The Master Incognito

Many of Yeshua’s post-resurrection appearances to those who knew Him best began with cases of mistaken identity.

Artwork from the Torah Club Jesus, My Rabbi study, lesson "Road to Emmaus". (Image and art © First Fruits of Zion)

After the Master came back from the dead, He began to appear to His disciples. The fourth encounter recorded in the New Testament was with two men on the road to Emmaus.

While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. (Luke 24:15-16)

The two men heard about the empty tomb earlier that morning. They heard the report of Simon Peter and John, who found the tomb empty. They also heard that some of the women claimed to have seen angels, but they did not know what to make of it all. They argued over the details, trying to piece the incongruous events together.

They were only a short distance from Jerusalem when the Master overtook them on the road. Mark 16:12 says, “He appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking along on their way to the country.” They mistook Him for another pilgrim leaving Jerusalem after the festival to return home. The resurrected body of the Messiah is human flesh and bone, but He may appear in any guise; the glory of the heavenly body is of a different nature than the glory of the earthly body. The risen Messiah moved among men and, at times, was unrecognized by His own disciples. Mary Magdalene mistook Him for a gardener. The disciples fishing on the lake mistook Him for a stranger on the shore, and even as they ate with Him, they did not dare ask Him who He was. They intuitively knew it was the Master, but they did not recognize Him visually.

Some suggest that the two on the way to Emmaus did not recognize Yeshua because they were stubborn and unbelieving. Some commentaries suggest that the devil blinded them to the Master’s identity. On the contrary, Luke says, “Their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him” (Luke 24:16). Jewish writers typically use passive constructions like Luke 24:16 as a way of protecting the name of God. A Jewish reading of the text correctly infers that God prevented their eyes from recognizing Him.

The two on the road to Emmaus, walking with the unrecognized Messiah, illustrate our Master’s unresolved relationship with most Jewish people since the resurrection. In accordance with some unsearchable wisdom, God has closed the eyes of His people and prevented most of the Master’s brothers and sisters in the flesh from recognizing Him.

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize the one who walked along with them. Yeshua walked along with them all the same. Israel’s failure to recognize or acknowledge the Messiah does not diminish His right to the title or authority over His people, nor does it exclude His presence from their midst. The risen Messiah conducts Himself incognito among His people.

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