Recognizing Jesus

I wonder if you speculate as I do if we would recognize Jesus when he appears at the end of time. A somewhat quizzical statement I admit. Obviously, the query would be just addressed to Christians who, as it happens, will be celebrating the birth of their elder brother, Jesus the Christ, this holiday season and are eagerly awaiting his return one day soon.


The Preaching of St. John the Baptist by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1526
The Preaching of St. John the Baptist by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1526

But if he walked into the room today, how would you recognize him? Even John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament era prophets, who had been foretold by Isaiah as the one who would “prepare the way of the Lord,” even John confessed he had not recognized him as the One. He said it not once but twice, to emphasize the divine intercession of revelation that took place:

“I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” (John 1:31-34).

So how would you and I fare then if the Christ walked by. Not much better, I daresay. The truth is, even Jesus said that we, his sheep, would recognize him by his voice (John 10: 1-5), which actually seems counterintuitive. After all, we’re in the habit of recognizing the face first and then the voice. In fact, when we recognize a voice we automatically turn to see the face to make our identification certain. No such test is necessary if we see the person first.

But if John required a divine revelation after spotting Christ, then we would as well. We would recognize his voice with the aid of the Holy Spirit. Sound familiar? Well, familiarity happens to be the key. Consider where the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ voice meet. A place that should be as familiar as the person of Christ himself since that is where he speaks to us: the word of God.

What more needs to be said, except to be ready for his return, soon, God willing! “For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts …” (Psalm 95: 7-8).

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