Friday, August 2, 2013

Who Are You?

Jesus, resurrected, appeared to Mary Magdalene, either while she was at Jesus' tomb alone or while she was headed back to tell the Disciples about the empty tomb. Jesus may have appeared to Peter. Then He appeared to two disciples who had difficulty recognizing Him.

Next came appearances to the Disciples, along with some contradictions, such as where the appearances occurred (Galilee or Jerusalem). Not only were there contradictions, but there were doubts among the Disciples; some resolved, others not.

After that appearance, John 20:30-31 contains a "false end" to his Gospel, which explains that Jesus did much more than just what was recorded in his Gospel, but that the author had selected what had been included "that you may believe". In the study below, we will examine some of what was appended to the Gospel beyond that point.

Who Are You?
Mary Magdalene first thought the post-resurrected Jesus was a gardener. Jesus appeared in a "different form" to two other disciples. In one way or another, even among the inner circle of the remaining Eleven Disciples, there were doubts upon seeing Him again. This lack of recognition is as conspicuous as it is suspicious. Let us look at the final case of mistaken identity found in the Gospels; one presented exclusively by John.

You will find the story in John 21:1-14, and it goes like this:
Seven disciples of Jesus went out on an overnight fishing trip, but caught nothing. Jesus was on the shore in the morning, but they did not recognize Him. He instructed them to cast their net off the right side of the boat. When they did, they caught so many fish that the net almost broke, prompting "the disciple whom Jesus loved" to recognize that it must be Jesus standing on the shore. So they all went into the shore to meet with Him, and found that Jesus was already cooking fish and bread. Along with some of the fresh catch, Jesus gave thanks and gave it to them. This was Jesus' third appearance to the disciples. (My paraphrase)
These disciples did not recognize Jesus visually (John 21:4), and there is no indication of them recognizing His voice (John 21:5-6). This seems odd, especially in light of the fact that they already knew that Jesus was living again and could pop up anywhere. However, they were on the order of 100 yards (91.4 meters) away from Him, so perhaps we can just explain their lack of recognition with the distance...

Perhaps, until we factor in another rather peculiar verse which followed. In John 21:12 we read:
Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask Him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. NIV
The language here is bizarre, if we are referring to a visual and auditory recognition of Jesus. In other words, if Jesus looked like Jesus, and sounded like Jesus, why would there be any question in their minds tempting them to ask "Who are you?" They "knew" it was Jesus instead of seeing that it was Him. So what is going on here?

According to John 21:14, this was Jesus' third appearance to the disciples, with the first two happening when Jesus had appeared inside of locked houses (John 20:19, John 20:26). In other words, according to John, this third appearance was Jesus' first public appearance where He could have easily been seen by anyone. Yet, based on the implications of John's chosen language, no one else would have recognized Jesus.

Adding this up, it appears that John may have been offering a defense as to why so few people saw this resurrected Jesus, and why it was only select disciples who did.* Jesus did not look and sound like Jesus anymore, so only certain people were able to recognize Him. That is suspicious, to say the least; suggesting that these appearances were but apparitions of the fictional kind, or, perhaps, those of an imposter.

(*Note: 1 Corinthians 15:5-8 records that Jesus had appeared to more than 500 disciples at once, but it also claims that Jesus appeared to the "Twelve", which would have been difficult, given that Judas had allegedly left the group and died by then, thus leaving only Eleven. The 1 Corinthians' and Luke's accounts both contradict this anecdote here of this being Jesus' third appearance to the disciples.)


  1. Again, I hadn't thought about the issue of not recognizing him -- great theories on your part, thanx for getting me to think about it!

  2. You are quite welcome, Sabio! I am far from certain that I have it right, but there are enough references, subtle as they may be, to suggest that non-recognition and doubts of Jesus-resurrected were a prominent issue in need of explanation and defense by these authors.