Why weren’t some of the disciples able to recognize Jesus after His resurrection?

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In some of the post-resurrection appearances, Jesus was instantly recognized, or so it seems, while in others He was not. Even though Jesus had predicted that He would rise again on the third day, the disciples did not fully believe that (Mark 9:32). They didn’t expect to see Him alive. So, this prevented them from recognizing Him at first and can account for their surprise at seeing Him. There are few instances where the disciple didn’t recognize Jesus after the resurrection. Let’s look at them closely:

1-Mary Magdalene in the early morning of the Resurrection Day came to the tomb and didn’t recognize Jesus at first and she mistook Him for the gardener (John 20:15). This could be because it was too early in the morning and there wasn’t enough light as she was far in a distance or it could be because her eyes were clouded with tears for she was stricken with grief.

2-At the sea when the disciples were fishing (John 21:4). Again, the disciples were at a distance in the boat away from Jesus who was standing on the shore waiting for them. The disciples didn’t expect to see Jesus at that early hour of the day.

3-The two disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus until He broke bread. (Luke 24:13-35). In this incident, the Bible gives us the reason as to why the disciples didn’t recognize Jesus. “But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him” (Luke 24:16). God supernaturally dimmed their senses in addition to their self-preoccupation. Jesus could have revealed Himself immediately to them, but had He done that they might have been so happy and would not appreciate fully or remember the important truths He was about to share with them. So, their eyes were restrained. It was necessary for them to understand the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament that pointed forward to Christ. These truths alone would provide them a firm foundation of faith that would help them to endure the trials of persecution and even death.

Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team


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