The unrecognized Christ is one of our greatest problems. It is not a new problem.
There were times when even Jesus’ disciples did not recognize Him. On the lake once they did not realize it was Jesus with them. At the tomb Mary did not recognize Jesus. John 20:24 says, “And when she (Mary)…saw Jesus standing, … (she) knew not that it was Jesus.” Of course, the classic example of this failure to recognize Jesus is the experience of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. “But their eyes were holden that they should not know Him” (Luke 24:16).
There are many reasons for the failure to recognize Jesus—preoccupation with something or someone else; confusion and bewilderment; tragedy and sorrow; doubts and misgivings. The failure of these early disciples in recognizing Jesus is not an isolated or unique experience. Many today fail to recognize Him. He is ever present, yet often not recognized. Paul emphasized this fact in Romans chapter one—“that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has showed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20).
In some cases they don’t want to recognize God. They would rather think He did not exist because He might demand of them what they are not willing to give. The awful thing about all this is that Jesus can remain unrecognized even in the lives of those who call themselves Christians. We must recognize Him, honor Him and loyally live for Him.
Because of this failure to acknowledge Jesus even among those who take His name, I think we must become aware of this basic fact—Jesus Christ exists, He is really alive. Put simply—Jesus Is! Christianity is far more than merely a religion. It extends beyond the ethical. It is more than an idle dream. Authentic Christianity is not made up of a band of sentimental idealists. It is not a fantasy. It is not fictional.
Jesus Christ is the living dynamic of Christianity. It is not a lifeless, loveless, hopeless philosophy. It is filled with love, brimming with life, alive with hope. Jesus is the life, the love, and the hope of our faith. It was because of this that Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Now abide faith, hope love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Jesus died, that is true. The cross of two thousand years ago is still symbolic of His death. “God commends His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:8-10). Note that He died bringing us to God, but it is HIS LIFE now that is the saving factor. Dying was not sufficient. He had to rise from the dead, to live again. Paul said, “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. ….. If Christ be not raised you are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep (dead) in Christ are perished” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17-18). He is alive!
Jesus is! “Is” is part of the verb “to be.” It is the present tense. He is right now! This is the verb of existence. Indeed, Jesus is! That is to say, He exists this very minute. He is alive. He is loving. He is working. He is saving. He is real now. Jesus is! That statement is the affirmation of reality; the acknowledgement of existence; the authentication of life!
Jesus is. He said of Himself, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is, who was, and who is to come” (Revelation 1:8). He said in the same book, “I am the first and the last. I am the living one! I was dead, but look, I am alive forever and ever. I have authority over death and the world of the dead” (Revelation 1:17-18). Hebrews 13:8 declares that Jesus is “the same yesterday, today and forever.” The Jesus of yesterday, the Christ of history, did not stay in the grave. He is alive today. He is alive forever. The author of Hebrews talked of the heavens and all of creation. He said, “They shall perish…. They shall be changed: but you are the same, and your years shall not fail” (Hebrews 1:12). It would not be enough to be the same yesterday, today and not be the same forever. The Revelation begins, “Grace be unto you, and peace, from Him (Jesus) who is, who was, and who is to come” (Revelation 1:1).
Jesus Christ is alive right now, Jesus is! We must experience Him in all His reality and power. The object of my faith is not a doctrine, not a program, not a philosophy. The object of my faith is Christ Jesus. To me history is simply His-Story. I believe Jesus has always been and will continue to be the focus of life. God has made it so. He is the Lord of History, time, heaven and earth. He is Jesus. Romans 14:11 says, “For it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess to God.” We cannot escape God. He is not merely a convenient idea, a philosophical necessity. He is a real being. He is Supreme Being. He is Ultimate Being. Acknowledge Jesus Christ at this moment. He is real. He is alive. Recognize Him. Submit to Him.
Jesus alone is the answer. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father, but by Me” (John 14:6). This is how the great hymn writer put it:
He lives, He lives,
Christ Jesus lives today!
He lives, He lives,
Salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives:
He lives within my heart.
Dr. Jerry Hopkins is a historian and retired university professor