19 “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.
20 “At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.
21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
No less than three times did Jesus announce His impending death, and yet the apostles largely ignored Him. They either didn’t understand what He said, or, like Simon Peter, they denied that it could happen. How ironic it is then that Peter would later write “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” (1 Peter 1:3) It took the Resurrection for the apostles to finally understand why Jesus had to die, why their Master’s death was inevitable and necessary for our sanctification, why Jesus had to be the first in eternal life so that we might have hope and one day follow Him. Paul expressed it this way:
1 Corinthians 15:20-22
20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.
22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.
It is that “in Christ” that is so puzzling to some and hopeful to others. What does it mean to be “IN Christ”?
Looking at today’s verses, we find Jesus telling the apostles yet again that He is about to die. Jesus is explaining that, although He Himself returns to the Father, He will send a “Helper”–the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, one who “comes along side.” (John 14:16) Jesus tells the apostles that a wonderful transformation will take place after His death and resurrection: once Jesus has been raised from the dead, those whom He has chosen will receive the gift of life that He has been promising all along. This life would not have been possible for us any other way. Because Jesus lives, we will live also.
The gift of eternal life brings us knowledge of the Father and the Son, and of our place as adopted children of God. The most striking language here is in verse 20, where Jesus uses the word “in” to describe the relationship between God the Father, Jesus the Son, and all of us believers. Jesus does not simply return to be “with” the Father, but returns to His place IN the Father, as part of the Godhead, resuming His place as Son, as Word of God. If Jesus were merely WITH God, then God would still be separate, different from Jesus, but from all we know of Jesus, we know that He and the Father are One. That unity of power and purpose, that integrity of will and love, is an expression of Father, Son, and Spirit, and it binds us to God with single-hearted grace. We who believe, although we ourselves are not part of the Godhead, can then put on Christ as a garment of righteousness, enveloped by His mercy, clothed in His glory, consumed by His grace, filled by His love. His Spirit invades us, dwells within us, baptises and guides us. It is a continuum of divinity, with believers wrapped in the middle of it all: the Spirit in us, we in Christ, Christ in God.
This wholeness of soul and Spirit, this adoption unto glory, is possible only because Jesus died as the Christ, the Anointed One of God, and was raised again to be in the Father. And that happened only because of God’s boundless love for all of us. (John 3:16-17) Our final and continuing response to all this must be to love God in Christ. Love brought us here, and love must then be the fruit of our repentance and faith. Just as Christ Jesus is the expression of God’s love, so ought love to be the firstfruit of our relationship to Him. With love our firstfruit, then our love will manifest itself in obedience to God.
Love is a verb, not simply a state of being. Love is active, vital, urging us to greater service and greater faith. Love is the requisite for all the other fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), for love is the seed in our hearts, planted by the loving, nail-scarred hands of Christ Jesus our Lord. We must express love, not simply “feel” it. We are not “in love,” we are IN Christ, and we love Him with all that we DO–not just with some nebulous emotion but with action and life. When we so love Jesus Christ, then our love for Him is expressed outwardly through obedience to God’s way and will, and He then manifests Himself IN us and THROUGH us. His Spirit reigns in us through love.
Being in Christ is a position of being covered by His righteousness and filled by His love. And just as Christ was obedient to God the Father, so must we, too, be obedient to God. If we are to live up to the name “Christian”–literally “little Christ”–then we must thrive in that relationship: we IN Christ, and His Holy Spirit IN us. We must nurture that relationship, seek to know and love God more, express our love through selfless obedience.
What is this day meant to be if we are not in Christ? What worth is there without our relationship in Him and He in us? Many speak of a “close personal relationship WITH Christ,” but here in Jesus’ own words we see we are to have a relationship IN Him, dwelling IN His covering of righteousness, obedience, and love. Because of our faith and love for Jesus, we then can receive His Spirit IN us, cementing our communion of will and purpose in God. And all of this is possible only because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, whose own love and obedience is now become ours if we but live in Him.
Precious Lord Jesus, to You I owe all life and love and hope and faith. Without Your loving obedience, I would be lost in sin and death. Instead, because of Your life, I can now have hope, I can now be IN You and You in me, so that I am bound to You more surely than to any other wordly thing. Allow me, dear Lord, to dwell in You, and fill me with Your indwelling Spirit. Let Your love and obedience be my own today and every day. Amen.