This post originally appeared on the blog of 517 Church Brisbane, where the author served in various ministries from 2011-2015. It reappears on Lion & Phoenix on the occasion of the church and it’s website shutting down, as the members move to join another like-minded church in the local area.
Right towards the end of 1 Corinthians, Paul utters a very short prayer. The prayer in 16:22 has sometimes been left untranslated in English Bibles as “Maranatha!” If we go by it’s size, we could call this a mini-prayer, but if we consider its meaning it’s an incredibly huge thing to pray. So what does it mean?
Maranatha is Aramaic (the language Jesus would have spoken) for “Come Lord!” This simple, yet profound phrase is possibly bigger than anything else we regularly pray for. It’s essentially calling for the King of the Universe, the Risen Son of God, to appear in all His glory, bring an end to the world as we know it, rescue all of His people from every distress they face and bring in the Kingdom of God in all its fullness for all of eternity.
This is a prayer that will soon be answered. A prayer that we can all be certain is God’s will. As surely as Jesus came the first time – He will return again to rule and judge. As surely as He rose from the dead He will bring life and transformation to His people and His creation. It’s guaranteed to happen. And soon. This is the most wonderful thing in history that could well occur in our lifetime. It’s the glorious tomorrow that should affect even the most mundane, monotonous or melancholy today. It’s what we’re waiting for: “our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13, ESVUK).
My question is, are you a Maranatha Christian? Do you pray for this to happen? Do you even want it to happen? Or is the return of Jesus something you dread? Do you think it would ruin your plans, unfulfilled desires and hopes in this life? You want to go to heaven and be with God, but you really want to have a good life of doing the things you want to do before that happens. You’re not desperate for Jesus to return. Eternal life in the kingdom seems more like a pleasant retirement after a busy eighty years of working hard and doing the things we wanted to do in this present age.
I often struggle in my thinking about the past, present and future. The past sometimes haunts. The present sometimes seems bleak. Will the future also be trying, difficult and bring pain and sorrow? Sometimes when I am by myself, this way of thinking can get so bad it teeters on the brink of despair. But God has used some of these occasions to challenge me to think about how tainted my perceptions can be. For the Christian, no matter how painful the past, no matter how bland the present – the future is bright. And it’s bright because Jesus is returning.
It’s true that Thursday could be just as hard as Wednesday. Friday could be worse. But the hope we have is not how the remaining days of our life will turn out and whether they’ll bring all the things we wanted in this life. Our hope is that one day very soon, God is going cancel Night. It will be Jesus Day – a single day of glory, joy and life that never ends.
Do you long for that day? Is it where your hope is? What desire, what worldly hope or ambition, what attachment is keeping you from praying “Maranatha!” “O Lord, Come!”?
Sometimes we need to see this life for what it really is. Whenever you find it dissatisfying or disappointing you and see the things you once lived for quickly fading – I pray that it won’t be a moment that drives you despair. Instead, I pray it will help you “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13, ESV). This is the tomorrow that shapes today. This is the future that means everything for how we live, think and pray right now.
Are you a “Maranatha Christian?” Could you become one by starting to pray “Come Lord Jesus” today?