A Pause to Ponder God's Word
"Recognizing Jesus"

Have you ever noticed that Jesus' followers had difficulty recognizing Him when He appeared to them after His resurrection?  He appeared to Mary and she thought He was a gardener. (John 20:14, 15) He appeared, walked and talked with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and they did not realize it was Him. (Luke 24:13-32) He yelled to the disciples in the boat fishing and they did not recognize Him. (John 21:4) Why couldn't they recognize Him? Did their grief blind them? Human pain and suffering can do that. It can give the illusion that we're all alone and we do not recognize those around us, even our closest friends. Could it have been their lack of expectation? Jesus had died. They knew death was final, so they did not expect to see Jesus again. Even if this man looked like Jesus, it could not be Him. He was dead. Or could it be that they were kept from recognizing Him? Could it be that they were being taught a new way of seeing Jesus?

Though they each did not recognize Jesus right away, they did have their eyes opened. In each case something happened that opened their eyes to the startling realization - it's Jesus! Mary recognized Jesus when He spoke her name. The two disciples had their eyes opened when Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them. The fact that it was Jesus on the shore dawned on the disciples in the boat when they had the miraculous catch of fish after following His instructions. The gospel writers' care in detailing these events makes us take notice. It would seem that these events taught these disciples that human sight could not see the resurrected Jesus. Spiritual senses are needed to see Him now. It is also noteworthy that each eye-opening incident refers back to teaching that Jesus had done earlier. Now He was showing them and us just want he meant.

What these disciples learned is essential for us to learn. The way in which they were taught to see Jesus is the way we, who have never seen Jesus physically, are to see and recognize Him. In Christ we have the grace and senses needed to see. Just because we don't recognize or hear Him doesn't mean that He is not with us. We need to learn where and how we can see and hear Him. These incidents reveal important lessons for us to learn. As we learn over the next few devotionals, be sure to be listening and looking because Jesus is here.

"Recognizing Jesus by His Voice"

With her eyes swollen from crying and in shock from having found Jesus' tomb empty, Mary turns and sees a man standing off to the side. (John 20) She thinks He is a gardener. Then He calls to her by name and the scales that blinded her from recognizing Jesus fell away. She knew then it was Jesus! She did not recognize Him when she looked at Him or in the short conversation prior to His speaking her name. It was His voice calling her name that brought the recognition.

Jesus earlier taught His disciples that He knows His sheep and His sheep know Him; He calls His sheep by name and they know His voice.  (John 10:3, 14) Mary needed to learn that although Jesus would soon not be with her physically, He would be with her. She would be able to recognize Him when He called her name. She would know Him by his voice.

  It is vital that we learn the lesson Mary learned. We are to recognize Jesus by His voice. There are many voices screaming for our attention today. They can easily distract us. The loudest ones tend to get our attention. They must not distract us. Rather, we must draw upon God's grace and provisions to tune our ears to His voice. It is not about tone, inflection or manner of speaking. It is about His Spirit witnessing with our spirit to our "son-ship" that enables us to recognize His voice. Granted, there is learning and conditioning involved. But it is imperative that we know that God has given His people the ability to hear.

  We may feel uncomfortable with this, because we have heard people talk about the bizarre things they claim God or Jesus told them to do. Do not be frightened. He will never speak anything contrary to his Word. He does and is speaking to each of us - by name. We are His sheep and His sheep recognize His Voice.

"Recognizing Jesus - The Bread"

  The two disciples walked with Jesus to Emmaus, but their eyes were opened and they recognized Him when He broke the bread. At that moment they looked at each other and said, "Were our hearts not burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"  (Luke 24:32)  Jesus told the disciples on the night He was betrayed that whenever they ate of the bread and drank from the cup they were to do so in remembrance of Him. These disciples were now learning just what He meant. They soon would no longer see Jesus physically, but they would be able to remember and recognize Him in the Bread - in the partaking of the Lord's Meal.

