Have you ever been standing at the grocery store checkout or walk into a movie theatre and someone speaks to you? They obviously recognize you. They call you by name. You just can’t quite place them. You know you know them, but from where? If they had been dressed like you normally see them…had been in the place you usually see them…you would know them right away. But at the movie theatre or a restaurant…
Luke 24 tells about 2 men who didn’t recognize Jesus. The chapter begins with the story of the resurrection. Exciting things in only 12 verses! Beginning with verse 13 the familiar “Road to Emmaus” story unfolds. It contains a phrase I’ve always wondered about. Verse 15 states (NIV) As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. (NRSV) …but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. (Message) …but they were not able to recognize who he was.
But clearly they both knew first-hand about the events that had happened surrounding the crucifixion. I have always wondered about them not recognizing Jesus. The phrase “were kept from” would seem to indicate that God purposefully kept them from knowing who He was. But some of the other translations make me wonder: Was it because they were so engrossed in their conversation…the events of the day? Were they so sure he was dead that it never occurred to them that it could be Jesus? Were they so self-absorbed…so caught up in their own grief that they were unaware of anything else?
This makes me wonder in my own life: when do I not recognize God walking along with me? Am I so caught up with the events of my day that I don’t recognize Him when God clearly shows up? Am I so self-absorbed…so sure that God works only one way…that I’m unable to recognize Him if He shows up in an unexpected place?
There have been times…moments…events in my life where God was so evident…so recognizable. It’s easy to point to those and say “God was with me”…”God showed up that day.” Have you ever been to a revival, a conference, a camp in the past where you experienced God so profoundly? Most of us can point back to some times…or a time…and say “That was God!” “God was there!”
But wait! The Bible says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It tells us Never will I leave you or forsake you. So if Jesus is the same, He’s always present, what is “keeping my eyes” from recognizing…realizing…His presence?
Years ago I heard a story about a man who was concerned with his wife’s hearing. He was visiting with his doctor and he told the doctor about his concern. The doctor told the man to determine how bad the hearing problem was. He said to start out 20 feet away and ask a question. Keep getting closer until she can finally hear you. So when the man got home, his wife was standing at the stove with her back to him. He said “What’s for dinner?” No response. So he moved up closer, “What’s for dinner?” No response. He finally got about 5 feet behind her and said “What’s for dinner?” She turned around and said “For the third time, we’re having chicken!”
Could it be that we just need to move closer to Jesus? Could it be that there are so many distractions, so much clutter around us, so many voices vying for our attention that we can’t recognize Jesus. Even though He’s walking along with us all the time…even though as we talk and discuss things Jesus is right there…but we don’t recognize Him.
Maybe, if we get closer so we can shut out the distractions, if we make a conscious effort to look for Him…not just on Sunday morning, but in everyday life…we’ll see His hand at work. We’ll hear His voice. We’ll know His presence.
Johns Creek Baptist Church