…among you stands one you do not know.
– John 1:26 (ESV)
Before His ministry years, before His baptism and temptation, Jesus was virtually unknown.
It had been some time since the strange rumors of the birth of the long-hoped-for Messiah had made the rounds. Supposedly some herdsmen had seen Him lying in a cattle trough. And later, strangely dressed foreigners had come to pay their respects. But that was a long time ago. The excitement had since faded to a memory, and life under gentile subjection went on as usual.
To those of Nazareth and the neighboring towns, Jesus was just another young man. He was Joseph the carpenter’s son (Matthew 13:55), and while He was unusually well behaved, kind, and astute on scriptural matters, He was probably going to continue in the same occupation Himself (Mark 6:3).
We take our knowledge of who Jesus is for granted. The apostle John wrote in his gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…
– John 1:1-3, 14 (ESV)
These familiar words are perhaps the most direct statements of the deity of Jesus to be found in all of scripture. John wrote them towards the end of his life, after decades of knowing Jesus. But at the time Jesus walked the earth, the truth was hidden from him, along with virtually everyone else. Jesus appeared to be just another good Jewish boy.
Even John the baptist, who was sent by God to prepare the way for the Lord, who leaped in Elizabeth’s womb at Mary’s presence, was in the dark. He didn’t know his own cousin was the Christ (John 1:33). Surely mom would have pointed Jesus out to him one day: “Look dearest! There’s the long promised Lord and Savior!” (Luke 1:43,68-79)
Perhaps they didn’t grow up together.
I expect the first thirty years of Jesus’ life appeared, for the most part, unusually ordinary – at least to those who were not personally acquainted with Him.
Who has believed what they heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him
– Isaiah 53:1-2 (ESV)
There was nothing in Jesus’ appearance or deportment that proclaimed “Messiah”, “Savior”, “Lord”. It would take John the Baptist to fulfill that role.
When you consider the humble obscurity of most of Jesus’ life, it’s amazing the impact of His last few years, and how quickly His ministry took off.