After Jesus died on the cross to reconcile all of humanity to God, a curious thing happens in front of the empty tomb. In John 20:11-18 Mary did not recognize Jesus when she first saw him in his resurrected state! She completely missed who it was she was talking to. This is even more surprising when you consider the fact that he was the very one she was looking for!
As astonishing as it sounds, perhaps we shouldn’t be as surprised as we are. Mary’s funny story is instructive—the humor itself speaks a truth. We often don’t recognize Jesus. He is at work in our world all around us, and we often turn a blind eye. We don’t see him.
Jesus calls us to share the good news of his salvation with others. We often forget that he goes before us as the Spirit prepares conversations and works for us (Ephesians 2:10). Jesus said that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
(Matthew 25:40) When we love another through word or deed, it is not our message or resources. Only his. And we speak or act as “unto him.”
Why do we not see him? Do we forget he offers salvation to all people (Titus 2:11)? Do we ignore the Spirit he sent to us? Are we forgetting that our mission is really his mission? Do we think that it’s our idea? The Spirit who led the Israelites by cloud and fire was given to the followers of Jesus at Pentecost (Deuteronomy 1:33 & Acts 2:2-4). The very one who did “only what he sees his Father doing” (John 5:19), is the one who calls us to be his witnesses (Acts 1:8). Not miracle-workers, master-persuaders, or eloquent speakers. He callsus to be witnesses. We are just following him. And what do witnesses do? Share what they have seen.
Scripture has an image for our role: we are ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20). We represent the Kingdom of Jesus. In the midst of a fierce political struggle over the election to the top position in our nation, Jesus calls us to be something much higher than a president of a nation. Jesus calls us to be ambassadors of His Kingdom.
Seven of us went out into our church’s immediate neighborhood last week to invite people to come to our church. In a day when Americans don’t usually like the interruptions of phone calls and door-knocks from strangers, we bravely thought that a friendly invitation would be warmly received. We were right. Though we ran into a couple of folks who were stand-off-ish, none were rude and most were friendly. I enjoyed the time my daughter and I spent meeting strangers and giving invitations to our Easter services. One man had already been to our pre-school but was genuinely glad to be invited to our church service. I could tell the Holy Spirit had gone before us, as scripture promises.
There is a new addition in our church foyer, and I’m excited for it. It will show our church’s mission work through the years and remind us that this work goes on. As we support missionaries and ourselves “go unto all the world,” we bring only one thing with us. But that thing is a person, and we couldn’t ask for any better way to go! The Good News about Jesus is ultimately about each life receiving the person and work of Jesus. It’s his good news and his new life. And we get to be witnesses!
~ Pastor Eric