I don’t know if this happens to everyone, but a deep sense of longing fills my soul when I listen to Celtic music. I get homesick. I dream of the day when I can go the land of my fathers to smell the air, touch the soil, and behold the rolling green pastures
and rocky hillsides. But once I get there, my longing will not relent. Once I touch the cold, mossy stones of ancient castle ruins and once-majestic cathedrals, I will realize that they are fading shadows of a time that ever slips my grasp. And this Ocean State native has never been to Wales, Scotland, or Ireland, so I don’t even know what I am missing. But still I long.
This yearning also accompanies me as I read the Bible, and I know I’m not alone. How often do we dream of actually being at the tomb when Lazarus came forth? Who wouldn’t have wanted to be there when Jairus’ daughter awoke? What about walking on the road to Emmaus, listening to the greatest sermon never read on the death and resurrection of the Messiah?
Very often I wish to have lived in the red-letter days of the Gospels. Perhaps if I spent real face-to-face time with Jesus I would be a bolder witness for the kingdom. Maybe I would be like Simeon, whose longing was satiated when he beheld the face of the Messiah. Perhaps.
But Jesus is not here like He once was. Fortunately, knowing Him is not contingent on a series of you-had-to-be-there kind of moments. We need not to have lived in first-century Palestine to know the risen Christ personally. We know Him through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, who is given to all who believe (Gal. 3:14). On the night Jesus was betrayed, He told His disciples that He would send them another to comfort and guide them (John 14:16; 16:13). Today, we are united with Jesus by the same Spirit of adoption who dwells in all who believe (Rom. 8:15).
Our knowledge of Jesus is not hearsay. The words in Scripture were written by the Spirit of truth (John 16:12–13). None of us was there when the stone was rolled away; we can only read about that. But, the Spirit who raised Christ from the dead dwells in us forevermore (Rom. 8:11). By this promised Holy Spirit we are “sealed for the day of redemption” when our stones will be rolled away (Eph. 4:30).
I may never travel to the Holy Land, but my longing will be satisfied when I join my fathers in “the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10). That’s a promise.