Suppose He Came Back

From “On Being the Church in the World” by John A. T. Robinson:

The New Testament writers could not describe even the most secular events without seeing Christ meeting and judging men in them. We cannot help using the word ‘judgement’ when we speak of the coming of Christ. For the world is not at ease when he is present and that is hardly surprising after what it has done to him. No wonder the Bible pictures people as trying to hide their faces from him.

But it shows us another side as well. There is one place, in the fellowship of the Church, where it pictures men actually inviting him to come.

“Our Lord, come!” (1 Corinthians 16:22);

“Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). “Come and stand in the midst of thy disciples and make thyself known in the breaking of the bread.”

Such was the call of the early Christians. For them too he was not simply someone who was to come again at the end of time. He was someone who kept coming in, someone they knew and met as he stood among them in their worship week by week.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

“It is the Lord!” (John 21:7).

To the disciples, their returning Lord was a figure of joy. And ever since Christians have been eager to meet with him, to welcome him to their midst, to know his presence among them.

Suppose he came back? Christians have no need to suppose. They know he comes back and pre-eminently as he meets with them at his own board. For this is the point above all where Christ promised his returning presence to his friends.

It is as though he said, “You may meet me anywhere, but here you will meet me and I shall meet you.”

But this particular meeting-point is but to prepare us to meet him at all points.

Shall we know him when he comes? Shall we recognise his knock? That depends very largely on whether we have already got to know him and made him welcome in our lives. Shall we be able to see the moral issue in tomorrow’s headlines, shall we be able next time to see the person behind the skin? And if we do so, can we face it, can we face him? That depends on whether we are used to looking for Christ, on whether we expect him to be there and count on him coming in. And all these choices build up, and make us by the way we choose the sort of people we shall be when finally we have to face him, that Man whom we have either learnt to live with and to love, or from whom we have turned away, on this occasion, or this, or that.

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