I love the way that Jesus reveals Himself to us. Isn’t it exciting that through His Spirit we can meet and encounter Him for real? We have a living God – a God who is still seeking after us today and yearning for a relationship with us.
Revelation – regular, fresh revelation – of God is vital to anyone wanting to live their life loving Him. There would be very little love in a relationship between friends if they never saw one another. A marriage where the husband and wife had no contact would be loveless. Paul, when writing to the church in Ephesus, writes the following:
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. – Ephesians 1:17-21 (NIV).
Above all things, Paul prays for a Spirit of revelation for the church, because it only through revelation that we come to “know him better.” Indeed, revelation leads to salvation. It is as important for the non-believer and it is the ‘veteran’ Christian who has been following Jesus for more years than they care to remember.
As it is Easter, I’d like to take a look at a couple of ways that Jesus revealed Himself after His resurrection to His followers. Perhaps we can learn from those early stories about how Jesus chooses to reveal Himself, and how that can help us to know Him better.
The first story is that of Mary Magdalene at Jesus’ tomb, found in John 20:
Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in.She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.
“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”
She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”
“Mary!” Jesus said.
She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).
“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message. – John 20:11-18 (NLT).
At first, Mary didn’t recognise Jesus. Imagine what she must have been thinking – Jesus’ body had been stolen or destroyed and there was nothing she could do about it. Imagine the panic she must have felt at finding Him missing after only 3 days. No wonder she wept. Through her tears she turns to see a man standing nearby – “The gardener!” she thinks, “he will know what has happened to my Lord.“ Certain that this gardener will be able to help her, she even jumps ahead of herself, saying, “tell me where you have put him“! She didn’t even know if this guy had taken the body or not!
It is only when Mary’s brief outburst has finished that Jesus chooses to speak. With just one word He has shown Mary a little more of His glory.
The second story is that of the two disciples travelling to Emmaus, found in Luke 24:
That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. But God kept them from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”
They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”
“What things?” Jesus asked.
“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.
“Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”
Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared! – Luke 24:13-31 (NLT).
Do you see any similarities here between Mary’s story and the Emmaus story? Both Mary and the two disciples had their mind made up about something. While Mary was convinced that Jesus’ body had been taken by the gardener, the two disciples were sure that the crazy stories they had heard about Jesus were dubious at best. How does Jesus respond to the disciples? “‘What things?’ Jesus asked.” As if Jesus didn’t know what they were talking about. But He met them on their level and gave them the opportunity to process their thoughts. Then Jesus explains in very great detail what they’ve missed, starting right from the beginning with Moses. But even at this point, even after the two disciples have had every last Messianic prophecy that Jesus fulfilled and explained to them, they still don’t see Him. Are they stupid?!
I refuse to make that judgement, on the grounds that I see myself doing that so much of the time. I get caught up in my agenda, my reasoning, my thoughts, my ponderings, my understandings… All too often, I want Jesus to listen to what I think, rather than letting Him tell me what He’s up to.
In both of these stories, the moment of revelation came at the moment of stillness. For Mary, it was when her words ran out. For the disciples, it was when they bowed their heads at the breaking of the bread and for the first time, were listening out for God.
How important, then, is it for us to be still in our lives today? It would appear that Jesus tends to reveal Himself to those who will make space for Him rather than those who will leave Him outside because inside they’re too busy. The Psalmist writes:
“Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10 (NIV).
We have seen the importance that Paul places on revelation. We have seen a very rough model of the way that Jesus (often!) chooses to reveal Himself. Maybe it’s time to be still and ask to know more about Him.