Sometimes I run across something in the stories found in scriptures that I just don't understand. Even though I have a Master's of Divinity degree and have done the whole seminary thing, there are still moments when I read something and think, "What on earth? Why did he do that?" I hit one of those this morning. It's in Mark 16. And actually, it's in part of Mark 16 that scholars aren't even sure belongs there, but I digress.
Picture the scene: it's the first Easter morning. Jesus has just been resurrected and may even still be shaking off the effects, we don't know. The two Marys and Solome have come to do the work of embalmers, for lack of a better term, carrying their spices and planning to do what tradition said they do. They're discussing how they will get into the tomb since its opening has been covered by a stone, but when they get there, the stone has been moved and the tomb is empty. Quite a singular circumstance.
Mark says that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene first (enter any number of conspiracy theories here), and that she then told the others that he was alive, but they didn't believe her. Here is where the shapeshifting comes in. Jesus then appears to 2 of the disciples "in a different form" as they were walking in the country. This may be the Emmaus road thing that Luke talks about, maybe not. But my question is, why the need to disguise his identity? Was there some reason he couldn't appear to them in a form they would recognize? After all, that would put to bed any questions that any of them might have had, and might have even strengthened the movement in the first couple days after its leader's death.
But then I realized that the question is not just about the disciples being able to recognize Christ. It sets a precedent for us as well. Perhaps they were only looking for Christ to be in the form they last saw him in, and would have treated this person on the road differently had they known it was him. Perhaps we do the same.
I'm not one for fantasy, well ok, maybe a little, and shapeshifters have been usually relegated to the realm of fantasy or folk lore. But what if, and I'm just thinking out loud, what if this story were recorded for the sole purpose of reminding us that Christ still takes different forms? It would certainly have an impact on the way we treat each other, especially if we never knew when he would show up or what he would look like. Just a thought.
This is a perfect example of one line in scripture, just a few words, having the potential to affect every aspect of our lives, if we don't read over it. I don't know about you, but there have been multiple occasions where I would have treated someone different had I thought it possible that they could have been Christ in a "different form." Perhaps the same is true for you. Just something to think about.
May Christ show up when you least expect him looking like anything but Christ.