Sometimes Jesus is right in front of me and I don’t recognize Him. I feel so dumb when this happens. But at least I’m in good company.
Luke describes this phenomenon a couple of times. One time, on the same day that Jerusalem’s crowds welcome Jesus with jubilant shouts of “Hosanna,” we later find Him weeping. Instead of basking in the crowd’s worship, He laments that they “did not recognize the time of God’s coming” (19:44). Jesus had been living, teaching, and ministering right under their noses, but they didn’t really know Him. They didn’t understand what He was doing or who He really was. Why? Because they thought the Messiah should look and act the way they thought He should look and act. The Carpenter from Nazareth didn’t play the part they had written for the Messiah.
Another time Jesus joined two men on a seven-mile stroll from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Scripture says that “although they saw him, they didn’t recognize him” (24:16). Why? Maybe it’s because they, too, had expectations of Him that He hadn’t met. “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (24:21). “But,” they explained to incognito Jesus, “Our chief priests and rulers had him condemned to death and crucified.”
I pray and hope and expect things of Jesus, too. I sometimes pray about relationships, and hope that He will intervene according to the way I pray. I sometimes pray about work situations, and expect that things will start to fall into place in more or less the way I’ve prayed. I sometimes ask for relief and rescue from painful circumstances, and count on Jesus to meet me in the way I think I need to be met.
But often He doesn’t respond the way I ask or hope. So I become disappointed and wonder where Jesus is and why He doesn’t seem to show up.
One of those “But I’d hoped . . .” things happened this week. I’d prayed a long time about a specific situation and God seemed to be answering. Things were coming together, and I was relieved and grateful. But then, completely without warning, everything changed.
The wind was knocked out of me. I was disappointed. And frustrated. Like the Emmaus road guys, I sputtered to God, “But I thought . . . I had hoped . . . I was sure that You were . . .”
God let me sputter for a while. And then, quietly, it was as if He whispered, Over here! You’re looking in the wrong place—I’m over here!
Sometimes we need Jesus to open our eyes before we can see Him. That’s what Jesus had to do with the Emmaus road guys. And that’s what God had to do with me this week
While God didn’t show up the way I asked Him to and thought He would, He did show up. He assured my heart that even though I don’t understand what He is doing, He is in the middle of my situation, and He is at work. He’s doing things for me that I wouldn’t have known to ask. He’s addressing needs I didn’t even know I had. He helped me see things I hadn’t noticed before, and put into big-picture perspective details I hadn’t accounted for.
I still have questions, and the situation remains unresolved, but He is in this. I see Him now, and that’s what’s most important. At the end of the day, I’d far rather walk and talk with Jesus like the Emmaus guys did than have Him answer my prayers the way I think He should!