By Mike Willis
The events of the previous twenty-four hours had been incredible to the disciples. Following the observance of the Passover, they had accompanied Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane. There Judas brought the soldiers who arrested Jesus. From there he was taken for trial to Annas (Jn. 18:13), Caiaphas (Jn. 18:13) for a private investigation and then with the scribes and elders gathered (Matt. 26:57). At this trial, Jesus was condemned to die. The Sanhedrin reconvened early the next morning to ratify the judgment of the previous night (Lk. 22:66). Afterwards he was taken for examination before Pilate, Herod, and then again before Pilate where sentence was given that Jesus be crucified.
Jesus was taken to Golgotha where he was crucified. In shocked amazement, the disciples witnessed the death of the one whom they supposed would be the Messiah. No doubt they shared the contemporary idea that he would become king of Israel and overthrow the Roman government dominating them. Those hopes were dashed.
In a state of shock, the disciples left others to take care of Jesus’ dead body and departed from Golgotha. The next day was the Sabbath, so little or no activity occurred on that day. No doubt their broken hearts were trying to mend as they tried to pull together their shattered hopes. The following morning, Sunday morning, would forever change their lives.
The Body Is Missing (Matt. 28:1-10; Mk. 16:1-11; Lk. 23:56-24:12; Jn. 20:1-18)
The women who had followed Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus to see where they buried Jesus (Jn. 19:38-42) prepared spices to anoint his dead body. Early on Sunday morning, when the sun was risen, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna and Salome went to the tomb. There was a great earthquake. An angel descended from heaven and rolled away the stone. Those who were guarding the tomb became as dead men. When the woman arrived, the angel announced, “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which hath been crucified. He is not here; for he is risen, as he said. . . . And go quickly, and tell his disciples, He is risen from the dead; and lo, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him” (Matt. 28:57).
Mary Magdalene (Jn. 20:1-2) ran and told Simon Peter that the soldiers had removed Jesus’ body and she did not know where they had taken him. Peter and John ran to the tomb. They found the tomb empty; the burial garments were there but the body was missing.
Jesus’ Appearance To Mary Magdalene (Matt. 28:9-10; Mk. 16:9-11; Jn. 20:11-18)
Mary Magdalene stood outside the tomb weeping. When she stooped to look inside, she saw two angels who asked her why she was weeping. She explained that she was weeping because they had taken away the body of Jesus. When she turned around, Jesus was there. Supposing him to be the gardener, she asked where they had taken Jesus’ body. Jesus said, “Mary.” Recognizing his voice, she replied, “Master.” Apparently the other women were also present (Matt. 28:9). They fell at Jesus’ feet and clung to him. Jesus told them to turn loose for he must ascend to his father. He told them to go tell the disciples that he was ascending unto the father. When the women reported what they had seen, the disciples did not believe it (Mk. 16:11).
Report of the Guard (Matt. 28:11-15)
The Roman soldiers went to the chief priests and reported what had occurred. The Sanhedrin assembled. They bribed the soldiers not to tell what had happened but to report that Jesus’ disciples had stolen the body while they were asleep.
Appearance to Simon Peter (Lk. 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5)
Sometime during the day, Jesus appeared to Simon Peter. Reference is made to this appearance but the circumstances of it are not recorded.
Appearance to Two on the Road to Emmaus (Mk. 16:12-13; Lk. 24:13-35)
Later that day, two disciples (one named Cleopas) were traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus. While they were talking about the events which had transpired, Jesus joined them. “But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.” As Jesus inquired of the disciples, they related the circumstances of his death, the disappearance of the body, and the words of the angels announcing the resurrection. Jesus began teaching the two as they traveled, opening their minds that they might understand the Scriptures. As they drew near the village, they asked Jesus to abide with them and he consented. As they sat to eat, their eyes were opened so that they recognized Jesus. He vanished out of their sight. They immediately returned to Jerusalem and told the eleven disciples, who had gathered together, what had happened.
Appearance To The Eleven In Jerusalem (Mk. 16:14; Lk. 24:3642; Jn. 20:19-25)
At the end of this same Sunday, the eleven (with Thomas absent) assembled together, probably to discuss the events which had transpired. The doors were locked for fear of the Jews. Suddenly Jesus appeared to them. They were afraid, supposing him to be a ghost. Jesus said, “Why are ye troubled? And wherefore do reasonings arise in your heart? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye behold me having.” Their hearts could barely comprehend what had occurred. While they were still stunned, Jesus took a piece of broiled fish and ate it.
