And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and he vanished out of their sight Luke 24:31
It was one of those moments again – when I stumbled across someone who definitely knows me but I couldn’t for the life of me remember who they are. No doubt you have experienced it as well. If not, well you are blessed with a great memory. The last time this happened to me was recently at an extended family celebration. He said, Hi and began talking … I had to interrupt him and say, “I’m sorry I not sure I know who you are.” Even when he introduced himself I struggled to make the connection – but then again, I have not seen him in over 20 years.
I think we can sometimes mistakenly not recognise Jesus.
I have always been fascinated by the story at the close of Luke’s Gospel, where we see the disciples disillusioned, confused, and fearful following Jesus’s crucifixion. Luke tells us that on the Sunday of Jesus’s resurrection, two of them were walking to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.
This is also one of my favourite stories in the Bible. There, these two disciples, were talking together about everything that had happened the previous week when suddenly Jesus himself came up and walked along with them – but they were kept from recognising Him. He asked them why they were so downcast, and they responded in disbelief by asking Him if He were the only visitor to Jerusalem that didn’t know what had happened there over the weekend.
The delightful irony of their question was that He was the only one that did know what had happened. His explanation to them of the significance of these events was detailed, profound, and persuasive, going right back to the writings of the prophets, as He unfolded the eternal plan of God.
The seven miles flew by and before they realised it they had arrived in Emmaus. They invited Jesus to join them for dinner. He accepted their invitation and as they sat down to eat, Jesus became the host when He took the bread in His hands and gave thanks to the Father for it. Suddenly, their eyes were opened and they recognised Him. As Jesus left them the fatigue of the miles they had walked that day vanished and they joyfully and immediately returned to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples the good news Jesus had shared with them.
But what has intrigued me each time read this story is why did they not recognise Jesus?
My thoughts went to this question again this Easter as I challenged myself if there were times when I failed to recognise Jesus.
I first took a step back from Easter Sunday into Good Friday. There on the Cross we read where even God the Father refuses to ‘recognise’ Jesus. The Father who has loved the Son since the beginning, and for eternity, withdraws recognition of his beloved Son. And the Son can only cry out, in a sense, “My Father, why can’t you even look at me?” Our sin made it impossible for God to look at His Son.
Ours is not about withdrawing recognition, but our expectation when I comes to recognising Jesus.
Like the disciples, many people have a fixed view – Jesus is not here. The disciples didn’t expect to see Jesus, so they didn’t. Whether it was the way He broke the bread that perhaps reminded them of a meal they had shared with Him previously or whether as He did so, they suddenly noticed the wounds in his hands, I don’t know.
We too get used to only meeting God at church or in our quiet times. In all the other places, we don’t expect to see God…so we don’t
We also get so wrapped up in the events of our day that at times it is hard to step aside from our day to day activities and remember to look for Jesus.
We may occasionally turn our face to God during the day and ask him to show us himself – but are really expecting to recognise Him.
Some find it difficult to be prayerful at any time, except praying during their quiet time. Again, expectation is low.
But Jesus was there every time and we did not recognise Him.
Unless we live with the eternal in mind, we tend to live not by faith, but by sight. Yet it is by faith that we recognise Jesus.
We must have our eyes opened by God. For unless our eyes are open and believe in the Resurrected Jesus for our salvation we will never recognise Jesus.