For a long time I have wondered why Luke and John describe the Mary?s and
the disciples not recognizing Jesus after the resurrection. Even Thomas
didn?t recognize him until he saw the scars (even after the other
disciples told him who he was.) I guess I just always chocked it up to the
disciples not having enough faith to believe Jesus had actually risen from
the dead or that he was glowing or something, but then I read Isaiah 50:6
that says “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who
pulled out my beard” ;Is this verse meant to be taken literally? (I would
guess so because of the other graphic descriptions we know to be true
about the crucifixion found in Isaiah) If his beard really was torn off
could this be why those he was closest to didn?t recognize him? If he
still had the scars of his crucifixion then could his face still be
disfigured from tearing off his beard, or do you have any other theories
to why he would not be recognized?


I have thought about this one as well. Let me share my thoughts, which
are just that–my thoughts. A passage which comes to mind is John
20:19-23. Here Jesus revealed himself to them, breathing on them. Jesus
gave them a miraculous measure of the Holy Spirit, including miraculous
knowledge and understanding of the gospel. I believe that for some
reason, God caused the apostles and the women around them to be dull with
regard to the visitations. I believe God was trying to convict these
believers of their lack of faith. In other words, God was emphasizing to
them their lack of belief. He caused them to be extra-thick-headed in
order that when they realized what was going on they would be embarassed
and deeply convicted of their lack of faith. The fearful followers of
Jesus did not understand or believe that Jesus was to raise from the
dead. God wanted them to be deeply moved and to deeply repent of their
lack of faith. When he, in my opinion, put a bit of a cloud over their
minde, causing them to not even know who they were talking to, it caused
them to be convicted to their soul when he opened their minds, both to see
him, and to understand the full gospel.

It is a bit tough to know for sure how disfigured Jesus was after his
resurrection. I have already given my view of the cause of their not
recognizing him. However, you may very well have something here. We have
to speculate about how disfigured Jesus was, including partial loss of his
beard and whether this might have caused them to not recognize them. You
may have a point there. This may be a factor. On the one hand, his
wounds may have made him unrecognizable, but on the other hand, the fact
that he had wounds also made him more recognizable because everyone knew
the wounds he had just received. In fact, it was the wounds he showed
them which convinced the skeptical disciples (John 20:20). Another
possibility is that in his resurrected body Jesus looked similar, but also
different. He may have looked sufficiently different in his resurrected
body that even close friends may have required a second look to realize
who it was. All this may make my explanation above incorrect! Since the
Bible does not tell us, we are left with some reasonable explanations,
among which we cannot choose for sure.

To summarize, possibly;

1. God purposefully caused them to be dulled in mind so that they might
become convicted of their lack of faith.

2. Jesus was so disfigured that he was partially unrecognizable

3. Jesus looked similar but significantly different in his resurrected
body than his normal physical body.

Of course, it is always possible that the correct explanation is a
combination of the three.

John Oakes, PhD

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