Jesus is a historical figure, yes, but far more than that: he is living and active today, right now, and moves in the lives of human beings around the world. No, I am not talking about people being inspired by the idea of Jesus. I mean that Jesus himself, through the Holy Spirit, is acting at the present time in the lives of people. This means that people are, in prayer, experiencing Jesus’ presence, his healing, and his love for them, here and now.
On Wed, Feb 8, 2023, a regular student religious service at Asbury University, a Christian university in Wilmore, Kentucky, ended, but for some unexpected reason, eighteen or nineteen students stayed behind to pray and sing. They felt a sense of the calm, peaceful presence of Jesus, and they stayed to be with him: they did not want to leave. More students came, and prayer and singing continued into the afternoon, the evening, all night, and hundreds were there by the morning of Thursday. The prayer and singing continued all day and through the night, and into the next day. Attendees described a sense of profound calmness and serenity, of intense closeness to God, of unity, hope, joy and peace. Volunteers spontaneously stepped up to help, some bringing food and water. An ad hoc committee of volunteer leaders, who recognized what was happening, sprang up to organize the ever-growing crowds of attendees. More people, some from far away, heard about the event on social media. It was live-streamed. People came from all over, until thousands were attending. Would-be disruptors came, trying to subvert the spontaneous event to their own agendas, but they were intercepted by volunteers and asked to leave. The number of attendees grew. The school had to add more rooms to accommodate the crowds. For sixteen days, prayer and singing continued, until university authorities recognized that for reasons of exhaustion of the volunteers, the event had to be wound down on Thursday Feb 23rd.
The President of Asbury University, Dr. Kevin Brown, was asked if, in bringing to a close the prayer services, he was “stopping” God. He replied:
I have been asked if Asbury is “stopping” this outpouring of God’s Spirit and the stirring of human hearts. I have responded by pointing out that we cannot stop something we did not start. This was never planned. Over the last few weeks, we have been honored to steward and host services and the guests who have traveled far and wide to attend them.
In response to the volunteers who, recognizing what God was doing, stepped up spontaneously to help coordinate the event, President Brown wrote:
The effort by committed men and women on our campus to redirect energy, forsake other obligations, work tirelessly around the clock, and provide single-minded labor to accommodate our students and incoming visitors has been the high point in my career. In fact, it may be the most extraordinary act of collective Godliness and hospitable goodwill I have ever witnessed in my life. I am forever grateful. I am forever changed.
I myself did not visit Asbury University during the event, so I know only what I have heard and read. But it has the ring of truth. I recognize Jesus’ activity in this: it is what he does, it is how he works, his fingerprints are all over it. This isn’t something brought into existence by brilliant preaching or good event planning, it’s something that happened without any person making it happen. The event was Jesus’ idea, not Asbury’s; the people there merely recognized what was happening after it started, and went along with it. A great deal of good was done in many people’s lives by the time it was over, not good that can be attributed to the efforts and outreach of any particular Christian ministry or church group, but good done by Jesus himself, working in the lives of the people who were there. But know this: Jesus was not just active in Asbury University in February 2023, he is living and active right now, today. Jesus is working in peoples’ lives as you read this. He is working in my life. Jesus can work in your life too, if you want him. He may already be, working quietly, perhaps even anonymously, when and where you permit him. So permit him. Invite him, seek him out, follow his lead. Jesus, living and active, can be found, he will be found, if you want to find him.
(For those interested in more information about the event at Asbury University in Feb 2023, Christianity Today published an article about it written by an Asbury University professor who was there. Christianity Today also published a story about the volunteers who stepped up to assist. The Anglican Compass also has a report about Asbury from an eyewitness. Fox News reported on one Asbury student’s experience at the event. Finally, Religion News has an article describing the event as it came to a close.)