Why did Jesus appear in an unrecognizable form?

Updated: Jan 30

Christ is risen!


The Lord is risen indeed!


Alleluia!


Last week I told you the story ends well and not to stay focused on the death of Jesus.  Happy day!  Jesus is no longer dead!  Long live the King!


You have to see that the Resurrection of Jesus was just as he told the disciples before his arrest, when Greek Jews asked to come and see him.


He said, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”


sowing

Are there any farmers here today?


<look for raised hands>


The Passion of the Christ was – in essence – the sowing of a very important seed in the earth.


It was sown into fertile ground, which Jesus had prepared and tilled for three years.


Once the seeds are sown into the fields, the farmers have to be patient, while the “seed dies,” before the first shoots appear … then more patient until the fruits of their labors appear as intended … and still more patience until the harvest time has come.


Jesus had to die so a strong root could take firm hold in the soil of Israel, before shooting towards the light, breaking open the ground, rising towards the sky.


Today, we see how our patience through Holy Week has paid off.  Jesus has broken through the covering of earth and risen.


tomb w stone

“Why were you weeping?  Who were you looking for?  A mortal son of man, unjustly tried, convicted, and hung on a tree till death?  Or, the Son of God?”


In John’s Gospel, where Mary Magdalene has come to see the tomb is opened and her lord is not there, John told of a conversation between the Spirit of Jesus and Mary.


Mary had only known Jesus as a man … a seed, not as a new shoot of vine … a new growth looking nothing like before.  So, she did not recognize her lord until she heard his voice.


Jesus said to Mary, “Do not hold onto me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.”


Jesus was freshly risen, and still tender.  A farmer does not go out into the fields and touch each new growth, as they all need time to gain more strength.


Still, the meaning of what Jesus said to Mary … as she did not yet understand that Jesus had not resurrected like Lazarus had been … as the returned man she knew before his death.  Jesus was transforming to be much more, to so many more, and could not he held onto as an individual.


He told her, “Do not hold onto the thought of me as one human body of flesh.”


A seed is primarily an embryo inside a seed covering or shell.  Likewise, a soul is covered by flesh.  The two are one, from birth to death.


starting-seeds

In order for a soul to ascend into heaven, the body has to die … just as the seed coat of a seed must be shed, so the embryo can transform into a greater being.


When you see this imagery of Jesus planted in the tomb, you can see the seed covering left behind was his shroud – the tahrihim– and his face covering – the soudarion.


You can see why John said Jesus appeared as the gardener, because a gardener is one who cultivates plants, making them grow.  We know the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea was in a place with a garden, since John (19:41) stated as much: “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.”   Still, there is more than “just the facts ma’am” that needs to be seen from this “gardener” assumption.


If you close your eyes and imagine, you might be able to see the unrecognizable body of the gardener, as seen by Mary and John, was in the form of one who had the soul of Jesus within … as the one who once lived in human form in a great garden called Eden.


The Son of God … in Hebrew he was called Adam … meaning Man.


Jesus spoke to Mary as the Son of Adam … the Son of Man … in a voice Mary recognized as that of her Lord … her Rabbouni … the Son of God.


In that recognizable voice, while in an unrecognizable form, Jesus told Mary, “Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”


That command came from the vine that would bear living fruit.  The “brothers” would assist in the production of that fruit … and as the first fruits.


family-tree

As the vine of Christ grew, his tendrils extended to grab hold of physical structures, in order to reach maturity and begin producing the fruit of the vine.


The young sprout that was Christ sought to adhere to the trellises that had been set into the vineyard, by Jesus.


In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he outlined this vineyard that was designed and laid out by Jesus.


The first branches of the vine clung to the Cross (Stake-Pole-Stauros) that was the family of Jesus, who assisted him in his ministry, providing him with the necessary supplies and housing, while believing in his holiness.


