While considering Jesus’ promise in Matthew 18:20 to be present wherever two or three gather in his name, a gracEmail subscriber thought of two questions. “If a specific gathering lacks the Lord’s presence,” he asks, “how can we know that he is not present, and what is the cause of his absence?”
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One might suspect that Jesus is absent from a meeting when nothing is accomplished that requires his presence or participation. This is true regardless of the gathering’s stated purpose — whether for prayer or for praise, to make decisions or to make converts, to study the Bible or to equip believers in some other way to join God on mission in the world. If everything that occurs in the course of any gathering, and everything as well that results from it, can be fully explained with absolutely no reference to Jesus, one might fairly suppose that he was not present when the gathering took place. These are the meetings in which we “keep minutes” and waste hours.
And why is Jesus absent on those occasions? Perhaps he was not really invited, or welcome, or the goals or activities do not advance his kingdom purpose. Perhaps, although we dress the gathering in a mantle of good words, Jesus knows that we have no real intention of letting him disturb our own agenda. At the least, to assemble in Jesus’ name involves a plurality of believers who gather purposefully to act together under Christ’s authority, as led by his Spirit and instruction. The awesome potential of such a gathering probably goes untapped today by most of us.
Jesus empowered his followers to “bind” and “loose” in his name, and to “agree” together in prayer (Matt. 18:18-19). The Apostle Paul also spoke of those occasions when believers assemble “in the name of Jesus with the power of our Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:4). We all have very much yet to learn about the potential of Christ’s presence in our midst. We do well to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus” — not only at the End, but now as well, whenever we assemble in his mighty name.