THE sons of Jacob saw the man in his splendour – he was the prime mover in Egypt, a man whose authority was second only to that of Pharaoh’s, Egypt’s supreme ruler. They needed his favour to buy precious grain to bring home to their starving families. The man was Joseph, their own flesh and blood brother. But they did not recognise him (Gen. 42:8).
At least 20 years had gone by since their treacherous act, for, inflamed with jealousy, they had collectively sold Joseph to passing slave-traders. Joseph was as good as dead, and they had reported so to their father Jacob, lying that Joseph was killed by a wild animal.
Time had hidden their brother’s face from them. But God was with the poor man, and raised him to a status no one dreamed he would attain, certainly not his rather unruly brothers. Having expected him to be dead (Gen. 44:20), they never dreamed they would meet Joseph again, least of all in royal robes in prosperous and thriving Egypt.
In the New Testament, we read of another, like Joseph, who was also not recognised. He was far more important than Joseph; in fact He was Joseph’s God, the same God who was with the man and raised him up against all odds. This God came as Jesus, and Scripture tells us that the world did not recognise him (Jn. 1:10).
Not only that, Jesus was surrounded by jealous and vicious men who plotted to kill Him, and they succeeded. He was tortured and crucified, and died the ignoble death characteristic of a Roman cross. While Joseph was only thought to be dead, Jesus was actually and truly dead.
It is therefore understandable that the two disciples who were walking to the village of Emmaus never thought they would meet Jesus again (Lk. 24). Joseph’s brothers would have thought that it was highly improbable they would see their brother again. But for these two disciples, it was more than improbable – it was impossible they would meet their Master.
But what is impossible with men is possible with God (Mt. 19:26).
Jesus rose from the dead – the biggest miracle in history – and appeared to the two men who were dragging their feet to Emmaus with sadness and dejection. When Jesus joined them, they were kept from recognising him (Lk. 24:16). Who can blame them?
We know the conversation that ensued. The dejected disciples told the unrecognised Jesus the recent events that had taken place. Some women had gone to the tomb on the third day after Jesus’ death and burial. They had reported seeing a vision of angels. The men went to check it out but him they did not see (Lk. 24:24). So much for the failure to see or recognise.
Then Jesus gave them an astounding Bible study till they reached the village that evening and they invited Him to stay with them. At the meal table, their eyes were opened and they recognised him (v. 31). What was it they recognised? Perhaps the wounded hands of Jesus? For after all, the actions of Jesus – taking, blessing, breaking and giving bread (Lk.24:30) –involved His hands. As the hands moved with grace, they recognised. And having recognised the hands of Jesus, they recognised His face.
Joseph, too, had a meal with his brothers who failed to recognise him (Gen 43:31-34), but custom and social distinctions dictated how they were seated. They were at the same dining hall, but at different tables. But as for Jesus, we see God sharing the same table with fallen men, even though they had failed to recognise Him. And it was a far more wonderful meal than that of Jacob’s sons – for it was a meal where God Himself was the host. Every time we gather around the Lord’s table the meal is served again, and we are invited to remember Jesus and recognise Him. Our experience at the table will help us develop the holy habit of recognising Jesus every day.
The trouble is – we often fail to recognise Him. Part of the problem may be the low or poor maintenance of our relationship with Him. The less we are with Him, the more difficult it is to recognise Him. The word “recognise” suggests a prior existing knowledge and familiarity. You can’t recognise someone you hardly know.
ONE habit we can develop is to recognise God’s hand in our daily lives. Joseph’s life went through various twists and turns; he was the victim of human folly and sin, and yet he recognised that God was with him (Gen 39:3, 21, 23). He gave glory to God for his successes and saw that God’s hand was behind every event in his life, guiding and protecting him.
How often we miss recognising God’s hand, working actively in our lives, unknown to us – preventing disasters, coordinating events, moving events and people, across space and time, that affect us redemptively?
The two disciples had their eyes opened and they recognised Jesus. We too can pray for the same that we may be more aware of Christ’s living presence and recognise His loving hands moving with grace. When we recognise His hands, we can also recognise His face.
My wife and I once visited a young family. The parents were still at work while their baby was home with their domestic helper. We tried to keep the little girl occupied with varying degrees of success. But when her mother returned from work
and appeared at the door, the infant immediately recognised her mother and gave a delighte and enthusiastic squeal. Her
face became radiant with sheer pleasure; her limbs were shaking deliriously with anticipation and innocent joy. It was an
unforgettable demonstration of what it means to recognise someone who means everything to you.
When we truly recognise Jesus we experience that same childlike joy that fills our heart. The delighted disciples described it as “hearts burning within” (Lk. 24:32) – a deep inner glow of fullness and joy. They hurried back to Jerusalem to tell the others about “how Jesus was recognised by them …” (Lk. 24:35).
Do you recognise the nailed-pierced hands of Jesus moving with grace and the love-filled face of Jesus in the daily moments of your life? If you do, then you will know the marvellous joy that comes with it, where the mind smiles, the heart leaps, and the soul rests.