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140

XL

THE UNKNOWN CHRIST

“He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.”—John i. 10.

THE past tense sometimes deludes us. The things we look at seem to be so far away. We are spectators of events and not actors. We are critics of the faults of others, and not their fellow culprits. When we read of the doings of far-off yesterdays we so easily assume the voice of the judge on the bench instead of taking our place at the side of the prisoner in the dock. We express ourselves in stern judgment and fiery indignation. We build ornate sepulchres in honour of the prophets whom our fathers murdered. Anybody can wax wroth over the iniquities committed a thousand years ago, but this sort of thing can be combined with a blindness towards similar iniquities in which we share to-day. Therefore it is a good thing to 141change the tense of the record, to convert it into the present, and to read it as a transcript of what is happening in our time. Let us do so with this great word from the Gospel of John: “He is in the world, and the world is being made by Him, and the world knows Him not.” The change in the tense makes the happening immediate. The event is going on. We are actors in the scene. The words beat with the pulse of the present day.

“The world knows Him not!” The unrecognised Christ! He is in our streets. He is busy in our common life. He is making a new world. And we do not know Him! Perhaps He is busy destroying things as a preparative to more constructive work, and we do not detect His presence as these old strongholds of iniquity crumble away. Or perhaps He is working away from the accepted spheres of power and influence and we have not looked for Him in such unlikely places. We have not expected any good thing to come out of Nazareth. We do not anticipate that the great Renewer will be attended by a retinue of fishermen. Perhaps we are looking for something spectacular, 142and we have no sight for the quieter presences, the less glaring things which enter in at lowly doors. Or perhaps we are giving alien names to things which really belong to Him. We so frequently surrender the Master’s treasures to the possession of the world. We fail to see His seal upon them. Some apparently common coin which bears the superscription of the Lord! Some “mere morality” which is really a fruit of the Spirit! Some virtue which is a child of grace! We do not see the marks of the Lord Jesus upon them. In all these ways and in a hundred more our Lord may be in the world, and the world is being made by Him, and we know it not.

One of the most precious endowments in the Christian life is an apprehending spirit, a healthy delicacy of soul, which can detect the hidden presence of the Lord. I think it is Bagehot who makes much of Shakespeare’s “experiencing nature,” a rich equipment of responsiveness which enables Shakespeare to enter into the lives of clowns and statesmen, of peasants and courtiers, or merchants and kings. Well, what we need as disciples of Christ is an experiencing nature, 143exquisite in its apprehension, which can discern the secret place of the Lord. “Thy grace betrayeth thee!” And if we are to have this fine scent for the things of the King’s gardens, we shall have to get rid of all our benumbment. Our spiritual senses may be deadened by sin, they may be blunted by formality. Prayerlessness makes us spiritually dull, while intercession makes us vigilant. Prayer makes us watch. We become alive unto God.

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