I did not know him! John the Baptist seems surprised. Perhaps a little disappointed. Here is the one I have been preaching about, looking for, anticipating, and I didn’t know him. Finally John saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus. Then John got it. OOOOHHH, He’s the one. John comes to insight.
This failure to recognize Jesus is common in spiritual histories.
St Martin of Tours, when he was a soldier came across a beggar one dark and stormy night. The beggar was shivering in the cold. Martin, then a Roman soldier, took his sword, cut his heavy military cloak in two and gave half to the beggar. That night in a dream Jesus revealed to Martin that the beggar was himself, Jesus. However, at the time Martin did not recognize Jesus.
So if many holy people like John the Baptist and Martin of Tours had difficulty recognizing Jesus, maybe we could have trouble recognizing Him as well.
Why is it so hard to recognize Jesus? Perhaps we have wrong expectations; looking for someone handsome, coifed, long flowing colorful robes that are well tailored and immaculately clean like the holy pictures,… but maybe He is poor, hungry, worried, sick …..
Pope Francis for his Birthday a few years ago had breakfast with homeless men. Maybe Jesus was there? What do you think?
John the Baptist saw Jesus with his eyes. But John did not recognize him. This is not really John’s fault. Our human ability to recognize what is really going on, who is really before us, is quite limited. Like John, we need the Holy Spirit in order to recognize what is really going on, to see beyond the surface, beyond the wrapping, to perceive what is real.
In a way, we spend most of our day blind; not recognizing what is really occurring. First of all we often fail to recognize WHOSE we are. We like to think of ourselves as independent and free, not beholden to anyone.
But that leads to profound isolation and pointlessness. We are God’s beloved children. That awareness gives purpose and meaning to our lives. Only when we truly see and recognize WHOSE we are,
that we are created by God to be in a loving relationship with God, can we really know and understand our lives.
Only then can we truly see who Jesus is; not just a good man, not just an example of how to live, not just a challenge to our behavior, but as something fundamentally much greater, as a Savior, someone powerful enough and engaged and loving enough, to save us from a pointless, meaningless existence. Powerful enough to save us from our sins.
All of us need to be healed of blindness. Not physical blindness, but the blindness of our hearts, to see how we are all children of God, and how we are brothers and sisters. We need to be healed of the blindness that keeps us from seeing why we are truly here, what the meaning and purpose of our life is all about, how we are brothers and sisters, how what we do or fail to do is important, and how Jesus offers us the fullness of life and happiness.
What do you see? You know, Jesus could be in this church right now. Would we recognize Him, would we know Him?
What if we expected to meet Jesus every day? What would it be like if every day when you get up you said to yourself: where am I going to find Jesus today? What is He going to look like? How am I going to respond?
The Holy Spirit had to show John the Baptist who Jesus was. Coming down in the form of a dove. Personally I find that kind of cheesy, overly theatrical, but it worked. The Holy Spirit had to reveal to St. Martin of Tours in a dream who Jesus was.
We too need the gift of the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of our hearts to see Jesus. He’s sitting right next to you.