Well, a big difference actually. The difference is everything.
We cannot be in relationship with a past tense Jesus.
We can believe that he existed. We can gain knowledge about him through the scriptures. We can appreciate what he did. We can seek to live the principles he taught. We can even seek to do the things that he did. But if our only understanding of Jesus is who he was and what he did, we are falling far short of what Jesus himself intends for us.
We cannot remain in a past tense Jesus. Nor can a past tense Jesus remain in us. This wonderful relationship is all about being present. Him in us, and us in him. Here and now.
There is something I noticed yesterday that I hadn’t before. One of Jesus disciples, John, has an incredible experience, a vision, when he is on the island of Patmos. John recorded this vision. And there is a recurring phrase that we come across in reading his account of the vision he was given. On two occasions we find the phrase “who is and who was and who is to come.” On two other occasions we find the phrase, “who is and who was.”
But on one occasion we find the phrase “who was and is and is to come.”
This last one is the one that we seem to gravitate toward. It makes sense to our logical thinking. People write songs to tell of Jesus with this logical phrase contained in them. Past, present, future. But it’s actually out of sync with the other sayings.
In this vision, the One is revealed to John as the One who is first.
Then, there is an emphasis by the Lord himself that first and foremost, he is.
There is an initial emphasis of the Holy One from the angel in charge of the waters that he is.
And the same emphasis is made by the 24 elders of the One who, first and foremost, is.
So the description by the four living creatures “who was and is and is to come” is at odds with the rest. Why? I have no idea! It just feels significant to me.
This emphasis of the One who is should not be lost on us. It’s not at all about who he was. He is the same, simply because he always ‘is.’ “The one who is speaking to you, I am.”
It’s not about what he did. Hear my heart, I am not at all dismissing the work that Jesus did. That work changed everything for this world.
But it’s about what he’s doing that is all important. What he did enables him to do what he’s doing now. What he’s doing now is giving himself, Life.
Do you see the difference? A past tense Jesus is not working. He worked. But he does not inhabit us and continue to do the will of the Father through us.
Knowledge of a past tense Jesus inhabits our minds, and even makes our hearts burn within us just as happened with the disciples on the road to Emmaus. But our eyes must be opened to the present Jesus. It is this Jesus who inhabits us. When we are living conscious of Christ in us, we don’t talk of who Jesus was and what he did. We talk of who he is and what he’s doing now!
The present Jesus is Life. He is the Way. He is the Truth. He is giving Life, here and now!
The present Jesus is Peace. He is Joy. He is Wisdom.
The present Jesus is the True Vine, who desires to remain in a present relationship with us and us with him so that we might bear fruit. To bear fruit, a branch must remain present to the Vine and the Vine remain present to the branch. It’s impossible for a branch to not be present and bear fruit.
A present Jesus is the Bread of Life, the Inner Spring of Living Water. The Source of Life himself. Those who are eating and drinking of Jesus himself are receiving Life, now!
And so, in being present to Jesus himself today, who and what he is, lets…..
Eat the Bread, drink the Living Water.