Cephas (aka Cleopas or Clopas) was Jesus’ uncle, married to Mary Salome, the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus; and Jesus appeared to Cleopas and Mary Salome on the road to Emmaus … after he appeared as a gardener to Mary Magdalene … more family who assisted Jesus the Rabbi.  They did not recognize him until, “he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.” (Luke 24:30b)  They heard his voice.


The second branches of the vine of Christ adhered to the Pole created by the disciples of Jesus, his group of students, which numbered “twelve” … although others probably assisted them and had see the disciples with Jesus the man and the Rabbi. It could include some of those who Jesus had healed, or touched personally, but those beyond his direct family and aides.


In Paul’s listing of Jesus’ blessings by appearance, he then throws Christian scholars a statement that causes a question mark to appear over their heads.  He did this by naming the third branch upon which the vine of Christ was strung, when he wrote, “Then [Jesus] appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time.”


No other New Testament author supports this claim directly.  So scratch and offer theories that maybe Jesus encountered (over 40 days) 500 people in Galilee, while his Spirit was teaching his disciples.  However, it is doubtful that anyone then would have known this person not looking like Jesus was Jesus, AND that was not at one time.


However, following the appearance of the Spirit of Jesus to the disciples … and after his Spirit spent forty days training them to become full-bodied, sweet-tasting grapes of Christ … the next appearance of the Lord would be to the pilgrims of the following Shavuot – the Festival of Weeks, which began on the Day of Pentecost – the 50th Day.


Shavuot represents the time when the Israelites harvested the early wheat of spring … which has to remind us of the “grain of wheat” that “bears much fruit,” of which Jesus spoke.


Therefore, Paul was numbering the crowd to which Peter spoke, saying that crowd numbered “five hundred brothers and sisters,” who were gathered “at one time.”  From those 500, we are told that “about three thousand souls were baptized (with the Holy Spirit) that day.”  From eleven to 500 to 3,000 … “Tag, you’ve got IT … pass it on!”  The vine shoots out a cluster of grapes, full of seeds.


The point of Jesus appearing to that group of festival attendees is that Jesus appeared in the body of Peter.  Jesus appeared as all the Apostles that day.  That is why the voice of Jesus told Mary Magdalene, “Do not hold onto me” in the flesh, because Jesus would hold onto Mary, through the Holy Spirit, becoming Mary, just as Christ became Peter … just as Christ wants to become us.


From that dawning, we next read Paul stating the fourth branch was before the Cross of James (also called “the Just), the brother of Jesus, as the son of Mary, as the wife of Joseph.


James was a step-brother to Jesus.  They were raised together, in the same home. Thus, James did not see Jesus as more holy than he was.  James was himself a rabbi, most likely an equal of a Pharisee, but with Essene upbringing.


James had said publicly that he would not eat of the bread of Jesus’ last supper, until he had seen for himself the risen brother he grew up with … whom James knew was dead, but had not been shown Jesus had indeed Resurrected.


The Spirit of Jesus appeared before his step-brother, blessed and broke new bread, Spiritual bread, which he gave to James to eat.  James then became a Christian Jew, who used the Temple of Jerusalem as his synagogue to lead other Jews to believe their Messiah had truly come.  You might recall that Stephen, the one who was filled with the Holy Spirit, becoming the first martyred Christian, was most probably given the Holy Spirit by James.


Thus, with many Stakes (Crosses) set into the garden of Christ, the good fruit of that vine became many apostles, which Paul said was the fifth branch of support.


vineyard

This means that Jesus appeared to everyone who received the Spirit, through faith that Jesus was the Christ promised to the Jews, for the salvation of the world.


Every apostle looks different in body, but every apostle is Christ … every apostle is a reborn Jesus … just like the first unrecognizable Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene.  Jesus appears to them all … and all heard his voice speaking to them.


Then, Paul told of the sixth branch, of which Paul himself was the foremost example.


Paul, as Saul, was not a faithful Jew.  He persecuted the Jews who followed Jesus.  He stood by and held the coats of Jews who stoned Stephen to death.  Saul probably smiled as that happened.


