When I first became a Christian, I was given a little booklet entitled, “My Heart, Christ’s Home,” written by Bob Munger. The imagery fit nicely with what I was learning about Christianity at the time. Using Rev 3:20 (KJV) as a text — “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” — others taught me that becoming a Christian meant praying for Jesus to “come into my heart.”
Here, I’m reminded of the story of the mother who told her daughter that Jesus lives in our hearts. With the innocent concreteness of a child, the little girl leaned over and put her ear to her mother’s stomach to listen for Jesus. Then she sat up with a smile on her face. “Yep, he’s in there, all right,” she announced brightly. “And it sounds like he’s making coffee!”
I do not, of course, literally believe that Jesus lives somewhere in my chest. But still, we need some way to take hold of the remarkable promise he makes to his disciples:
Whoever loves me will keep my word. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever doesn’t love me doesn’t keep my words. The word that you hear isn’t mine. It is the word of the Father who sent me. (John 14:23-24, CEB)
Jesus says this in response to the disciples’ question about why they would see him and the world would not (vs. 22). Much of Jesus’ answer reiterates what he’s already said earlier in the conversation: true love expresses itself in obedience (vss. 15, 21); his words are the Father’s words (vs. 10); the one who keeps Jesus’ commands will be loved by the Father (vs. 21). It’s as if the question took them off on a tangent, and Jesus is gently bringing them back.
But there is a new thought here: both the Father and the Son will make their home (a “dwelling place”) with those who love Jesus and obey his word.
Of course, it’s not an entirely new thought. In reassuring his distraught disciples, Jesus promised a place in his Father’s house where they can eventually be together (vss. 1-3). And after the resurrection, he told them, “you will know that I am in my Father, you are in me, and I am in you” (vs. 20). They will not be orphans (vs. 18); they will not be left alone.
To that, then, Jesus adds this: Things aren’t going the way you were expecting. The story isn’t over yet. After I’m gone, you will be the ones to carry on my mission to an unbelieving world that is nevertheless loved by the Father. But don’t worry: my Father and I are going to take up permanent residence with you.
His words anticipate the final consummation of God’s work of restoring all that was broken by sin:
I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God.” (Rev 21:3)
But in the meantime…
We have not been abandoned. We have not been left to our own devices.
Maybe Jesus doesn’t physically, literally live in my fleshly heart. But somehow, both he and the Father have taken up residence.
Lord, make yourself at home.