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Recognizing Christ

by Bob Docter –

“If only … “

It all started there, but then, went nowhere.

In life, the same “if” clause reverberates through the generations – even to today with the same result.

Jesus was dead. Self-made plans by his followers had to be abandoned. The leader was in a sealed tomb, guarded. This was the end of the line.

Cowering in an upper room contemplating the losses, his most intimate followers were drowning in their own grief. It was over, done, finished. They felt empty – hopeless as they cycled through anger, depression, self-doubt and despair. Questions came to mind – some expressed, some only filling tortured minds. “Why didn’t he defend himself?” “Where was God when really needed?” “Why didn’t he do something?” “Why didn’t I do something?”

They thought they had known him better than anyone. They knew his smile and his frown, his laugh and his concern. They had experienced his approval and his reprimand. Most of the taunting crowd demanding his crucifixion and the Roman soldiers who had whipped and tortured him knew him not at all.

But these few, crowded in their pain amidst the Passover tables, had known him very well – his voice, his face, his tone, his bearing. They had lived with him for years and most had known him even earlier around the Galilee.

Now, this man whom they had called Master, was dead – and they were marked men hiding in a locked room.

As dawn began to break on the first day of week, Mary Magdaline and some of the women went to the tomb with burial spices. In shock they found the stone removed and the grave empty. Quickly, they ran to tell Peter and John that the body had been taken.

They left immediately and raced to the grave with Mary to see for themselves. Peter went into the tomb while John bent to view it from outside.

Behind them, Mary wept at the desecration of her Master’s tomb and the theft of the body. She heard a voice behind her ask:”Woman, why do you weep?”

It was Jesus.

Turning to face him, she failed to recognize him and presumed him to be the gardener. Through her tears and sobs she said: “They have taken my Master, and I don’t know what they have done with him. If you have taken him, please tell me where you put him so I can care for him.”

Jesus simply said: “Mary.”

Hearing his voice say her name, almost collapsing, startled and unsteady, she reached out to him and said: “Rabboni.”

He warned her not to cling to him, but to go and tell the good news to his brothers. This she did

She knew him very well, yet she had failed to recognize him until he called her by her name.

She wasn’t alone with the failure to recognize Jesus. When she returned to the room to carry out his instructions, they didn’t believe her.

Later that night, Jesus entered that locked upper room and stood among them. They felt different, but seemed perplexed. Then, he showed them his hands and his side, and they believed.

Many need evidence in order to believe. They have forgotten that a need for evidence overwhelms faith. Thomas re-entered that same room eight days later and refused to accept that Jesus was alive until he had personal evidence of the nail holes and wounded side.

Jesus obliged. He directed Thomas to hold his hands and press his fingers into his side and said: “Don’t be unbelieving! Believe.”

Thomas said: “My Lord and my God.”

Jesus replied: “You believe because you have seen me. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”

In another incident two travelers were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus and joined by a third. The two explained what had occurred in Jerusalem and, as night was falling, urged him to come into an inn with them. He obliged, and they perceived the reality that their fellow traveler was Jesus as he broke bread and prayed with them.

None recognized him physically. But all came to believe as he stood before them.

Why didn’t they recognize him? Why don’t we?

They didn’t know what he looked like – even though he described himself fully to them.

He is out there among the “least – those most overlooked or ignored.”

As we minister on his behalf to those who hunger and give them food, to those who thirst and give them drink, to the homeless and give them shelter, to the shivering and give them clothes, to the sick and imprisoned with whom we visit – then we recognize and discover Christ among them.

Listen – listen – can you hear him calling your name right now?

Pipe dreams

Pipe dreams

BodyBuilder by Terry Camsey, Major – In the Los Angeles County Museum of

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