Jesus . . . . ‘In The Midst’
- By Dr. Chris Gnanakan
- Published 04/4/2010
Dr. Chris Gnanakan
Revd. Dr. Chris Gnanakan, DMin, PhD. is the Director of Training for Outreach To Asia Nationals. OTAN serves in over nine countries in Asia where traditional missions is ‘restricted’, by equipping and empowering national, pastoral leaders to fulfil the great commission.
Chris, a native of Bangalore, worked as an electrician in MICO factory for 3 years before theological studies at the Word of Life Bible Institute and School of Youth Mission (New York). He obtained a Bachelor’s Degree from Tennessee Temple University and went on to do a Master’s in Divinity at Temple Baptist Seminary that he completed at the Asia Graduate School of Theology.
Chris was a youth pastor and ordained at Emmanuel Baptist Church. In 1990 he founded Banaswadi Bible Church where he was the pastor-teacher for over 10 years. He is known as a Youth, Bible & Mission conference speaker and for his radio broadcast with FEBA (Transforming Truth) and TWR (Thru the Bible). His passion is for evangelism, whole-life discipleship, mentoring, training leaders & empowering the Church in Mission.
Chris lectures on and produces curriculum for ‘Biblical Mandate for Evangelism’ at the Haggai Institute for Leadership Development (since 1999 at Maui & Singapore). As an evangelical, he has served as a consultant with the Commission on World Mission & Evangelism on-site London, Switzerland, Athens, Germany, Ghana, Kenya, Chile and with Urban Missions in Thailand, Hong Kong, Philippines and China.
During his stay and PhD research in the UK, Chris was a Teaching Assistance at the University of Leeds in the department of Theology & Religious Studies and also served as a minister at the South Parade Baptist Church, where he developed outreach & care cells. Chris teaches ‘Clinical Pastoral Education’ at the Bangalore Baptist Hospital. He is chairman for the Christian Forum for Child Development & Samaritan Purse’s regional Prescription for Hope program
Since 1995, Chris joined SAIACS as Professor and HoD of Pastoral Theology & Counseling and Dean of Chapel. Here, for 13 years, he trained leaders for ministry and mission in India’s globalising context and is passionate doing ”Evangelism through Local Churches”. He is now appointed to serve as the Director of Training for OTAN (Outreach To Asia Nationals) from June 2009.
Chris is happily married to Dorothy, an IT software educator, and they have two daughters Alethea and Charis. Chris enjoys memorising poems on the Bible and football.
Jesus must be the centre and source of the Christian faith and life. The Good Friday and Easter events show Jesus dying ‘in the midst’ of two thieves, then manifesting himself ‘in the midst’ of his followers as their resurrected Lord. What was he doing amidst such people? Studying the significance of these occasions helps us understand the reality of Jesus’ oft-quoted promise: Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I ‘in the midst’ (Mat. 18:20).
It intrigues me that Jesus had little time for the religious crowd or righteous elite but was often found among and commonly known as a ‘friend of sinners’! In his crucifixion we see Jesus brutally executed in the middle of two other criminals (John 19:18). A closer look reveals that the authorities did not take Jesus’ life, instead he was purposefully laying it down (10:18). The Cross, the symbol the early Christians chose, reminds all generations of the reason Jesus died, and what exactly is still on offer – Pardon from sin and guilt. This is best understood as we listen to the two dying thieves on either side of Jesus.
Both criminals, close to Jesus, made choices and the difference determined their destiny. One hurls insults at Jesus and challenges him to deliver them. The other simply prays the sinner’s prayer: ‘Lord Remember Me’. Jesus forgave his sins as well as gave him hope and a home in paradise that very day! Observe the three men on the three crosses: one dying in his sins, the other dying to his sins, receiving salvation through faith in Christ and behold, the Man on the middle cross, was dying for all the sins of all the world!
If the Cross was the human ‘NO’ to who Jesus claimed he was, his resurrection was God’s ‘YES’ to what Jesus offers through his death. The empty tomb is God’s receipt for Christ’s payment; God’s ‘Amen’ to Jesus’ ‘It is finished’! Yet we notice his disciples, disillusioned and fearful, hiding behind closed doors when suddenly Jesus came and stood ‘in their midst’. Having made peace on the cross, henceforth Jesus is Peace (Col. 1:27; Rom 5:1) so, he greets them with the words ‘Peace be with you’! (John 20:19) His empowering presence turns their sorrows into joy and replaces fear with fresh faith and courage (Phil 4:6) Here then, what was the resurrected Lord offering his followers?
Jesus gives his disciples a new Companion; his Holy Spirit, and a commission to fulfill his Father’s mission that would make all his followers his representatives on earth (21-23). Like these early disciples who saw their crucified Lord, we also on account of their testimony and by faith can be assured of Jesus’ living presence and thereby have access into God’s presence (cf. Heb. 4:16; 13:5). This is precisely how, even today, Spirit-filled believers when gathered in Jesus’ name can in reality experience ‘Jesus in their midst’!
Dr. Chris Gnanakan