In John 20 after Jesus’s resurrection, Mary Magdalene was standing outside the empty tomb, crying. Jesus appeared to her and asked: “Woman, why are you crying. Who is it you are looking for?” (John 20:15, NIV)
Mary Magdalene, a faithful disciple of Jesus, didn’t recognize him. She thought he was the gardener. It was not until he spoke her name that she recognized Jesus.
In Luke 24, while a group of disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus, Jesus met them and began walking with them. Though they were discussing the crucifixion and resurrection, they did not recognize Jesus–not until they stopped to eat, and Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them.
How could this be? Would we have recognized Jesus? Do we recognize Jesus today? We can’t answer the first question, but we can answer the second.
In Matthew 25, not too long before the Last Supper, Jesus told the parable of the sheep and the goats who stand in judgment before the Son of Man. He said to the sheep: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance…For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:34-36)
The sheep were perplexed. We didn’t see you in those circumstances, Lord. We didn’t do those things for you. The goats were perhaps more perplexed because they were told they had seen the Son of Man in the same circumstances but had done nothing. They too protested.
Jesus replied: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Or “whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Matthew 25:40,45)
And what about us? Do we just walk by people like those Jesus described almost every day? And do what? Not recognize Jesus?