“Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not recognize that it was Jesus.” (John 21:4)
The Gospel of John reports that seven of the disciples went fishing on the Sea of Tiberias sometime after Jesus’ resurrection, but they did not recognize him as he called out to them from shore. It was only after he suggested they cast their nets on the right side of the boat and they caught 153 large fish, did John say to Peter, “It’s the Lord!.” (John 21:7)
During the days following Jesus’ resurrection, most of his closest followers did not recognize him in their first encounter.
Mary Magdalene thought he was the gardener and did not recognize him until he said her name, “Mary.” The disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus even after he spent considerable time with them explaining what all of the scriptures had to say about him. It was only at his breaking of the bread while dining with them that they recognized him.
How often do we fail to see the risen Lord in our lives? Like Mary Magdalene, he may be calling us by name. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he may be opening our minds to the meaning of some scripture. Like the seven disciples fishing, he may be suggesting we take an action that will have a surprising (miraculous) result.
Today, as I am writing this blog, we will soon be celebrating the 35st birthday of our daughter Emily who was born with Down syndrome. At the time of her birth I did not recognize the presence of the risen Lord in our midst. Later I came to see Jesus in her big beautiful smile, her purity of heart, and her natural inclination to love and hug the people she meets.
While we may not always recognize Jesus in the people or circumstances of our lives, the apostle John in his first letter says that “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” (1 John 4:16)
Wherever there is love, Jesus is present. Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, I was ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” (Mt. 25:35-36) Jesus is telling us that when we love others through our actions, we love him and he is present to us.
In the musical Les Miserables, ValJean’s closing words are:
The truth that once was spoken.
To love another person
Is to see the face of God.”
Let us offer love and receive love, so someone can say, “It’s the Lord.”
Do you recognize the risen Jesus when you see him?