, or an imprisoned criminal, we can help begin the healing process in them. In a world that revolves around self-centredness, we can demonstrate how Jesus still ministers to those who are suffering.

Others can function as Jesus’ mouth, bringing life-giving words to those desperately in need of them. It could be a colleague in the office, a neighbour, a distant relative, a stranger in the airport, a postman or cleaner, a construction worker, a refugee, or a widow. As apprentices of Jesus, we are to learn how to speak the words of Jesus—not with shallow clichés and unhelpful generalities, but with a “well-instructed tongue” that speaks “the word that sustains the weary” (Isaiah 50:4).

Through our hands, Christ can reach out to touch the grieving and hurting with healing and comfort. While He was on earth, Jesus touched lepers (Matthew 8:3)—something that others would never do for fear of becoming infected, and also because it would make them ritually impure—and gave them dignity and healing. He was always ready to act radically and compassionately—and to touch the untouchable.

And one of Christ’s followers who did just that was Mary Reed, an American missionary to India. After visiting a leper colony and witnessing their suffering, she decided to minister to them, which involved touching them and nursing their wounds. Soon, she caught the disease herself, and moved into the leper colony, where she became its chief. That position allowed her to preach Christ, which resulted in many converts and the establishment of a church within the colony. Reed served Christ in the colony until she died in 1943, at the age of 84. Through her hands, lepers saw the hands of Jesus and felt His loving touch, and turned to Christ in response.

Christ walks today with our feet. In Romans 15:20, Paul spoke of his desire to “preach the gospel where Christ was not known”. The apostle was ready to go where Jesus wanted to be. He was ever-willing to be an instrument of His Lord, who had said, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be” (John 12:26). Perhaps there is a desperate alcoholic whom Jesus wants to visit. Or a forgotten orphanage that He wants to drop in on. Or an unknown tribe in a remote jungle, that has not heard the good news about Him. Who will go to these people? Will any Christian feet bring the presence of Jesus to them? Will you go?

The words of God to the prophet Isaiah are still being heard today. “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8). When we respond to God in faithful obedience and consecrate ourselves to Him, Christ will use our hands, our feet, our mouths, our eyes, and our ears as His own. We will see as He sees, hear as He hears, speak as He speaks, and do as He does. He is thus incarnated in our lives as Saviour and Lord, reaching out to the lost world. As Robert Murray McCheyne once observed, “It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus.”