“But among you stands one you do not know” (John 1:26).
We’ve all experienced it. A long lost friend you haven’t heard from in years suddenly calls you up. He’s cheerful and so thrilled to be reconnecting. You get caught up on each other’s lives, and the conversation is warm and you wonder why you haven’t kept in touch.
Then there’s a pause. The pause gives your brain just enough time for the question to creep into your mind, “Why is he calling?” Then it happens.
“So, the reason I’m calling is I’ve recently started a new job as a ___________________ and I’m wondering if we could meet up so I could share more about it.”
Kick-to-the-gut. In one quick sentence you went from a beloved friend to a potential customer. You went from confidant to consumer. You went from feeling loved to feeling used. A second ago you felt like he genuinely wanted to rekindle your relationship and get to know you better. Now you feel like a means to his career ends.
Has this happened to you?
Before we look down our noses at such folks, let us admit how easy is it to do this in our relationship with God? How many of us at times treat Christ as a means to our salvation, our comfort, our forgiveness rather than Someone to grow in friendship and divine community with?
Do we see Jesus as the conductor at the door of the Salvation Train, standing by to punch our ticket so we can quickly leave Him behind as we hurry toward our Heavenly destination?
Just before Jesus launched his public ministry, he was hiding in the shadow of John the Baptizer. John is about to step aside and point all his disciples in Jesus’ direction. Now ponder these words of John to his disciples, “Among you stands one you do not know” (John 1:26). Obviously, John now wants to move heave and earth to make sure his followers make it their new top priority to get to know the One who stands among them! That’s why John will soon say, to quote Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase, “This is the assigned moment for Jesus to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines” (John 3:30).
“Among you stands one you do not know” (John 1:26). He’s already among them, yet they do not yet know his true identity. He’s already among them, but they have no clue of the power that resides in his ordinary looking human frame. He’s already among them, but they don’t yet realize “all things were made through him.” He stands among them, yet they are still looking to John to lead them. He stands among them, yet they do not know the eternal destiny of millions of souls are in this Nazarene’s hands.
He stands among us today as well, and how often do we overlook him?
He stands among us in worship each Sunday, even those times when we are just going through the motions, mouthing the words of songs while our minds are far away and preoccupied other things.
He sits among us on our commute to work every morning while we listen to the morning radio talk show and miss his morning blessing.
He stands among us in our current emotional valley, but do we know his comforting presence and healing embrace?
He stands among us in our relational storms, but do we know his reconciling Spirit that whispers “Peace” into the conflict?
One of my greatest fears as a pastor is that I would have spend so many years and so many sermons telling people all about Jesus, but at the end of the day many never came to know Him personally in an experiential and intimate way. I know this is not a pastoral fear to wish away because Jesus said the dangerous possibility is very real. A bunch of devout religious people doing a bunch of religious deeds in Jesus’ own name were the one’s to hear the sobering words from the Master’s lips:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them,
“I never knew you; depart from Me…” (Matt 7:21-23)
But today we take heart in the mind-boggling truth that Christ still stands among us, hidden in plain sight, or in the shadows of other lesser things waiting for us to notice. He wants to know us and be known by us in ever deepening ways. The Pilgrimage of the Soul we are on at MainStreet is an invitation to enter more fully into the spiritual communion Christ wants to nurture in our inner being. Christ says, “I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you…When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14).
Let it never be said of us from this day forward, “Among you stands One you do not know.”