Recognizing Jesus

In three out of the four gospels, there’s something wierd about Jesus’ resseruction. 

The wierd thing is that three independent accounts of three indepent events describe how hard it was to recognize the risen Jesus.

Some of Jesus’ own disciples spend the whole day talking to somebody.  It’s only at the end, when he breaks the bread and prays over it, that they recognize him.

Elsewhere, he shows up when some of them are fishing.  It’s only after several minutes of fishing tips, God-style, that they recognize who he is.

The book of Mark is the most debatable.  It simply says: “when they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.”

 Even if we discount this last example, there’s some pretty fascinating things going on.

NT Wright’s “Surprised by Hope” suggests that all of Christ’s followers will end up with bodies like his in the next life.  (I think Paul says some similiar things to this.)  Perhaps this is part of the explanation for the stuff in the epistles that seems to say that we won’t recognize each other in the afterlife.  (Anybody know where that is, by the way?  It was mentioned in small group last week, but none of us could come up with the reference.)

Interestingly, he doesn’t appear all glowing like in the transfiguration.  Everybody involved seems to mistake him for some other ordinary (though wise) person.

In the first two cases, Jesus does something which might have evoked memories his disciples had before.  When he does it, it seems like the light just suddenly turns on, and they get it.

Jesus not only broke bread with his followers numerous times… but the last time he did, he turned it into a pretty striking and major lesson.  

And when he met some of the disciples first, they were fishing.  Jesus promised to make them “fishers of men”

It almost seems like one of those optical illusions, or one of those magic eye things.  Once they see Jesus for who he is, there’s this sense of “How could we possibly have missed it before?”

 I’ve been thinking lately about expectations and predictions.  We can worship the living Jesus or we can worship our expectations of him.  If we worship our expectations we can miss the real risen Christ, even when he is right under our nose.


Published by


The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

2 thoughts on “Recognizing Jesus”

  1. i’ve always found it comforting that Jesus had “no form that we would be drawn to him”. i take that to mean he wasn’t sightly. Remember Eugene Levy (Splash)? i like to imagine Jesus looking a bit like him.

    Maybe his resurrection (correct spelling) visage was something like Brad Pitt. It could be that he had ‘guns’ or maybe was clean shaven for the first time. i don’t know. The important thing seems to be that before and after resurrection, Jesus’ appearance frustrated our natural inclination to judge by what we see with our eyes.

    It is a caution we would be wise to apply everywhere.


  2. I’ve never heard of anyone in the Christian fold saying that we would not recognize each other in the hereafter, nor have I read any Bible text that even remotely implies this.

    Speculators abound. The off-the-wall Church father, Origen of Alexandria, said that at the resurrection of the dead, our spiritual bodies would be perfect spheres. If that were true, well, yes, I might have a hard time recognizing some of my friends and they wouldn’t be able to recognize me in that form. But that was speculation.

    I like to think of the resurrected body of Jesus and of our own resurrection bodies using this metaphor: At present, in our natural life, our spirits are somehow contained in our bodies, and that makes us look the way we do. In “the life of the world to come” our bodies will be somehow contained in our spirits, and that will make us look, well, different than we look now.

    Could it be that this kind of inverted relationship between body and spirit is also what is behind what seem to be some of the special characteristics of the resurrection body? Like being able to pass through a door without opening it. (Remember, the doors were all locked, when Jesus was suddenly among His disciples.)

    This inversion of nature/supernature might be why the disciples didn’t recognize Jesus at first, and it may not have anything to do with a visual distortion. We do not really see with our eyes, but with our minds. The eyes can sometimes get in the way of our really seeing something. That is one of the reasons why Christ said, “If your eye is single, your whole body will be full of light.” He didn’t mean that we have only one physical eye, but that the eye “of the heart” is single.

    Jesus in His resurrection body had all the characteristics of a normal person, he walked on the earth, he ate and drank. We don’t see Him sleeping, however, but He can suddenly appear anywhere. These are some of the things we might expect of a man whose body is living in His spirit, rather than the other way round (our spirits living in our bodies). But even before His death and resurrection, He could walk on water, and appear miles away from where He had been only moments before. There is so much we cannot understand right now. But as scripture says,

    “…now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s