“Eustace rushed toward the picture. Edmund, who knew something about magic, sprang after him, warning him to look out and not to be a fool. Lucy grabbed at him from the other side and was dragged forward. And by this time either they had grown much smaller or the picture had grown bigger. Eustace jumped to try to pull it off the wall and found himself standing on the frame; in front of him was not glass but real sea, and wind and waves rushing up to the frame as they might to a rock. He lost his head and clutched at the other two who had jumped up beside him. There was a second of struggling and shouting, and just as they thought they had got their balance a great blue roller surged up round them, swept them off their feet, and drew them down into the sea.”
Do you long to be swept into a world where every sense is enlivened? Where the flatness of your life’s picture explodes into a breathtaking reality? Where Someone, the source of all life and living, draws you into the surging sea of authentic life? C.S. Lewis’ scene from his Chronicles of Narnia reveals something that stirs within us a longing. What is it about this picture-painting description, like the famous wardrobe, that whets our appetite for real life? He describes the magic of being drawn into something so alive and magnificent and active that everything else becomes passive and dry in comparison. He’s not only talking about Narnia. He is chronicling a world, a domain, a realm that Jesus calls, ‘the way, the truth and the life’.
“To see the Father would be enough for us,” moans the passive Philip as he tries and fails to understand Jesus’ teaching. The Master has been talking about going away, about returning to the Father, and Philip just cannot follow his train of thought. Jesus’ eyes pierce the thick fog of his disciple’s thoughts. How should he explain the unexplainable to these followers of his?
“Don’t you know me, Philip…? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father,” responds Jesus. He goes on to describe how his being, his speaking, and his living coalesce with the Father’s. “I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you”, he continues. The disciples struggle to understand.
Jesus is revealing a mystery that is the picture frame of a scene more alive than Lewis’ characters have been astonished to experience. He explains that our frail human attempts at living lack the breadth and height and depth of the life God designed for us. We know that; deep inside us we know that more than we know anything else. There is nothing about our paltry attempts at living life that parallels the God-life. What we think we’ve heard is that the breathtaking Life of God, more alive, more active and more thrilling than we can imagine beckons us. It’s true. Like a splash of cold water on a sweltering day Jesus describes the unimaginable. He paints a picture of the meshing of his life and his Father’s life as inseparable, as one, and then he invites us to join the vibrant melee. And as we step up to the edge of that picture and reach out hesitatingly to touch its gilt frame, he promises that we will be swept into the very life of God.
How do we get in on this crazy, impossible invitation? How do we become new to a life unlike any life we’ve ever known? Jesus has already anticipated those questions and he puts it in language the simplest can understand. Believe me. Love me. Obey me. There’s the catch, you say. How can I believe Jesus? How can I love someone I’ve never met? What will he ask of me that I must obey? Initiations into mysterious exclusive associations leave me feeling wet and chilled… (continued in Part 2)