I’ve heard people say how exciting it would be to have lived at the time of Jesus—to see Him, follow Him, hear Him teach. What an incredible experience! Yet I wonder, would I have recognized Him? Would I have believed? Been indifferent? Scoffed? I hope I would have recognized and accepted Him as Messiah, but many did not.
“What about the prophecies?” we may ask. Jesus fulfilled all the Old Testament prophecies. Didn’t they see? Didn’t they understand? We are looking back, putting all the pieces of the puzzle together and seeing the whole picture. They, with their preconceived ideas of how those prophecies would be fulfilled, did not recognize what was taking place in their midst.
No doubt other infant boys were born in Bethlehem around that time. Unusual circumstances? Yes, but those were unusual times. Oh, there were stories about shepherds seeing angels and strangers arriving from the East who talked about a bright star, but things were so chaotic with the crowds and the taxation. Who knows? Then one day the family was just gone. No one knew where. People soon forgot the couple and their baby. Nor was Jesus the only rabbi (teacher) who walked the dusty roads of Palestine, teaching any who followed Him. Others had claimed to be Messiah, and no doubt others would come later. As the folks of Nazareth said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22, NKJV). And in their minds they may have added: “And wasn’t there a question about His mom and a rushed wedding?”
Consider the times when even Jesus’ own disciples did not recognize Him.
- He walked on the water toward them, and they were afraid (Matthew 14:25–27).
- Mary Magdalene saw Him at the tomb and thought He was the gardener (John 20:14–16).
- Two disciples walked with Him on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, some seven miles, and did not realize it was Jesus (Luke 24:13–35).
We live in a world where many still do not recognize Jesus. They do not look with eyes of faith, much like those in Nazareth who thought He was “just Joseph’s boy.” But it’s not just the non-Christian who does not recognize Jesus. We too may be guilty of overlooking Him in our life’s situations. Perhaps one reason we do not see Jesus in our circumstances is because we have fixed ideas of how He will work. This mindset—putting Him in a box—limits our vision of Him and His power in our lives. Jesus is waiting for us to see Him for who He is. He wants to move outside the boundaries we have set that limit Him. We must open our eyes. God is at work.
Making It Personal
Have you ever seen someone out of their “usual place” (such as the librarian at the grocery) and you didn’t recognize her? Why does this happen?
Has there been a time when God was at work in your life, and you did not recognize Him until later?
In what unexpected ways has the Lord come to you?
How can you help others recognize Jesus?
Resources and Links
A version of this article was published in Reflections.
Seeing Jesus by Daniel Koren – If you are new to the idea of who Jesus is or you are just tired of Him being buried under steeples and religious lingo, this book is for you. Do you want to be excited about life again? Do you want to understand how Jesus is actively involved in your day, your goals, and your future?