Fans of classic country music will likely know that the great Merle Haggard was inspired to become a country music singer after seeing Johnny Cash play live while incarcerated as a young man at San Quentin State Prison in California. Growing up in North Carolina, I remember hearing that Jimi Hendrix, when he was young and unknown, got booed off the stage in Greensboro while opening for The Monkees. To this day, children in Britain are told about the time when King Alfred the Great, one of the most famous medieval kings, was on the run from a Viking army and sought shelter at a huntsman’s home. The huntsman’s wife invited him in, not recognizing him as the king, and asked him to watch the cakes she had baking in the fire while she went to finish her chores. When she returned, she found that Alfred had neglected the cakes and they had burned. She proceeded to scold the great king for his laziness, and in some versions even beat him with a stick! The stories of hidden greatness go on and on.
These stories are always good for a smile, as if we are now in on the joke. But do we ever truly know who stands among us? Aren’t we all more than we present?
“Among you stands one whom you do not know” says John (v. 26). Jesus is already there among them, but they do not know it. This is why John has come, to point out Christ in our midst.
John’s invitation stands whenever we find ourselves in the company of others: to look around and perceive the Christ in our midst.
Does your faith rest more on what you know of God, or on what you do not know?
God, open my eyes to your presence in the hidden depths of others this day. Amen.