Why did Mary Magdalene and the Apostles fail to recognize Jesus when he appeared to them after the resurrection?
Only Luke and John say anything about the recognition issue after his resurrection from the dead. Luke 24:13-16 and 35:
“Now, that same day, two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.”
In this episode, the two disciples didn’t recognize him not because of a change in his appearance but, as the account says, “they were kept from recognizing him .”This went on until he had explained how the OT prophecies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled in him, and upon the breaking of bread, they recognized him again.
But the case is a little different in the book of John. It is most likely that the apostles had issues recognizing Jesus because the boat was at least 100 yards offshore. It is no wonder they had such difficulty.
And Mary Magdalene had difficulty recognizing Jesus outside the tomb. Maybe he was also a distance away. Or, more likely, because of her intent to find Jesus’s body and the way she cried, thinking the risen Jesus was a guard saying, “Tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away,” it is obvious she wasn’t expecting to find Jesus alive or anything. But immediately, Jesus called her name; she looked at his face probably for the first time and recognized him. Her eyes were full of tears, and she probably could not see properly. It is also possible she was also supernaturally prevented from recognizing or seeing his face initially, just like in the episode of the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Thomas had no trouble identifying Jesus’ body but was only plagued with doubt. Jn 20:24-29