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Bible Gem 1304 - Although They Saw Him, They Did Not Recognise Him (Luke 24:16 // Mark 16 12)

October 22, 2019


Now we come to a very significant verse. Luke 24:16   Although they saw him, they didn't recognize him. (GW) 

This will be our focus of conversation for the next Gem. Take time to ponder it. What does it mean? What is this verse saying happened? 

What is the reason why these two disciples did not recognise Him?  


How do the versions handle this verse?    


οἱ      δὲ    ὀφθαλμοὶ    αὐτῶν   ἐκρατοῦντο       τοῦ μὴ  

The   but      eyes      of them   prevented/kept the not


ἐπιγνῶναι                 αὐτόν. (GNT)

knowing/recognising Him


(AMP)  But their eyes were held, so that they did not recognize Him. 

(ASV)  But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. 

(BBE)  But their eyes were not open that they might have knowledge of him. 

(CEV)  But they did not know who he was. 

(EMTV)  But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not recognize Him. 

(ESV)  But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 

(GNB)  they saw him, but somehow did not recognize him. 

(GW)  Although they saw him, they didn't recognize him. 

(ISV)  but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. 

(KJV)  But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. 

(LITV)  But their eyes were held so as not to recognize Him. 

(MKJV)  But their eyes were held so that they could not know Him. 

(MSG)  But they were not able to recognize who he was. 

(NASB)  But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. 

(NLT)  But God kept them from recognizing Him. 

(RV)  But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. 

(YLT)  and their eyes were holden so as not to know him, 


Let’s look firstly at the building blocks of this sentence. 


[κρατέω]  krateō to seize or retain, hold (fast), hold back, restrain, hinder, keep from, obtain, retain, prevent 


[Επιγινώσκω] epiginōskō  to know, recognise; to gain recognition of, to become fully acquainted with, to acknowledge, to have know (-ledge, well), perceive, 


How is it possible that these two disciples could see the person in front of them and yet not recognise that it was Jesus, when they no doubt knew Him so well? 


The contraction in Greek with the infinitive form of the verb either can express the purpose of the action or the result of the action. In other words the end result of this action or this occurrence was that they didn’t recognise Him or is it that the purpose of this occurrence was so that they would not recognise Him? 

There is a subtle but important difference between the two options.


There is also some debate as to whether anything supernatural happened at this time or whether they were simply preoccupied with their thoughts and confusion and just didn't recognise Him. It is not necessarily that there was any purpose on the part of Christ Himself or God the Father to keep His identity hidden from them. They were not expecting to see Him and so they just didn't connect the dots so to speak. So therefore the fault or the reason for them not recognising Him lies with their own inability to put the pieces together in their minds. 


On the other hand there are those who would argue that Jesus now had a glorified body which was not the same as the earthily body He had and for that reason they did not recognise Him. Note the detail in Mark’s statement (16:12) where he writes "He appeared in a different form to the two who were walking from Jerusalem into the country.”  So it is not that the two disciples themselves were preoccupied which caused them not to recognise Him but that in reality Jesus appeared to them in His glorified body and therefore it was hard for them to comprehend that this was the same Jesus with whom they were familiar.  Thus the reason for the lack of recognition is because of Jesus' different appearance. 


There is still another option and that is that there was a kind of spiritual blindness occurring. Thus the sense is that God Himself was preventing them from recognising Him. Notice that only the NLT translation above makes it explicit that it is God who was doing this. "But God kept them from recognizing Him.”  All the other translations are either expressed in the passive construction or as an active statement but where the agent of the action is not stated explicitly. In the NLT Version the agent is specifically stated as being God. Thus the inference is that spiritual blindness is the reason rather than there being something unique or unusual about the appearance of Jesus post resurrection. If that is the case then something is happening to their ability to see or perceive that this is indeed Jesus who is standing before them. How could that be? If Jesus was not markedly different in appearance or they themselves were not distracted or saddened by the events they had just witnessed then it is that God Himself was preventing them from recognising the One they once followed. 


Bear in mind too that they have just heard the report of the women that Jesus is alive again. It is likely this report which is upper most in their minds as they walk on the road. I am sure the report of Jesus’ 

resurrection must have occupied much of their discussion as they walked along. I know if it had been me on that road I would certainly be discussing what it was that the women have just told us. So why in that context did they not recognise this “ stranger” to be the One whom they have followed for so long. Or perhaps the reason for their lack of recognition is all of the above but accentuated because seemingly from the text these two were local residents of Emmaus. They certainly appear to be going back home to their village. If that is the case then they have not likely been with Jesus since Galilee but instead have joined the throngs since Jesus arrival in Jerusalem.  But still one would think that with all the focus on Jesus in the last few days it would be unlikely His followers would not recognise Him. Just as it is hard to believe that the Jewish leaders needed to have Jesus pointed out to them by Judas when they had been present when He was teaching in the Temple Courts. 


It  is all very curious you have to admit. No wonder many debate the points of view I have outlined above. Now it is your turn to consider where you stand on all of this. 



Worrying About Tomorrow Is Proof I’m Focusing On The Lies Of Hell Rather Than The Promises Of Heaven.  Robb Thompson


When someone tells you it can’t be done, it is more a reflection of their limitations not yours. 


A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject. Winston Churchill


Broken dreams are not dead, keep believing and wait for God to come and breath life into your dream again. Adjust your dream to His timetable. Ian




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