My wife and I moved from Texas to Washington in March of 2000. Just before moving, we went to our Wednesday night prayer meeting. Someone was sharing about how Mary Magdalene saw the risen Christ and was sent to tell the disciples about the One she had seen (John 20:17, 18). As I listened, the Lord said to me, “I have called you to be this type of messenger.” Like Mary, the Lord has sent me to tell disciples about the One I have seen. Mind you, I haven’t seen Jesus physically. But we are not to know Him that way any longer (2 Cor. 5:16). It is with the eyes of our hearts we are to see Jesus, and this is really the only way to see Him (Eph. 1:17, 18). The gospels show that even people who saw the Lord physically didn’t know Him. They only knew Him when revelation happened in their hearts (Matt. 16:15-17; Luke 24:15, 16, 30, 31).
Over the years, my understanding of this calling has grown. Not long after moving to Washington, I returned to the passages about Jesus sending Mary to the disciples. As I read Luke’s account (in which several women accompany Mary), one part stood out to me: “But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense” (Luke 24:11; Mark 16:9-14). I was caught off guard that the disciples didn’t believe the message brought by Mary and the others. At that point, I understood that, sent by Jesus or not, I shouldn’t expect everyone to believe me or to receive what I said. Even as I write, I am reminded that women didn’t enjoy the social standing that men did at that time and were not taken seriously in important matters. My own experience has shown that some people won’t respect me or listen to me because of my personality, my level of education, the way I dress, and 1,000 other things that lower my status in their minds. I have even been snubbed by ministers because I am not in “full-time” ministry, a fact that makes me less valid in their eyes. But God is not impressed by the markers of prestige that we think give us the right to judge. So instead of first appearing to people who might be respected Jesus appeared to a group of women whom He knew would be dismissed.
While the disciples didn’t believe Mary, some, like Peter and John, at least went to see for themselves if what she said was true. As we know, they found Jesus’s tomb empty and eventually saw Him themselves. This is really my greatest hope when I share the Lord. I can’t expect anyone to listen to me or believe me, but if I can make someone curious enough to look for Jesus themselves, and if they see Him by revelation, then that is better than being listened to or respected. Listening to me won’t help a single person. What each of us most needs is to see Jesus ourselves. How can we do this? Paul says if we set our hearts on Christ, God will remove the veil blinding our hearts, and we will see Jesus in the scriptures. As we know Jesus in this way, the Holy Spirit will transform us into His likeness (2 Cor. 3:14-18; Luke 24:45, 46). To the degree that we have been transformed in this way, the life of Jesus manifests in us, and we can see Jesus in each other as well (2 Cor. 4:10, 11).
Seeing Jesus and being transformed into His likeness is my first calling, even above preaching Him to others. After all, if He isn’t seen in me, there is no message to preach, and there is quite enough of that going on amongst Christians already. Instead, I believe the Lord has called me—and every one of us—to be a message first and preach one second.