Living in Jesus' Heart: Reflections on John 6:51-58

Lectionary Reflections
John 6:51-58
August 19, 2012

As a child in Sunday school I sang the song "Into My Heart""

Into my heart, into my heart.
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.
Come in today, come in to stay
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.

Our passage this week promises that Jesus will abide in those who "eat his flesh and drink his blood" (Jn. 6:56). So inviting him in is an excellent first step. It's a good lesson for children to sing and remember.

The verb here translated abide (meno) occurs 40 times in John and 29 times in the Johannine letters. It means to remain, stay, abide, live, dwell, last, endure, continue. The noun mone means a dwelling place, room or home. (Out of 120 occurrences of the verb meno in the New Testament, 69 come from the Johannine tradition.) John's Gospel emphasizes that we are to invite Jesus to live in or abide in us.

And who is this Jesus we are inviting into our hearts? He is one in whom God dwells.

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works (Jn. 14:10).

Jesus is also the one who dwells in God.

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love (Jn. 15:9-10).

How are we to respond to this Jesus who lives in God and in whom God lives? We are to invite him "into our hearts," to live in us.

Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them (Jn. 14:23).

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them (Jn. 6:56).

This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you (Jn. 14:17).

Allowing Jesus to abide in us, recognizing his divine identity and inviting him "into our hearts," is what we are to do as our part of the relationship. But then John goes on to highlight the bigger picture -- that is, as Jesus abides in God, so we already "abide in Jesus." We live in Jesus' heart.

As Paul tells the Athenians in Acts 17:27-28, "God is not far from each of us. For 'In him we live and move and have our being.'"

We live in Jesus' heart and Jesus' house.

When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi, where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day (Jn. 1:38-39).

In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? (Jn. 14:2).

We are used to thinking about Jesus living in us and inviting him into our hearts. We are not so accustomed to meditating on the reality that we already live in Jesus' heart.

The recognition that we live in Jesus is both comforting and challenging. It's comforting because it means we don't have to do everything. When our personal lives are chaotic or disappointing, when our society is polarized and violent, we remember that we live and move and have our being in Jesus. That is our context. It is a context of judgment but also of hope. It is a context in which we are expected to invite Jesus "into our hearts" and, as a result, to persevere (to remain or abide) in following his teachings and believing in his unique identity.

We are expected, as branches of the vine, to bear fruit.

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing . . . If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you (Jn. 15:5,7).

There is a promise along with the expectation. We are promised that we are no longer people who walk in darkness, but people who have come into the light.

12/2/2022 9:10:34 PM
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    Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.