One Whom You Know Not

MP3 Audio:  WS330322_Dn-Joseph_One-Among-You-Whom-Ye-Know-Not.mp3

This homily was preached on Sunday Morning, December 22, 2013,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.


Gospel Reading:  John 1:19-28

“But there is one among you whom ye know not.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. God is One.

With seven billion people in the world, there are a lot of them that I don’t know, many presidents I have never met, many athletes I have never seen in person, many rich and wealthy people with whom I have never dined. And I’m perfectly okay with that.

But there’s one person who I cannot afford to not know. That’s Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God. That’s one person whom you cannot afford to not know.

And so what a damning indictment it is on the Israelites, on the Pharisees, on the Levites–those who have been specially set apart to proclaim the coming of the Messiah, to share the Gospel of the Kingdom with the world–what a damning indictment it is on them when John the Baptist says, “there is one among you whom you know not”.

If you don’t know Him, it doesn’t matter who you know. Whenever you see this sort of indictment in the Scriptures, where a person or even an entire people does not know God, does not know Christ, we need to do a look into our own hearts to see if there is any similarity between us and that person, us and those people. Because that’s a mistake we cannot afford to make.

When we look at the people who did follow Christ, we have repentant task collectors, we have repentant prostitutes, we have smelly, uneducated fishermen. And yet what of Caiaphas, the high priest of God, set apart to go into the Holy of Holies once a year at Yom Kippur and to offer sacrifice for the whole nation? He didn’t recognize Christ. For the most part, the Pharisees and the Levites did not recognize Christ.

Now this is the Gospel reading for today, that we look at John the Baptist, and that we look at him in adulthood. But this is also the fourth Sunday in Advent, as we prepare for Christmas, as we prepare for the Nativity of Christ. And when we rewind 30 years, we see that even in infancy–even before being born–John is the forerunner, and that those who would be most expected to know who Christ is, and to be looking for his coming, are the ones who know him not.

We know that while Jesus and John were both in utero in Mary and Elizabeth, that they visited one another. And as it says in the Gospel of Luke, while still in the womb little John the Baptist was doing back flips! He was jumping! He was excited, because he knew that his Lord, his Master, His Savior was in the same room with him. Even in the womb, he is preparing the way. He is saying, “There he is! There he is! There’s Jesus, the Lamb, the Son of God who comes to take away the sins of the world!” And immediately Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Ghost and she prophesies.

Then after his birth, as we look at Jesus in infancy and we look at the various events that took place, think of a Nativity scene. Think of who you see there. Of course Mary and Joseph. But you also see shepherds: lowly, humble blue collar workers. You see foreigners: people who were not raised up among the people of God, traveling from far, far away. Kings from the East. Wise men who had come to worship the Christ child. Caspar, Balthazar, and Melchior bowed the knee to Christ, for they recognized Him as King. We hear about the angels. That’s fitting that even the exalted angels from on high, from the heavenly places, would sing to their King and to their God.

We see the angels, we see Mary and Joseph, we see the shepherds, and we see gentile Kings from the East.

Where are the Pharisees? Where are the Levites? Where are Israel’s priests that were supposed to be telling everybody that Messiah is coming? It is God’s chosen people. These are the religious leaders. These are the ones who were supposed to be holding the torch and passing it from generation to generation, and going out and telling the whole world about God. And yet, they knew him not.

There is not one Levitical priest, not one Sadducee, not one Pharisee that you see worshiping Jesus at the manger. And thirty years later, who is it but the Pharisees, the Levites, the Sadducees, the Priests, the godly leaders of Gods holy people, who do not bow in worship, but scream at the top of their lungs, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! We have no king but Caesar!” These are the words spoken by the religious leaders of God’s chosen people? As John the Baptist so aptly said, “there stands one among you whom you know not.”

This should make us sober. This should also make us hopeful. It should make us sober, lest we think that two thousand years later, that human nature works any differently. Do you think that since you are in the Orthodox Church, that you know Him? Because you go to an Orthodox Church and you see a Priest there in robes, a Bishop, a Metropolitan, a Patriarch, do you believe that is a guarantee that person knows him?

I believe it is one of the Church fathers that said the road to hell will be scattered with the skulls of many priests and bishops. We even know some of their names. There was an Orthodox Priest by the name of Fr. Arius. There was a patriarch of Constantinople named Nestorius. Do they sound familiar? Do you think that today’s priests, deacons, bishops, metropolitans or patriarchs are incapable of falling into just as grievous sin? Do you think that you yourself, or your spouse or your child or your parent–even if in the Orthodox Church–do you believe that it is impossible for them to fall into this same lack of knowing Christ?

We need to sober, we need to vigilant, we need to be watchful. But we should also be hopeful. Because even though the Levites did not show up, even though the Pharisees did not show up, did that mean the world just totally failed to recognize the coming of the King?

No. It wasn’t just the angels that showed up. The shepherds were still there. And even the kings of the East, those who were thousands of miles away from the constant preaching of the Gospel, thousands of miles away from the temple, thousands of miles away from these teachers of the Torah, of the Scriptures, they had hearts that were warm and open to the Light of Christ, and God made sure that they got the message. And they were willing to journey thousands of miles just so they could bow the knee to this newborn King.

So do not despair, even if you do see somebody in your family, somebody in the clergy, somebody in high leadership do something that makes you question their faith. For you will not answer to God for them, you will answer to God for you.

And if you have a heart that is open to Christ, you don’t have to be a religious leader, you don’t have to be a high priest, you don’t have to be Levite. You don’t have to be a deacon or a priest or bishop or a patriarch. You can be a humble shepherd that smells of the sheep that you sleep with, wet with the dew of heaven that you sleep under at night.

And if you’re watching for Him, not out of curiosity, but out of a heart’s desire to obey and to worship Him, then the angels themselves will appear before you and will announce to you, “He is here! He is here! The newborn King is here. Come and worship!”

God sees our hearts. And depending on the state of our hearts, that should either make us fear, or it should make us rejoice. And if you’re like me, it’s a little of both. Let each of us repent. Let each of us be sober and vigilant. As it says in Scripture, the enemy the devil like a roaring lion prowls about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).

Do not volunteer to be his meal.

But humble yourself before Christ. Settle it in your heart that you are going to obey Him, even if everybody else disobeys. Settle it in your heart that you are going to worship Him, even if the whole world says, “Crucify Him!” Settle it in your heart that you will be Orthodox, even if you see a priest or a bishop who is trampling Orthodoxy under their feet. Make sure that you are faithful. Make sure that you are submitting to Christ daily. Make sure that you are following in the footsteps of the holy fathers of the Orthodox Church.

And never, ever become complacent, thinking that just because you are one of God’s chosen people that you will automatically get in. For it was not being an Israelite that brought people to the manger in worship, and that brought people to the Cross in belief and faith and humility. But it is humble hearts that are willing to submit to Christ, to love Christ, and to live for Him no matter what. That is the spirit of Christmas right there, that spirit of humility, that spirit of worship, that spirit of following Him and worshiping Him, even if not one single Levite or priest shows up.

And if we have that spirit about ourselves, we will know Him as Savior. We will be saved. Let us not be one of those people to whom is said, “there is one who stands among you whom you know not.” Those are words that I never, ever want to hear.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit our God is One.


This homily was preached on Sunday Morning, December 22, 2013,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.

About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
Video | This entry was posted in 1 Peter 5:8, Fr. Joseph Gleason, John 1:19-28, Luke 1:41-42. Bookmark the permalink.

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