“He’s behind you!”

Recently I heard someone make the point that Jesus sometimes deliberately provokes us to call out to him. In Mark 10:46-52 Jesus is walking by and Blind Bartimaeus calls out to him for mercy. Most of the time in the gospels Jesus is responding to requests from people. Jesus tells the people who were previously telling Bartimaeus to shut up to call him over. Bartimaeus throws his cloak aside (someone made the insightful point that if he didn’t get healed he would have trouble finding it again ie already in anticipation of his healing he is casting aside his old way of life and living in the new) and comes to Jesus. Jesus then asks this blind man what he wants! Of course he wants to see but Jesus seems to want him to ask for it. The moment he clarifies his particular need Jesus says “Go, your faith has healed you!”. Bartimaeus had  faith to call, to come and to ask and so got healed.

I was reminded of (I know that expression sounds like the introduction to radio 4’s ‘thought for the day’ but I can’t think of another way of putting it) the time Jesus appeared to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. He didn’t reveal himself but let their hearts burn and drew out from them an invitation to stay with them. I love the way it says “Jesus acted as if he were going farther” (Luke 24:28). That’s almost cheeky isn’t it?! It’s like at a pantomime where one of the characters plays to the audience by pretending not to know that there is someone behind him. Their actions are designed to draw in and engage the watching children.  Each time he fains ignorance their cries of “he’s behind you” grow ever more earnest and ecstatic.

Jesus was also a little enigmatic when he first appeared to Mary at the tomb. He stands behind her and when she turns he asks “Why are you crying? Who is it that you are looking for”. What kind of a question is that??? I know it may be reading too much into it but I am sure Jesus was really excited about this encounter. He’s holding back the moment of realization. Drawing it out. Savoring it even. I do that with my kids sometimes. I might hold a surprise behind my back for while before revealing it or say “Did I say I would give you a double chocolate biscuit? I don’t remember, are you sure?”. It’s like turning the handle on a Van de Graaff generator, building up the static charge, ready for it to spark when finally touched. When Mary mistakes him for the gardener and continues to look around, he doesn’t say “Hey, it’s me Jesus” he just says “Mary”. I can imagine him looking into her eyes for that precious moment of recognition. And then it comes “Rabbi!”.

And heres another one: When the disciples were struggling across a lake in a storm, Jesus walks out to them and “was about to pass them by” (Mark 6:48). They call out to him (of course!), he comes into the boat and the storm dies down. Why was he going to pass by? Did he have an urgent appointment in the middle of the lake? Was he fetching his frisbee from the waves? No. he wanted them to call out to him! That’s because he loves to draw out our faith. It utterly delights him! Our asking is like a champaign bottle being opened. The request pops out of our  mouths in an explosive flow of faith.

So many times in the bible we are encouraged to ask:

“You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it” John 14:14

“You do not have, because you do not ask” James 4:2

Especially in terms of the Holy Spirit.

“Ask and it will be given to you” Luke 11:9

“how much more will your father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” Luke 11:13

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” (ESV) John 4:10

I wonder how many times Jesus is walking by and wanting me to call out to him. So many voices are trying to dissuade us from doing so but if our need is big enough and our confidence in Jesus is great enough we will break the sound barrier. I want to know more of the presence of Jesus and that means more of the Holy Spirit. My cry to God over the last few weeks has been “more Lord, more!” even in the midst of incredible blessing I want more.  God wants us to cry from the heart “come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20). I will call out to him when he comes near, recognise him when he says my name, watch for him walking past in the storm, and take note when my heart burns within me.

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