YOU HAVE THE TIME?
Years ago, I was in the library at Seminary doing some research and this quite old and distinguished gentleman, obviously someone of great stature, he approaches me and asks, “Peter, can you tell me what time it is?” I was quite taken back. I had been at Seminary for less than a week and I had never met this man before, I only knew a handful of people, and most of them were just other students, how did he know who I was? “You know who I am?”, I asked. “Yes, of course. Are you going to tell me the time?” So, I told him the time and he went on his way. I had forgot to ask his name. Over the next few weeks, he would, suddenly appear, ask me the time, and then be on his way before I had the nerve to ask who he was – I don’t know, here I was this young man from casual California now at this Ivy league school, everything was so proper, so high brow, so different than what I had grown up with, I found him intimidating.
Later that week I was walking with a group other first year students to class and this same old distinguished gentleman walks by us, nods his head and says, “Hello Peter”. “YOU KNOW BRUCE METZGER!” exclaims one of the other guys. “How do YOU know Bruce Metzger?” Ahhh, that’s who he was. I didn’t know I knew Bruce Metzger. It turns out that Bruce Metzger was a retired professor from Princeton who was one of the most celebrated and famous biblical scholars of our time. Just a brilliant and godly man.
After that we would exchange short conversation and were on a first name basis. I would be in the library, even in an out of the way corner and still Bruce Metzger would find me. It didn’t matter where I was in that vast library, it seemed he would eventually surprise me, and ask the time. Certainly he would have to travel quite a distance to ask the time. Certainly he would have to spend time finding me. Certainly there was an easier way to tell time, “Peter, do you know what time it is?”, “Bruce, it is 3 o’clock”, and that was that.
Then one day, I asked, “Bruce, all the time you come up to me and ask me what time it is.” “Yes.” There are plenty of other people in the library, why do you always ask me what time it is?” “Because you have a watch.” (I’m not making this up) “Bruce, have you ever thought about buying a watch, then you will know what time it is and you won’t have to ask about the time?” “Why would I need to buy a watch, when I can just ask you what time it is?” And he was off to his research. This kind of thing went on for years.
It was only later I my studies at seminary that it began to dawn on me how significant Bruce Metzger was. In virtually all my biblical research at school, somehow, somewhere the name Bruce Metzger would inevitably pop up. It was everywhere. He was always referenced by authors, he was in footnotes, he was quoted - a lot – look long enough and deep enough in biblical research and it seems Bruce Metzger has had something to do with the content of the biblical study. To say that he contributed much to our understanding of the Bible, would be an understatement.
When I first met Bruce Metzger I knew instinctively that he was an important man, how important, I didn’t have a clue, I had no idea who I was dealing with. Here this morning in our Scripture we see a similar thing happening, only on a much more significant scale: The people instinctively know Jesus is an important man, so important that they give him praise, but truly, they do not have a clue who they are dealing with.