Before Jesus started his public ministry, John the Baptist said to some of the religious leaders who were part of a crowd of on-lookers, “Among you stands one whom you do not know” (John 1:26). That’s the way it seemed to be with Jesus: people might be looking right at him, but they didn’t see him. Three years later, at the end of his ministry of preaching, teaching and healing, his disciples still didn’t get Jesus: “Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father ‘” (John 14:8-9).
After his resurrection, it became possible for people to see and know Jesus in a new way. Just before he ascended into heaven, he said, “Remember, I will be with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). After the first community of believers had felt Jesus’ presence in their lives for a few decades, the Apostle Paul summarized their experience in an even more profound way, as “this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Philippians 1:27). Not just with you, but in you.
Now, here we are, 2,000 years later, and we still have trouble seeing Jesus. We are assured by the Bible that his presence in us is a reality, yet we don’t recognize him. And by not seeing him in our lives, we cheat ourselves of the fullest enjoyment of our spiritual blessings.
Dr. A. J. Gordon, a great preacher of the nineteenth century, told the story of a farmer who owned a small piece of land and just scraped by making a living off of it. When he died, his son inherited the property and shortly thereafter discovered a vein of gold on it. After that, he lived a life of plenty without ever having to work the farm again. They both had owned the same land, but the one lived poorly because he didn’t know what he had, while the other lived richly because he did. Gordon commented, “The difference between the two depended entirely upon the fact that the son knew what he had, and the father did not know.” The spiritual lesson, said Gordon, is “It is not what we have but what we know that we have which constitutes our spiritual wealth.”
A classic hymn, written in 1653 by Johann Franck and translated in 1863 by Catherine Winkworth, reminds us of the great Treasure buried in the field of our faith:
Jesus, priceless Treasure,
Source of purest pleasure,
Truest Friend to me.
Ah, how long in anguish
Shall my spirit languish,
Yearning, Lord, for Thee?
. . . .
Those who love the Father,
Though the storms may gather,
Still have peace within;
Yea, whate’er we here must bear,
Still in Thee lies purest pleasure,
Jesus, priceless Treasure!
Are we, perhaps, living poorly when we could be living richly, all because we aren’t aware of the Treasure within? Is Jesus unrecognized in our daily lives? Can he be saying to us, “Have I been with you all this time, and you still do not know me?” If so, we are only cheating ourselves.
— Pastor George