Summary: Three times people did not recognize the Risen Jesus. This looks at why. There were spiritual reasons, of course, but also real physical reasons too. This looks at what distracts us from seeing Jesus.
John 20:10-18 – Distractions
Today we are continuing our series called He is Risen Indeed, messages about Jesus rising from the dead and what that means for us some 1976 years later. Today we are in John 20:10-18. We are looking at the 1st appearance Jesus makes after rising from the grave. He appeared to Mary Magdalene, but at first she didn’t quite get it. We are going to look at this story from the angle of things that distract us from really seeing Jesus. Let’s read our passage today.
A magazine called the Christian Science Monitor carried the story of a woman in northern Greece who was traveling on an inter-city bus with her child. Apparently, she was so deep in conversation on her cellphone that when the driver of the bus reached her stop, the woman got off the bus, leaving her 4-month-old son behind. Fortunately, she quickly realized her mistake and hired a taxi to chase the bus back to its terminal, and the baby was still where she had left him 30 minutes before – on the bus’ back seat, crying, but otherwise OK.
You know, we look at this story and we say one of 2 things: “Stupid woman – horrible mother”, or we say, “What? It could happen to anyone.” Well, it’s so easy to find the fault in someone else’s glaring mistakes, but we aren’t so keen on spotting our own mishaps. Yes, this woman was distracted from something that was very important, but we all face the temptation daily to turn our attention from what should matter the most to us.
Let’s look at this story, along with 2 others that sound somewhat familiar too. Mary has been to the tomb already once that morning with the other women, they’ve returned to tell the disciples that the tomb is empty and 2 guys who might have been angels said that Jesus is alive, and now Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John have returned to the tomb. Peter and John left, the other women haven’t trickled back yet, so it’s just Mary at the tomb. She goes into the tomb, 2 angels ask why she’s been crying, and she has trouble believing that Jesus is really alive.
While she’s crying, Jesus appears outside the tomb. She turns around just enough to see Him in her peripheral vision, and just assumes he’s the gardener. Now, Jesus speaks to her, but she doesn’t recognize His voice. I’m about to elaborate on that. Jesus asks why she’s crying, and Mary says this: “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
At that point Jesus speaks her name – Mary – and then she turns obviously all the way around and faces Him. Then she realizes that it is indeed Jesus, alive and very well, and all her disappointments and loss become joy and gain.
So there was a spiritual reason and a physical reason that Mary at first did not recognize Jesus. The spiritual reason was that Jesus hadn’t opened her eyes to see Him, and the physical reason is that she didn’t really turn to look at Him. She was lost in her own sorrows and heartache that she didn’t give her heart fully to seeing Jesus.
Now, the next story that will sound familiar. It’s the story of Jesus appearing to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and it’s found in Luke 24. Two disciples were walking along discussing the events of the previous days and Jesus appears with them along the road to the town of Emmaus, not far from Jerusalem. Luke mentions the name of one of these disciple: Clopas, or Cleophas or Cleopas. The other one doesn’t get a name. Perhaps it was Mary the wife of Clopas, who was Jesus’ mother’s sister, the mother of James, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples. Church tradition has said that it was Nathaniel, or Nicodemus, or even Luke himself.
Whoever it was, the 2 of them were discussing the current events on their Sunday afternoon stroll when Jesus started walking with them. V16 of Luke 24 says, “they were kept from recognizing Him.” Again, Jesus’ true identity was hidden from the disciples, so they didn’t know who it was that they were talking to, but it’s more than that, too. Obviously they were very caught up in the things going on – Jesus’ death and missing body from just that morning.
And what’s more, what do you think were their mental and emotional states? V17 says, “They stood still, their faces downcast.” At some point they stopped walking and just stood still, but maybe they didn’t even make facial contact with Jesus. Their words were dripping with sorrow, too. “The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” WE HAD HOPED.