by Alastair Sterne
December 4, 2013
4 min read
This past weekend at St. Peter’s Fireside, we sang a song by Dustin Kensrue called Come Lord Jesus. The refrain of the chorus is “Come, Lord Jesus, come.” It is such a fitting song for Advent. As we prepare our hearts for the return of Jesus and expectantly wait for him to come and make all things new, we pray “Come Lord Jesus!” As we sang the refrain together my heart yearned for Jesus, and for a rare moment my heart had a single focus and desire: Jesus. You should know, however, that this refrain has much deeper roots than a new worship song. “Come Lord Jesus” has been the prayer of the church since its birth.
Let’s get technical for a moment. “Come, Lord Jesus” is a prayer rooted in the Scriptures. St. John writes “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20). He felt it was necessary to comment on Christ’s closing words in Revelation adding “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” Put differently, “So be it! Come soon Lord!” This is the last prayer we have in the Bible. It is also found at the end of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Although various translations handle this phrase differently, there are good reasons to translate it as “Our Lord, come!” (1 Cor. 16:22). The phrase is actually written in Aramaic, not Greek. Paul’s language switcheroo here actually implies that this was one of the earliest communal prayers of the church. If we look outside of the New Testament, the phrase is found once again in the Didache, another very early church document.
What’s the point of all this technical background? It’s helpful to know that the early church was known for praying “Come, Lord Jesus!” It was a part of their identity as a community waiting and longing for Jesus to return. And the church has continued to be known by this prayer through the centuries. But you may be thinking, “Why do Christians pray ‘Come Lord Jesus’?” This prayer with very few words articulates the tension we feel simply from being alive here on earth. It speaks to the very longings and desires of our hearts.
Jesus is the only one who is able to bring everlasting justice and wipe away every tear. No more mourning, no more crying and no more pain—only Jesus can do that.
Every ache of injustice, our collective hurt and the world’s soul-numbing suffering points to Jesus. As we dwell in a world that is in desperate need of mending and wholeness, we pray “Come Lord Jesus.” Jesus is the only one who is able to bring everlasting justice and wipe away every tear. No more mourning, no more crying, no more pain—only Jesus can do that. Our yearnings for true justice, for complete healing, will only come to be fulfilled once Jesus comes and establishes his kingdom forever.
Every little victory, every glimpse of goodness, and the beauty we see amidst the world’s ashes points to Jesus. This world undoubtedly has radiance, beauty and purpose. We overcome and see victories and we celebrate. We celebrate the beauty in common things like births and marriages, and shed tears of joy in extraordinary things like overcoming racism, increasing equality and the extending liberty and justice for the oppressed. Yet in the midst of all our accomplishments we know there is always more to be done, and in the celebration of life we know there is still death, so we pray “Come Lord Jesus.” Our joys and victories will only be lasting once Jesus comes and establishes his kingdom forever.
All of our longings, all of our desires, all of our suffering, all of our victories—they point us to Jesus. And this is why we pray “Come Lord Jesus.” The creation longs and groans for him, we long and groan for him, and we know the world will only be set to right once he returns. This prayer is how we cry, it is how we celebrate, it is how we mourn, it is how we overcome. It captures every single experience of what it means to live in this world while waiting for Jesus to make all things new.
Come Lord Jesus, come.