Saul did not believe there ever would be a Messiah.  He saw the Roman Empire as eternal … at least lasting through the rest of his natural life.


Saul, was a Roman citizen – an association he held more dearly than his Jewish ancestry; and Saul did not seek the God of the Jews as a way to wealth and fame.


Then Jesus appeared to him, “the least of all the apostles,” the one who then saw himself as “unfit to be called an apostle.”


Saul became Paul.  One whose name had meant “To ask” or “To question” … as a doubter (Saul) … that man became one who knew he was “Feeble, weak, and small” (Paul).


Paul had an epiphany when the Spirit of Jesus appeared to him.  He realized no matter how much one gathers around one’s self – things of this material world – one is never any larger than the minutest particle of dust that has been formed around an immeasurable soul.


Paul spoke for all of us here today, as none of us here are family of Jesus, nor are we disciples who broke bread with Jesus for three years of his time on earth.  Nor are we relatives of James and Joseph, as the descendants of Jesus, through possessing Jewish heritage in our blood.


We are not one of the five hundred Jews, who many were still living when Paul wrote to the Corinthians, but who all have long since died.


That leaves us to be either apostles, who have seen Jesus encounter us on our meaningless road of life, asking us, “Why do you refuse to receive the Spirit?”  If we did respond as did Saul > Paul, then that means others here should form a line to my right, waiting your turn to stand where I am now, and preach about things I have meant to say but didn’t want to do all the talking.  That would be just as Peter did, standing before the crowd, inspiring the faithful with the voice of Jesus, to do likewise and bring others salvation by welcoming Jesus into their hearts and minds, so he can do the talking, while we just move our lips.


Or … or … it leaves us to fall into the category of those like Saul … sinners who are too weak, feeble, or small to become apostles … refusing to own up to that character flaw.


Which "Mystery Date" are you, when Christ calls for a place to raise Jesus?  Are you "a Stud" or are you "a Dud"?

Which “Mystery Date” are you, when Christ calls for a place to raise Jesus? Are you “a Stud” or are you “a Dud”?


Paul wrote to the Christians of Corinth to tell them, “The grace of God towards me has not been in vain.”


That means, God did not bless Paul so Paul could be rich and famous … as one who would profit greatly from being the most published author in the New Testament.  Paul was not an apostle who had Jesus appear to him for selfish – self-serving … vain reasons.


Paul said, “On the contrary, I worked harder than any of the other apostles – though it was not I, but the grace of God with me.”


In the beginning of this reading of Paul’s letter, Paul wrote of those who held firmly to the message of Christ that Paul had sown in Corinth.  He wrote to those who had heard the message and also saw Jesus within …


with the caveat being the warning: “Unless you have come to believe in vain.”


If you have come to say you believe in Jesus as Christ because it will (fill in the blank) ME, where the blank says, “save me,” “make me rich,” “forgive me so I can sin some more,” “make me better than others,” etcetera, etcetera, then you have come to believe in vain.


People put in a lot of hard work to make it seem that God has blessed them … probably at least as much as Paul put into being an apostle of Christ … and probably as much as Saul put into persecuting the church of God and its people.


After all … we are all slaves on this bus … no purple robes with ermine collars or tiaras for us, so hard work is what we know.


Paul saw Jesus and knew just how small and weak he was, despite all his efforts to the contrary.


We need to see ourselves in that same light.


That is because we are nothing more than what the “grace of God within” leads us to do for others.  If we are going to work anyway, then let it be for the Lord, and not for selfish reasons.


We should be writing letters to others who need our support.


We should be preaching to the crowds … simply by opening our mouths and letting Jesus do the talking for us.


We need to stop being us and be reborn as Jesus.


<pause>


On this Easter Sunday, when we so happily rejoice in the risen Lord, we need to realize Christ arose to return in everybody that holds a soul of God.


So, when Mary asked, “Where have you laid my Lord,” we have to realize how she asked so that we can say, “Here Mary!  He lies in me.”


Amen

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