Yes, YOU can meet Jesus personally

By John Wijngaards, Mission Today, Spring 1995

A FRIEND of mine, who went through a stormy patch of life, said to me: “I wish I would get an answer when I am talking to Jesus. Like knowing he is there! Did he mean it when he said, ‘I will reveal myself to you’?”

The amazing answer I could give her was that Jesus really meant it. Direct knowledge of Jesus is not reserved to saints alone. All of us can have the experience. We can be in immediate spiritual contact with him. He promised it to us.

He said: “Whoever keeps my commandments is someone who loves me. Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too shall love that person and reveal myself to him or her” (John 14:21).

The first thing we should note about this statement is that Jesus spoke about some form of person-to-person contact. He made the promise in the context of the Last Supper when separation from the disciples was imminent.

Would all personal contact be lost after his death? “No,” said Jesus, “I will remain in touch with each of you.” He repeated the promise in many forms: “I am coming back to you… You will see me… I will live in you… My Father and I will dwell in you” (John 14:18-23).

We should also note that Jesus could make this promise because, through his death and resurrection, he was to be transformed into a new state of being. As the human Jesus, he was limited in time and space, as we are. But as the risen Christ, he would transcend all these limitations, allowing the full power of his divinity to shine through.

But you might think perhaps this was only a promise made to the apostles. Not so. Jesus’s words emphatically hold out the promise to all believers. John makes this point by inserting a question by Judas the Zealot: “Are you going to reveal yourself to the world (that is, to outsiders)?” Jesus answered, “I do not exclude anyone. I will come to anyone who loves me” (John 14:22-23, paraphrased in my own words).

On what condition will the risen Christ make himself known to us? “If you keep my commandments,” he said (John 14:21); “if you keep my words” (John 14:23). By keeping Jesus’s commandments, we prove that we love him. The real condition he demands is that we love him with a love we do not just proclaim in words, but which we show in fact (see also 1 John 2:3-4; 3:24).

Keeping Jesus’s commandments must be interpreted here not as fidelity to external rules and regulations. Such external fidelity was precisely what Jesus condemned in the scribes and pharisees of his time. He demanded fidelity to his Gospel of love: to living the beatitudes, to being tolerant, forgiving, ready to wash other people’s feet (Matt 5:3-48; John 13:10-20). “This is my commandment that you love each other as I have loved you!” (John 15:12-17). Jesus’s specific and new commandment was the commandment of love (John 13:14).

This then is the substance of Jesus’s promise: “If you take my programme of love seriously and thereby show that you truly love me, then I will make you feel my love in return. Then I will make myself known to you, whoever you are, where you are and whatever your situation!”

Of course, the risen Christ stays with us in sacraments, in signs and symbols: in the Eucharist – “This is my body” (Matt 26:26, which means “this is myself’); in the priest – “Who hears you hears me” (Luke 10:16); in the community – “Where two or three of you are gathered in my name, there I am in your midst” (Matt 18:20). But the risen Christ also meets us personally in the depth of our heart, so that we are tangibly aware of his presence and his friendship.

In India one becomes a real friend of the family by visiting people in their home and sharing a meal with them. This is also the image Jesus uses. “I stand at the door and knock,” he tells us. “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into that house and eat with that person and he or she will eat with me” (Rev 3:20).

We can rely on Jesus’s promise. The way he shows himself differs from person to person. Usually he does not come in a vision of light or with the ring of audible words. But he will touch you unmistakably inside. You will know he is there. You will hear his words in your heart. Probably you will already have had deep experiences of his presence at some time or other.

Ask Jesus to reveal himself to you. Tell him that you want to be faithful to his vision of Love. Wait for him during precious moments of silence. He will respond. “You will see me because my life will merge with your life” (John 14:19).