(I credit my friend Jason Shambach for this post...he's the creative genius here)
John 21:12 has a very interesting comment. Here John writes: Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.
This fits in with many other post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. The usual pattern of these appearances of Jesus usually happened something like this: Jesus appears, he is not recognized, he says something and after he speaks everybody is like, “Oh that’s Jesus!”
Look it up. It usually happens in that manner. Nobody by first looking at Jesus seems to recognize him. Why not? They lived with the guy for 3 years-maybe longer. A few of the events happened outside so there was not a problem with the lighting. Why didn’t anybody recognize Jesus?
There are several traditional answers that theologians will give as an answer. But I would like to maybe look at it in a different way. What if the reason that people didn’t recognize Jesus when they saw him is because his face was so badly beaten?
There was a horrible accident my senior year of college. A van full of Taylor University students was driving between the two Taylor campuses on I-69 in northern Indiana when a semi crossed the median and smacked the van. Sadly only 1 or 2 of the students survived the wreck.
If you remember the story you’ll also remember that a couple months later as one of the girls who survived began to wake up, did not recognize the family that was around her. What had happened was because of the extent of her injuries and the bruises to her face, she was misidentified by everybody-even her parents. Her face was so badly beaten in she was unrecognizable.
What if this is the reason that nobody could recognize Jesus? His face was so badly mangled that he did not look like himself. My friend Jason put it this way-If we put the way Jesus actually looked on flannel-graph little children would scream. If this was the case it makes perfect sense that nobody would recognize him. Just like the girl in the accident he did not look like himself.
Why is this significant? Why does it matter that Jesus face looked like it was caught on fire then put out with a chain? I think it has everything to do with the incarnation. It has everything to do with the nature of what Jesus is doing here among humans. Intrinsic with salvation is Jesus being beaten.
Let’s think it this way. The incarnation-Jesus becoming a man-is also described as “the Humiliation of Jesus.” “The Humiliation of Jesus” is the way of talking about Jesus giving up what his divine characteristics in order to take upon himself humanity. It was so beneath the very nature of who he was that it was a humiliation. Think of a king giving up his palace to be with beggars-humiliation.
This is the posture of Jesus’ life. This is the posture of Jesus. Philippians 2 says he humbled himself. And because he was obedient in this, he was exalted. It was because he humbled himself and took the posture not of greatness but of a slave that he was glorified. He did not try and become the biggest and the best but he allowed himself to be beaten beyond recognition. This is the posture as Christians we need to model.
University Baptist Church in Waco, Texas in their vision statement says this: “…our efforts focus on engaging the culture in which we live and transforming it by lives incarnating the person of Jesus Christ.”
This is what Christians are about…incarnating the person of Jesus…living like he did…humbling ourselves…taking the very nature of a slave…not seeking equality.
What does incarnating the person of Jesus mean to you? How can we follow his posture?