The Invisible Man

Once upon a time there was a man. He was not particularly good looking and there wasn’t anything that caused him to stand out or even necessarily be noticed in a room full of people. He did have a quiet peaceful countenance that you would have noticed if you had any personal interaction with him, but beyond that there was nothing special about him. If you paid attention you might have caught an occasional glimpse of sadness in his eyes, but most of the time he seemed to be upbeat with an inner contentment that transcended his rather drab surroundings.
This man worked in a cabinet shop. In fact, it was his father’s shop. His father had passed away some years before and now he ran the business. As the oldest of his siblings, it seemed natural that he would take over the family business. And you could tell without him saying so that he was the sort of guy who would be quite dedicated to his widowed mother. Like any other business owner, he dealt with a steady stream of issues and problems, but always with good humor and a sense that his work was important but not all-important. All in all he seemed like a good man who was nothing special. His name was Jesus of Nazareth.

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. (Isaiah 53:1-2)

I want you to take a few minutes and consider with me what it must have been like for Jesus during those years in the carpentry shop. For approximately 17 years he lived a life of obscurity yet fully aware that he was God’s Son. He went to school with other Jewish boys and was a big brother to his siblings. He began to learn his earthly father’s trade at an early age and became very skilled at making beautiful things out of wood- a prophetic omen of his future ministry and destiny. He knew what it meant to feel lonely and yet he was never truly alone, for as he matured he became keenly aware of who he was and who his true Father was. We don’t know how young he was when this began to dawn on his consciousness, but we do know that he was fully aware by the time he was twelve years of age.

Every year at the Passover festival Jesus’ parents used to go to Jerusalem. When he was twelve years old they went up to the city as usual for the festival. When it was over they started back home, but the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, without his parents’ knowledge. They went a day’s journey assuming that he was somewhere in their company, and then they began to look for him among their relations and acquaintances. They failed to find him, however, and turned back to the city, looking for him as they went. Three days later, they found him-in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. All those who heard him were astonished at his powers of comprehension and at the answers that he gave. When Joseph and Mary saw him, they could hardly believe their eyes, and his mother said to him, “Why have you treated us like this, my son? Here have your father and I been very worried, looking for you everywhere!”

And Jesus replied, “But why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2: 41-49)

As mentioned above, Jesus lost his earthly father sometime after this, and he took over the family business and became the “man of the house.” Only those who have run their own small businesses can full appreciate the forging of character that comes with such ownership. (This writer speaks from personal experience!)  Although his work was always done with excellence and his customers were treated with infinite kindness and service, Jesus undoubtedly dealt with an ever-changing plethora of problems and challenges. He knew what it was like to receive inferior materials, late shipments of wood and other supplies, to have tools break, customers who could not be satisfied no matter how hard he tried to please them. He was tempted in all things, yet without sin. If you can run a small business and not sin, you have accomplished something!

In the midst of his family issues and business challenges, Jesus encountered perhaps his greatest challenges when he went to the temple each week. Like King David before him, loving God was not a once-a-week activity for Jesus. I can imagine him talking to his Father during the work day, meditating on the scriptures, growing deeper in his knowledge of who he was and what he was to do in the fullness of time. I can further imagine how he must have taken time, early in the mornings and later each evening after leaving the shop, to walk and talk with his Father.

Consider how it must have been for him to go to the temple each week, knowing the Father and the scriptures as he did, and have to endure the lifeless ritualistic services. How it must have vexed his righteous heart to see the lost sheep of Israel having no shepherds, how painful to hear the scriptures that so excited his spirit and illuminated his mind and heart read without passion or understanding. He must have listened to countless hours of religious dribble when the scribes would haggle over nuances of the law while completely missing the heart of the Father. Perhaps he even listened as the prophetic promises of the coming Messiah were twisted and misinterpreted, even as they are today. Can you imagine? God Himself in the flesh, enduring such apostasy, arrogance, error, and boredom in his Father’s house… and yet there is no record of him ever opening his mouth to rebuke or correct during his hidden years. Perhaps he did occasionally read from the scrolls in the synagogue, and when he did it was like the scriptures came to life!

The fact is that Jesus Christ was hidden for most of his life. Consider the seasons of hiddenness that he submitted himself to. He was hidden in birth, away from home and the apparent illegitimate child of a promiscuous young girl. He was hidden from his family and peers growing up. He was hidden in his young adult life, working in a carpentry shop. Throughout this time in his life, he was like an arrow being polished in the hand of the Master. Isaiah speaks about this hiddenness in chapter 49.

Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. (Isaiah 49:1-2)

Notice the emphasis on being hidden and concealed in this passage. Jesus was hidden in the Father’s hand as he was being formed and polished, and then he was concealed in the Father’s quiver, waiting for the day that he would be shot like an arrow into the public ministry he was born for. Jesus never sinned, nor did he have any character flaws. But he was prepared and formed as an arrow in the Father’s hand for the ministry he was given. Hebrews tells us that, “He learned obedience through the things that he suffered.”

Even during his 3 ½ year public ministry he was only partially revealed. When Peter, James, and John saw him transfigured on the mountain, they were getting a glimpse of the “real” Son of Man. For 99% of his life, Jesus lived as one of us with his full glory hidden. He healed many, raised a few from the dead, and taught with authority, but few if any really knew him. Perhaps Mary of Bethany was one who saw his glory hidden within his flesh. But even his own inner circle of male disciples did not know him at the time of his death.

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? (John 14: 8-9)

After all the thousands he taught, healed, and ministered to, only 120 people came to the prayer meeting he called after his resurrection and ascension. And yet, he changed history. Millions, possibly billions, of people have sworn allegiance to him. He is returning to take over the governments of the earth, and his kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom. The Father has given him the nations of the earth as his inheritance, and in his goodness and humility he is sharing that inheritance with his faithful followers. His love and humility is overwhelming to consider. He is the most beautiful man who has ever lived, and at the appointed time the whole earth will know and worship Him as Eternal King.

Today, Jesus remains hidden from most of humanity. Whether through ignorance, deception, or willful rejection, the world knows virtually nothing about who this man truly is. Even within much of the church his glory is filtered through religious templates that portray him as a baby at Christmas time, or the suffering servant of the Gospels. As vital as it is to know him as savior, this is not the final or greatest revelation of Jesus in the New Testament.

On the island of Patmos his aged disciple John saw him unveiled in his glory once again, as he had seen him when John was a young disciple on the mountain. Jesus’ glory is so great that even his closest disciple, who had already experienced this transformation once before and who had served his Master into his old age, fell at Jesus’ feet as though dead.

I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was one like a Son of Man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. (Rev. 1:12-17)

Jesus showed John a great vision of His plan to transition the earth out of this present evil age into the glorious new age. We know this vision as the Book of Revelation, and it unveils more about the Son of Man than any other book of the bible. The four gospels reveal Jesus as the suffering servant; Revelation reveals Him as the Prince over all the kings of the earth. Many are looking for the suffering servant to return and will be offended in him when he returns as the conquering King who executes evil leaders and replaces the governments of the nations with his own leaders. This is the story of his Millennial Kingdom, told throughout both the Old and New Testaments. God gave us this unveiling of his Son so that we could partner with him as his bride and stand in agreement with his judgements.

The earth is about to be shaken like no other time in history. The nations have no idea what is about to befall them. The King of Glory, hidden in the hand of the Father, is about to be fully revealed. For those who love his appearing, this is a time of great preparation and anticipation. For those who have rejected this man, great woes lie ahead.

Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?” (Revelation 6: 15-17)

The hiddenness of Jesus is an example for us to embrace and follow. While the Father has chosen to reveal a few of His elect in part during the present season, most of the body of Christ is hidden in obscurity. For every Billy Graham there are thousands that have small assignments, with circles of influence that affect just a few people. Many seek the Lord about increase for their ministries, frustrated that no one seems to notice them or their gifting. We often labor under the delusion that size of ministry and scope of influence determine who is successful. It is important to understand that God looks on the heart; He is after relationship with us first and foremost. There are many who have been given a measure of influence but have no depth of knowledge of God- not knowledge about Him, but the knowledge of Him. Paul declared that this knowledge was so valuable that he considered all his other accomplishment to be garbage in comparison:

But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yes doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ… That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death… (Phil. 3:7-10)

We come to know the Father through the seasons of our life. We are tested with seasons of favor and seasons of obscurity… but mostly obscurity. Like Jesus, we are hidden in the hand of the Father, being straightened and polished into an arrow that He can use. We are then hidden in His quiver until the time appointed for us has come. This is not to say that we should not work hard in our present assignment- Jesus worked hard- but rather that we embrace hiddenness knowing that the father sees us at all times.

He loves us and is moved with the posture of our hearts more than the apparent success of our endeavors. Consider that before Jesus ever preached a sermon, before he ever healed a sick person, before he ever did a miracle, the Father spoke from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” God knows every facet of your life; He will reveal you in due season. Many janitors and single moms will stand with Jesus on that great day when he is revealed; many pastors and leaders will be ashamed when their work is revealed by fire to have been mostly wood, hay, and stubble. Come to know Him in the hidden secret place, and you will know Him in a way that can’t be experienced any other place.

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.  (Isaiah 53: 10-12)