Because there was famine in Canaan, Jacob sent 10 of his sons to Egypt, where he heard there was grain for sale (Gen. 42:2-3). When Jacob’s sons came before Joseph, he recognized them, but they didn’t recognize him (Gen. 42:7-8).
We have seen how Joseph’s life foreshadows Christ’s death and resurrection. Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him into slavery. They told Jacob he was dead and presented Joseph’s torn robe—dipped in goat’s blood—as proof. Joseph was later imprisoned based on false accusations. But Joseph was known to have God’s spirit in him (Gen. 41:38). Because he interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams about the coming famine, he was exalted to Pharaoh’s right hand.
Joseph’s suffering and humiliation pictures Christ’s death. Joseph’s promotion shows Christ’s resurrection. Though not explicitly, Joseph knew Christ in the power of His resurrection, in His sufferings, and in His death (Php. 3:10).
As mentioned, Joseph recognized his brothers when they came for grain, but they didn’t recognize him. Those that knew Jesus intimately also failed to recognize Him after He rose from the dead. Mary thought He was a gardener until He said her name (John 20:15-16). Peter and several other disciples thought Jesus a friendly stranger until He suggested a fishing spot; when their nets nearly burst from the load of fish, John said, “It is the Lord!” (John 21:7). Disciples walking to Emmaus didn’t know Jesus even after He walked with them and taught them about Himself from the scriptures. Only when He broke bread were their eyes opened (Luke 24:31).
So why do we not recognize the risen Christ? And how might we fail to recognize resurrection life in our own experience as we walk with the Lord?
Joseph’s brothers didn’t recognize him until he revealed his identity to them (Gen. 45:1). Luke tells us the disciples “were prevented from recognizing Him” as they walked to Emmaus; later, “their eyes were opened” (Luke 24:16, 30-31). John says, “Jesus revealed Himself” to His disciples who were fishing (John 21:1). In other words, Jesus was there but hidden. They couldn’t recognize Him unless He disclosed or revealed Himself. Somehow, Mary couldn’t see who Jesus was until He said her name (John 20:16). Without this revelatory act on His part, she didn’t know who was standing right in front of her.
In all these instances, Jesus’s disciples were dependent on Him revealing Himself. We are no less dependent on Jesus opening the eyes of our hearts. Paul spoke regularly about this to believers (2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 1:15-16, 4:19; Eph. 1:17-18; Col. 1:27-29).
Christ is in us, yet we may not recognize the fact, just as Jesus’s disciples didn’t recognize Him after he rose from the dead. All our lives, we need Jesus to open our eyes, to show us Himself. Otherwise, we will not know He is there—risen within.
Glory to God! He desires to do this for us. Some, like Mary, were explicitly looking for Jesus when He showed Himself. Others were just going about their day when Jesus came to them. God knows our dependence on Him. He isn’t withholding Himself until our behavior makes us worthy of His revelation. Jesus knows the heart; He knows the right moments throughout our lives to reveal Himself. We can trust that He loves us, that He is good, and that His timing is perfect.