Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Would you recognize Christ?


While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.-
Luke 24:15-16

By Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.

The resurrection story is without a doubt the most powerful story ever written, and rightfully so. God conceived it from the beginning of time, and throughout the course of history scripted, directed, and produced the timeless drama of Jesus' victory over death and the gift of eternal life for all of us.

Since boyhood, I have been fascinated by those events; I wish I could have been there that first Easter morning.

Imagine the awe and fear of the women when they met the angel sitting at the entrance of the tomb and the angel asked, "Why are you seeking the living among the dead?" Chill bumps cover my arms when I envision the chaotic excitement of the disciples scrambling to figure out what was happening.

Then word was received that someone had actually seen Jesus, had spoken to him. The emotions in that single moment had to be indescribable!

Scriptures do a very good job of telling us what took place that day. But allow yourself to consider the stories behind the story, and a profound experience of faith awaits you.

The unrecognized Christ

One part of the Easter story that holds me spellbound centers on the inability of all those people who came in contact with Jesus to recognize him in his resurrected form.

Mary Magdalene had been a devoted follower. She knew more about Jesus than anyone, even more than his disciples. On the morning she went to the tomb to anoint the body of Christ, he appeared to her.

But she mistook him for the gardener.

Mary Magdalene failed to recognize Jesus until he called her by her name. Then she turned and proclaimed, "Teacher!" (John 20:16)

On the same day, two followers were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a distance of 7 miles. Along the way, a stranger joined them in their trek. The followers shared their disappointment and frustration over losing "the prophet who was mighty in deed and word," and they seemed to resign themselves to a hopeless future.

It was not until dinner, in the breaking of bread, that the two realized they had been talking to Jesus. After he again disappeared from their sight, they asked one another, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road and opened to us the Scriptures?" (Luke 24:32)

Another instance of the risen Christ unrecognized is described in John 21:4. Peter, John, and five other disciples had spent a fruitless night on the lake. At daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach, but the men did not know it was him. Jesus asked, "Children, have you caught any fish?"

They answered, "No."

He said, "Cast your net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some."

The fishermen did as they were instructed, and Scripture records their haul was so heavy they were not able to pull it into the boat. Then Peter knew the advice came from Christ, and the disciple immediately swam the lake to be with him.

The Easter message

I believe God wants you to understand your own story within the stories of people on that first Easter. The risen, unrecognized Lord comes to us still today and meets us at our daily work, in our homes, in our churches, and in every ordinary place.

As with Mary, he calls us by our names. Just as he did with the disciples walking on the Emmaus road, he is willing to walk with us and move us beyond our fears and doubts because of the breaking of the Bread of Life.

I shudder to think many people believe the Easter story is limited to the time that Jesus walked the earth as a man.

The Easter story is also one for today, for now! It beckons for the attention of those too preoccupied in their pursuit of material things; they fail to recognize that Jesus is the most important possession they can own. It cries out to people who have given up hope, who are captives of grief and disappointment, and who think life is not worth living. It speaks to those who are in pursuit of life but don'
t know where to look for it.

Life is here, within our reach right now! Life is in Jesus! He has been let loose from death to do far more for you than you could ever imagine.

Look for him; open your heart. Jesus is just a prayer away. Once you see what he can do for your life, you'
ll never be the same.

Since Jesus came into my heart

American sculptor Lorado Taft (1860-1936) was on a summer vacation. He and his family were staying in the lake country of the northern United States. They hurried through their evening meals in order to watch the sunsets.

One evening, their maid asked if her parents could join the Tafts to watch the sun set. The sculptor agreed, but added the maid'
s father and mother had likely seen hundreds of sunsets.

"No, sir," she replied, "we never saw a sunset until you came!"

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I never knew how wonderful life could be until Jesus came into my life. Invite him into yours this Easter.


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