John relates an event in his gospel with a hint of the miraculous and mysterious (John 8:59). Jesus made a bold declaration in the temple: “…before Abraham was, I AM.” It incensed the Jews. John reports, “Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” An obvious explanation might be, they were ‘blinded’ by their anger. While it is often true that people can be blinded by anger, I want to explore what I think is a deeper meaning.
It is not unusual for people who call themselves believers to look around and find themselves alone. Jesus is nowhere to be found. This “hiding”, it seems to me, is not by His design, but by the distance people willfully allow between themselves and Him. Whenever a life takes to groping around, dazed and uncertain, as though Jesus had hidden Himself, you can be sure that person has deliberately or absent-mindedly moved away. They have closed their eyes to His presence.
He may be hidden from our view if we move back into yesterday. He stands forever beckoning us forward and upward. If we move back into sin, we lose contact with Him. Years ago when I was a pastor, a man was saved through the ministry of our church. He became a regular in attendance. He was one of those “every time the church doors were open” type of person. Something happened in his life, and he dropped out of church. He turned to alcohol. He became as faithful to the tavern as he had been to church. One of my deacons met the man coming out of the tavern. The former church member said to him, “I thought you were my friend. I rarely ever see you. You don’t come around any more.” The deacon replied, “We just don’t go to the same places or hang out with the same people these days. I am still in church with God’s people who love you. Won’t you come back? We really miss you.”
Jesus may be hidden to some who appear to be on the right road, but are going the wrong direction. Like the Jews in Jesus’ day, they attempt to reduce faith in God to a legalistic set of rules. Adding to the Gospel or taking away, they specifically prescribe a particular mode or method of things like baptism or communion. They may choose to accept only one translation of scripture (their preference), or allow only one type of music. Rather than abounding in grace, they narrow the perspective to include only those who see things ‘their way’. The circle gets smaller and smaller until even the Lord is left out.
He appears to be hiding to those who get caught up in signs and wonders. Except they see physical manifestations of His presence, they lose confidence in Him and His promises. Like Thomas, unless they can see nail prints with their own eyes (John 20:25), they drift away. And similar to Thomas, they may miss Him when He comes. “But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came” (John 20:24). Jesus had a disdain for a signs approach to Him. Matthew 12:38: “Then certain of the Pharisees answered, saying, ‘Master, we would see a sign from thee.’” Multiple times during His ministry, Jesus refused such requests. To demand observable signs as an evidence of His presence leads to a ‘sight walk’, not a ‘faith walk.’ He rebuked those in His day saying, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” The sign He was referring, of course, was His death and resurrection after three days.
If it seems at times that Jesus is hidden from your view, rest assured He has not moved away from you. The Apostle Paul declared in Acts 17:27 “…He is not far from each one of us.” He is nearer than our hands and feet. He is closer than a brother. He has not moved away, it is our choice to allow distance to exist between Him and us.
Psalm 145:18, “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”
~ Brother Roy