It's a question we've all asked amidst the pain and suffering of our broken world.
When 19 children and two teachers are murdered we cry, where’s Jesus? When a white supremacist kills 10 African Americans in a supermarket, where’s Jesus? When nations wage war bringing death, destruction, famine, homelessness and economic chaos, where’s Jesus? When loved ones suffer from cancer or mental illness, where’s Jesus?
One might treat this question as a theological one and answer that Jesus is in heaven at the right hand of God. Is the Reformed emphasis on the Lordship of Christ enough to answer the cry of our hearts?
The problem of evil, pain and suffering is one the Bible never fully answers. The serpent-tempter is a mystery. Later depictions of evil as the Devil or Satan have no Biblical backstory, even though many have tried to add one. Evil is an aberration beyond our understanding.
We know the pain of evil, and that in our human rebellion against God, we are responsible for unleashing it. We fight God and our neighbour in war, violence, racism, sexism and xenophobia. We spread hatred and division. In our greed we produce poverty and economic chaos. We are ill because we are out of alignment with God’s world.
Sexual abuse by church leaders dishonours the name of Christ. Christian nationalism and militant Christianity distort the Gospel. In the name of Christ people express hatred.
Some hate the church. In China, Christian churches and schools have been closed with Christian leaders imprisoned, social media accounts closed and the use of God’s name blocked. Where’s Jesus?
Searching for a priest
The readers of the Book of Hebrews were being rejected by society, mocked and harassed for their faith. They were struggling and tempted to compromise. They were losing hope. Who and where was Jesus?
The author of Hebrews writes, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin” (Heb. 4:14-15).
In pain, the writer thinks of the strange priest Melchizedek. Melchizedek (king of righteousness in name; king of Salem (“peace”), later Jerusalem, in title) gets only three verses in the Abraham story: He brings bread and wine to commemorate Abram’s victory over the foreign kings, he blesses Abram and Abram gives him a tithe. Later Melchizedek is referenced in the Jerusalem royal coronation Psalm 110, a coronation Hebrews says was given to Jesus.
Jesus is superior to the Hebrew High Priest and of a more universal order. Jesus brings the Father’s blessing to us in his body and blood, bread and wine. He brings us before the Father as our High Priest.
Where’s Jesus? He is representing us before the Father. What is Jesus doing? He is continuing his Gethsemane prayer for us. He knows us. He knows our weakness and pain. He knows our evil.
In the face of evil and pain, prayers are not enough, but it is where we need to start. In our helplessness we pray to our ultimate helper. This prayer empowers us to action that is not militant, not destructive of others, not selfish or hating. When we pray in weakness, we show grace and mercy to the weak and honour the name of God.
We need a priest. We are the priests the world needs. “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16 NIV). Jesus intercedes.