Recognizing Jesus: Those Who Didn’t

“Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Luke 5:21

If you think of anyone most qualified to recognize Jesus it would’ve been the PHARISEES!

Pharisee.TorahWe give them a bad wrap today because we know the end of the story, but they were actually a beautiful movement of the day. These were the devout ones who LOVED the law! If you enjoy Psalm 119, you certainly would’ve wanted to have been a Pharisee as well. There were about 6,000 of them in the day of Jesus. We see them today as a legalistic bunch, but only because their love for the law caused them to want to apply it to every conceivable aspect of life. After the return from exile they purposed that such a thing would never happen again, and that this time around they would be better stewards of the law. They were only trying to be helpful. What good is the law if you can’t apply it to your life?

We should also know that the Pharisees were of the people, and for the people. The Sadducees were much more austere, removed from the general public. They were the aristocrats, if you will. The Sadducees were more political and were concerned with the temple. But, the Pharisees were of the people and were concerned with the law. Pharisees were people of the BOOK! And how could they go wrong? They, above anyone, were set up to recognize the Messiah at His appearing. But, they missed Him – when He was right before their eyes!!!

Who is this who speaks blasphemies!?!

Do you mean that the object of their hope was sitting right before their face and they missed him? Yep, that’s exactly what happened.

Later in this passage – to prove that Jesus had authority to forgive – He heals a paralytic man. In response, the crowd walks away saying (in verse 26), “We have seen strange things today.” Yes, Jesus does strange things! That word ‘strange’ here comes from the Greek word: paradoxos. You can see our English word in it: paradox. And the Greek word literally means ‘contrary to expectation.” It seems that when Jesus shows up, He does things contrary to expectation. So if you really have your expectation set, it can throw you for a loop.

One of the biggest shocks of my life was the day my son was born. My daughter came in a very slow and methodical way (18 hrs), so I was fully expecting Ezra to be born in like fashion. Instead, he came in 2 hrs, with no doctor in sight and nurses running around wheeling tables. Minutes before I was twiddling my thumbs in the hospital room, and before I knew it I was in the midst of chaos, listening to the sound of my baby’s cry (mingled with my wife’s!). Not how I was expecting it to happen.

This is the way Jesus seems to move in our life. Contrary to expectation! 

So our expectations can sometimes get us in trouble. I thought this, He did that. I thought that, He did this. What do I cling to? What I think, or what He does? See the Pharisees clung to what they thought. They were so convinced of their own opinion, that they missed Jesus. Didn’t recognize who He was. They were expecting a conquering king, not a suffering servant. They were expecting Messiah to show up at the temple with glistening sword in hand to deliver them from the Romans, not to emerge in some remote village tending to a paralyzed man.

Everything was so out of context for them. Ever not recognize someone because it’s ‘out of context?’

You may know a person as your friendly clerk at Safeway, but then you see them at the fair and you don’t know them from Adam. They look kind of familiar, but you’re at a complete loss… especially when they flash you a big smile and say, “Hey! How’s it going?!”

“Good!” And after an awkward exchange, you confess, “Now, how do I know you?”

“I’m the clerk at Safeway.”

“Oh, yes! Yes. I know that!!”

It’s a context thing, right? They belong at Safeway, not at the Clark County Fair! We contextualize things.

And the Pharisees did as well. Their mental context for Messiah was glory, not humility; conquest, not defeat. So when the Messiah showed up… they missed Him! They didn’t even recognize who He was.

But let’s not just blame the Pharisees; we do a fair bit of contextualizing of Jesus our self.

  • Jesus belongs at church, not in my home when I’m writing checks and paying bills.
  • Jesus belongs in my quiet time, not at my front door when I get a solicitor.
  • Jesus belongs in my Small Group, not at the intersection with the guy sitting on my tail pipe.
  • He belongs in my pre-conceived notions, not outside of my boxes!

I believe it’s in the unexpected moments and in the unforeseen ways that Jesus tends shows up. These moments and ways may seem small and the still, dull and boring, even irritating and exasperating. But be alert, be flexible… for He comes with opportunities for growth, He arrives with needs to supply, and He shows up for our fellowship in some of the most unique ways. He might disappoint your expectation, he might appear out of context, but Jesus shows up all over our life by the moving of His Spirit. And it requires of us eyes to see and ears to hear. Amen.

Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 
And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
And the King will answer them,
‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:37-40

One comment

  1. Glenda Adee Rogers · · Reply

    Very insightful! A good read.

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