Cynics will assure you that nothing is free; everything, they contend, has a cost. That sad fact, I’m afraid, is one that even the very Creator of our reality had to face Himself. What was the cost of ultimate creation?
All through the Bible we read of how amazing God is in not only His love and compassion and His overwhelming grace, but also in His practical ability to accomplish tasks of construction or destruction. He is omnipresent, everywhere and everytime at one. He is omnipotent, able to know and effect everything; nothing is outside of His reach. He is all-powerful, plain and simple.
It was through those amazing attributes that God first brought this reality into existence. In the beginning, He created the heaven and the Earth, separating the light from the dark, dividing the heavens from the waters with the firmament; calling land up from the depths, coating it waves of green grasses and trees, and casting across the sky above a rich tapestry of stars and planets for signs and seasons. And within that vibrant creation, here on our little planet full of beautiful habitats, He called forth life from the waters and the ground, all kinds of animals.
Before the end of the sixth day, He created His “special creations,” forming man from the ground, and from the man’s rib He made the woman. He was truly pleased with all He had made, and despite the richness and the undeniable vibrancy of this creation, it cost Him nothing more than six simple days to produce it. The God of the universe, a being of infinite power and wisdom, could never find such a task burdensome at all, for His strength endures for eternity and will never weaken…
That said though, there was a cost for creation.
We read in the Bible of a fateful transaction that took place on that sixth day, after God had created the man:
“And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Genesis 2:15-17
In that moment, God had declared the cost of disobedience: death. If man failed to live up to the call that had been set before him, nothing short of death, death in the midst of a deathless world, would settle the matter. Of course, we know that it was this cost, brought to bear through mankind’s fall in Genesis 3, that ultimately required our Lord Jesus Christ to suffer and die on the cross for us as a perfect sacrifice to pay the ultimate toll, but there may yet be more…
Looking ahead, we read of Jesus’ resurrection from the grave. While that event is miraculous, to be sure, there is a nagging detail that some find frustrating. Why is it that many who knew Jesus before the crucifixion, when seeing Him that day, after His resurrection, apparently failed to recognize Him? Many of these people had known him throughout His ministry, a span of better than three years, and during that time He was a teacher, a leader, a friend. How could they not recognize a face that they were so familiar with?
Consider the events (recorded in Luke 24) that take place following Mary’s discovery of the empty tomb that morning. After her initial shock, indeed even her confrontation with two angels, Mary rushes to gather the others. Most thought her story was just that, but Peter went to see for himself. Upon seeing the empty tomb, Peter begins to consider the situation that they now face. What happened next, though a familiar story, is our focus here:
13 And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs.
14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened.
15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.
16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.
17 And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?
18 And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?
19 And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:
20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.
21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.
22 Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre;
23 And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive.
24 And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.
25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:
26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?
27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
28 And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.
29 But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.
30 And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.
31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.
32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?
As the account goes, two of the disciples of Jesus, on their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus (a seven-mile or so journey) were joined by none other than the resurrected Jesus Himself, yet even they, disciples of His who knew Him, did not recognize this man. As they three walked, Jesus asked them why they were so sad, why were they so distraught. What in the world was going on? Amazed that this traveler didn’t know of the events, they began to fill Him in on the crucifixion of Christ, whom they had believed was to redeem the nation as the Messiah. Jesus then scolded them for their disbelief, and for the remainder of the journey He gave them a thorough Bible Study on all the things that had lead to this moment in history, from Moses (significantly vindicating Moses’ authorship of the Torah) onward.
As they drew near their destination, the men bid Jesus to stay with them and eat, and He agreed. Sitting at the table, Jesus, the guest, took the bread and broke it (a event typically unheard of in Jewish homes as the host was customarily responsible for breaking the bread), and in doing so the eyes of his journeying companions were opened, and they knew Him! Just as quickly, in the same instant even, the Lord disappeared from their sight!
Look what happen next as the story continues:
33 And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,
34 Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.
35 And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.
36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.
38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.
So, looking at what happened, we find that Jesus’ two dining companions left immediately once they realized who they were eating with, returning to Jerusalem to meet with the others and tell them what they had seen, Who they had seen, and to note that it wasn’t until He broke the bread that they recognized Him. As their discussion no doubt reached a fever-pitch, Jesus Himself appeared in their midst, and they apparently were terrified, not recognizing their Lord until they examined His wounds.
The question is this: why did people who were very, very familiar with Him fail to recognize Him? Here are but a two examples, yet several exist among the Gospels. We find in John 20 how Mary Magdalene, crying in the empty tomb, failed to recognize her Lord when He walked in on her. It was only His voice that stoked something within her, causing her eyes to see who this man really was.
Why did no one recognize Jesus?
The answer, I believe, comes in the form of Old Testament hints to the magnitude of torture endured by our Lord during His trials and ultimate death. In Isaiah, written some 700 years prior, we read of how He was to be beaten and whipped for our sins, His hands and feet being pierced (as recorded in Psalm 22:8, a allusion to the crucifixion, which was a form of death yet to even be invented when the Psalmist wrote this). So badly was He beaten that Isaiah 52 says “…his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.” Jesus suffered dramatically for our sins, so much so that He barely appear human any longer, and He ultimately died for us on the cross.
Getting to my point, I want to make something very clear: The signs of all those tortures still remained on Jesus’ resurrected body! What calmed the disciples in Jerusalem when He appeared in their midst? He showed them His wounds. What lead to the recognition of His travel companions in Emmaus? Likely, as Chuck Missler has pointed out,¹ it was in His breaking of the bread that they saw the nail prints on His hands! We can even read in John 20 of How Jesus demonstrated these very wounds to doubting Thomas, making His case to Thomas through displaying the wounds in His hands and side.
All that being understood, we should remember that prophesy of the Old Testament was exceptionally good at telling us what was going to happen to Jesus as He faced His accusers. The New Testament, for its part, did a wonderful job confirming those prophesies. The exception however comes from Isaiah 50, in which we find a specific prophetic instance of torture and ghastly mutilation that is not expressly restated in the New Testament:
“I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” (verse 6)
Was Jesus’ beard ripped off His face by those who mocked Him? Given the undeniable prophetic integrity of all other Old Testament references to the event, I certainly would expect this to be so. As we take a moment to consider the implications, do not forget that all His other crucifixion wounds, though perhaps healed-over, appear to have remained intact as scars even in His newly resurrected body. Could it be that Jesus Christ, our beloved Lord and Savior, was not recognized among friends because His face, marred and scarred beyond discernibility, was the face of a stranger?
Could it be that His face yet remains scarred, just as His hands are? Consider that Revelation 5, in a prophetic vision of events yet to take place, Jesus is described as a “Lamb as it had been slain.” If He bore the wounds here, from apparently in the future, doesn’t it seem to indicate that He yet bears them now?
You see, the point is this: creation most certainly had a cost. The act itself cost God nothing, for His power is infinite. The redeeming of creation however due to our fall, that cost a heavy price. Nothing less than the blood of God’s only Son was necessary to repair the damage left by Adam and Eve, and God willingly gave us that provision, just as John 3:16 tells us: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Even so, when we get to Heaven and stand before our Lord, I can’t help but wonder if we will look upon the familiar and beautiful face we know from paintings and sculptures or if it will be one that yet bears the scars of a Divine penalty, scars of unending love, just as His hands no doubt bear them today…
- “Biblical Mystery: An Unfamiliar Face,” Chuck Missler, Koinonia House, March 1999 Personal Update News Journal
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