We are accustomed to talking about our need to “come to Jesus,” to “seek God,” to “pursue the Lord,” or even, “go to church to encounter God.” This kind of language is good and Biblical, communicating something about our heart’s disposition to the Lord.
Last week as Jennifer and I were talking about the Biblical accounts of the resurrection, we reflected on how Jesus came to His disciples. And not just that He did. What is most encouraging is noticing where and how Jesus came to them.
In the gospels we read that on the morning after the Sabbath some women (including Mary) went to the tomb carrying spices and perfumes they had prepared for Jesus’ body. They were shocked to find the stone to the entrance of the tomb rolled away and the tomb empty. As Mary wept from grief and deep loss, Jesus appeared to her. He said, “Woman why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” In her sorrow she couldn’t recognize Him (John 20:1-18). But Jesus revealed His identity to her, calling her by name: “Mary!”
Later the same evening, John 20:19 tells us that the disciples were huddled together in an undisclosed location, behind locked doors, hiding for fear of the Jews. Then Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” And the disciples “rejoiced when they saw the Lord,” (John 20:20).
But the disciple Thomas had not been there with the others and doubted what the others said could actually be true. Thomas declared that he would “not believe unless he could put his finger in the nail prints of Jesus’ hands and his hand into Jesus’ side.” Eight days later, when the disciples were again gathered with the “doors shut,” (John 20:26), Jesus again “came and stood in their midst” saying, “Peace be with you.” This time, Thomas had his opportunity.
In Luke 24, we read of a time two disciples were walking along the road to Emmaus. They were sad and confused as they sought to make sense over all that had happened and perplexed by Jesus’ death and rumors of His resurrection. But then as they were walking, “Jesus Himself approached, and began traveling with them,” asking to be part of their conversation. At first their eyes did not recognize Him (Luke 24:16). It was only after he prayed over their meal that they knew Who had been with them.
John 21, the disciples were fishing, struggling to bring in a catch. Jesus came and “stood on the beach,” ready to give them a lesson in fishing—and in how to cook fish for breakfast. But “they didn’t know it was Jesus” (21:4).
You may also have noticed in those passages how often it was the case that the disciples did not immediately recognize Jesus in their midst. I wonder how often it is that the places we most want to find Jesus are the places we least expect to because our desperate need drowns out our faith. However, Jesus is so compassionate to our need. Our circumstances are not evidence of God’s absence, but a place for a divine encounter.
Sometimes Jesus shows up to console us in our grief. Sometimes He appears to us in the seclusion of our panic rooms. Other times He listens patiently to our spiritual ignorance and graciously answers our doubts. He always knows where to find us! For when life feels overwhelming and we don't know how to get to Him, He knows how to get to us.
Prayer: Lord, grow my faith. Give me ears to hear Your voice when You seem most distant; eyes to see You when You seem most absent; and heart to trust You when my courage fails.