  Someone once noted that if we could travel the speed of light, time, as we know it, would stand still. At the speed of light it would always be now - the present. Jesus told us that He was the light of the world. He also is "I Am." The writer of the Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. Each truth affirms that Jesus is the "ever present one." Though Jesus died on the cross 2000 years ago, there is a sense that He is dying for us now. His death and resurrection is for all time. Jesus, in His death and resurrection, is present with us as we partake of the bread and cup.

  When we are around the table with the body of believers partaking of the bread and cup, we see Jesus. His presence and Word burns within us as we gather in communion with Him. This is no ordinary meal. It is not mere ritual.  We must never trivialize this act. It is communion with our Resurrected Lord. As we partake our eyes are opened and we recognize Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 11 we are also told that when we partake we "proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." This proclamation involves four components. First, there is confession - of our sin, of Jesus' dying for our sin, and Him as our Savior. Second there is commitment - our commitment to go the way of the cross and holiness. Third, there is celebration - celebrating life in Christ made possible by His grace. Fourth there is communion - communion with Christ and with the His people, the "community" of believers.
Beloved, do not neglect the Table for in the elements we recognize Jesus and His grace flows in us making us more like Him. We may not see Jesus physically, but we can see Him in the Bread and the Cup.

"Recognizing Jesus in His Miracles"

  Confused by all that had taken place over the last several days, the disciples decided to go fishing.  After a full night of fishing they had nothing to show for their efforts. As the sun peaked over the horizon a stranger called to them from shore. He instructed them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat. The disciples followed his instructions and when they pulled in the net from the sea it was filled to breaking capacity. At the sight of this miraculous catch their eyes were opened and they recognized that it was no stranger; it was Jesus!  The miracle He performed brought clarity of sight. (John 21)

  When Jesus walked the dusty roads of this earth He downplayed His miracles. He would tell people not to tell others what He had done. The miracle was not to draw attention to itself. It had a purpose. That purpose was revealing Jesus. "Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves." (John 14:11) The disciples were learning this lesson anew on the seashore that day. It was through the miracle that their eyes were opened. This has not changed. Today we can see Jesus in His miracles.

  We struggle with miracles. On one hand we expect them to be spectacular, supernatural phenomenon. On the other we are miracle skeptics. When someone testifies to a miracle, we roll our eyes in suspicion. Our skepticism is unfounded. Jesus performs miracles everyday. Is the miracle of Christ granting sustaining grace in the midst of crisis any less of a miracle than if the crisis is removed? Is the miracle of God's "all surpassing power" being at work in us any less of a miracle than a man born blind being given his sight? Is the miracle of the cancer being cured through surgery any less a miracle than the cancer that mysteriously disappears? Is not Jesus ultimately our healer regardless of what instruments He chooses to use? James tells us that every good and perfect gift comes from God. (James 1:17) Does this not suggest that every good and perfect gift can be considered a miracle of God's grace? What about the miracle of the transformed life? Can there be any miracle greater than a sinner forgiven and made new?

  Please do not think that this trivializes miracles. Quite the contrary. Seeing miracles we consider small conditions us to see and accept the miracle we consider great. Let us be careful not to define miracle too narrowly or too broadly. They are happening all around us for Jesus is performing miracles everyday. We but need the eyes to see them. And when we do, we see Him.

  If Jesus were to physically appear in our worship services today, would we recognize Him? Some might suggest that if we are truly His we would.  I'm not so sure we would. We would not until He spoke, opened the Word, broke the Bread or performed a miracle. Then our hearts would surely burn within us, our eyes would be opened and we would recognize Him.
Stay alert. For we need not wait until He appears physically in our midst to see Him. By His voice, in His Word, through the bread and cup, and by the miracles we can see Him today - even now.

Keep Close To Jesus
Pastor Gerry

A Pause To Ponder God's Word is written and distributed by Gerald Whetstone, Ordained Elder and teacher in the Church of the Nazarene. These devotionals may be transmitted, duplicated, used in part or in entirety without permission for nonprofit purposes only. Responses welcome. To Subscribe Click Here.
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