It may well be that we're looking for Jesus in the wrong places.
When Saul was on the road to Damascus to persecute early disciples of Jesus, Jesus met him in a blinding vision. "Saul, Saul," he said, "why are you persecuting me?" (Acts 9:4). Wait a second. Saul was causing trouble for Christians, not for the Christ, right?
But Jesus said Saul was persecuting him.
This is because by his Holy Spirit, Jesus lives inside his people and is organically tied to them, so that Jesus can say, "As you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me" (Matthew 25:40). The saints, Jesus' faithful followers, are in fact where we encounter Christ this side of heaven. We speak his voice, with his words (see Romans 10:14 NASB; 1 Peter 4:10-11). He has put into the mouths of his people the Word of the gospel, the proclamation of forgiveness. He has given us power to release people from their sin or to exclude the unrepentant from fellowship with him. Jesus said to his disciples after his resurrection,
"Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld." (John 20:21-23)
Think about that. Jesus commissioned his disciples with the power to proclaim or withhold his own words of forgiveness (see also Matthew 16:19). Could it be that in our silent, private confessional times we do not break through to relief because we're not swallowing our pride enough to go to a brother or sister with our sins? It's as if Jesus is saying, "I was standing there, ready to assure you of my love and grace, of the wonders of my cross, with arms open wide--if you would but come to me! I was there, ready to be found by you in the arms and words of your brother, but you would not go to me there. As you did not do to the least of these my brothers, so you did not do it to me."