A spirit of joy filled the disciples. When Thomas arrived, he refused to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. He said, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and putray finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Appearance To The Eleven (Jn. 20:26-29)
The following Sunday, the eleven were again assembled together with Thomas among them. The doors were locked. Jesus appeared to them and said, “Peace be unto you.” Speaking to Thomas, he said, “Reach hither thy finger, and see my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and put it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.” Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus said, “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
Appearance to Seven Disciples By The Sea of Galilee (Jn. 21:1-24)
Enough time transpired for the disciples to return to Galilee from Jerusalem. They tried to sort through the things which had transpired. Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John and two other disciples decided to go fishing – to return to their jobs. They fished all night and caught nothing. When day began to break, Jesus stood on the beach but the disciples. did not recognize him. He asked if they had caught anything and they replied that they had not. He said, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and ye shall find.” They did what he said and could not draw in the fish for the catch was so large.
John said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” Peter put on some clothes and jumped into the sea to see Jesus. The other disciples came ashore in the boat dragging out the 153 fish which they had caught. Jesus ate with them.
Appearance to the Eleven on a Mountain in Galilee (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-18)
On another occasion Jesus appeared to the disciples on a mountain. Perhaps this is the reference mentioned in I Corinthians 15:6 where 500 were gathered. If so, he separated the eleven and gave them the Great Commission. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned.”
Appearance to James (1 Cor. 15:7)
Paul referred to an appearance to James, the brother of the Lord. The circumstances of this appearance are not mentioned. However its impact is shown by the fact that the brother of Jesus who previously did not believe on him Qn. 7:5) became one of the leaders in the church at Jerusalem.
Jesus’ Final Appearance to the Twelve and Ascension (Lk. 24:44-53; Acts 1:1-11)
Jesus appeared to his disciples again in Jerusalem and instructed them to tarry in the city until they were clothed with power from on high. They walked with him out of Jerusalem toward Bethany until he came to the Mount of Olives. After he finished speaking, he ascended out of their sight into heaven to await his second coming. This appearance occurred 40 days after his resurrection (Acts 1:3).
Jesus’ Appearance to Paul (Acts 9,22,26)
The final appearance of Jesus was to the infamous persecutor of the church, Saul of Tarsus. Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus. From seeing the resurrected Jesus, Saul became convinced that Jesus was the Lord and Christ. He obeyed the gospel and devoted himself to preaching it to the world. He became known as the apostle Paul.
These are the resurrection appearances of Jesus. With these facts before us, let us make these conclusions.
1. The Lord’s resurrection was a bodily resurrection, a miracle. There is no doubt that the text states that the body which was crucified died, was buried, and was raised from the dead. Nothing but a miracle, the miracle of the resurrection of the body, can explain the meaning of the text. The physically resurrected body was seen by more than 500 people. The historical record stands unimpeachable. The resurrection of Jesus is not some myth invented by delusioned men; it is a fact of history.
2. The resurrection confirmed the deity of Jesus. Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4). His resurrection proved that he was both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). The resurrection demonstrated that his claims were not the claims of an impostor.
3. The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates his victory over sin and death (Rom. 4:25; 5:10). Jesus entered into the domain of Satan, the house of the strong man, and spoiled his goods (Matt. 12:29). His resurrection proves that he triumphed over the devil, destroyed the power of sin and the grave.
4. The resurrection assures me that Jesus ever lives to make intercession for me (Heb. 7:25). His resurrection confirms that he has ascended to the right hand of God and serves as an Advocate to the Father in behalf of his children (1 Jn. 2:2).
5. The resurrection of Jesus assures me of my resurrection. There can be no doubt that Jesus is the resurrection and the life (Jn. 11:25); this was not only demonstrated by his power to raise Lazarus, the son of the widow of Nain, and Jairus’ daughter, but also by his own resurrection. Jesus was raised as the first fruits of them that sleep (1 Cor. 15:20). “In Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). He is my guarantee that my natural body which is sown in corruption, dishonor, and weakness will be raised as a spiritual body in incorruption, glory, and power (1 Cor. 15:42-44). Consequently, I can sing, “Death is swallowed up in victory. 0 death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory.”
“We look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:20-21).
The knowledge that Jesus was raised transformed that small band of disciples who witnessed his death. Their cowardness was changed to boldness; their weakness to strength; their doubt to assurance; their despair to hope. After that little band which met in a room behind locked doors became convinced of the resurrection, they boldly preached the gospel of Jesus Christ at the Temple, defying the threats of Jewish authorities. They were convinced that their fate was better to die preaching Christ than to live in disobedience to him.
Belief in the resurrection has also changed me. My belief that Jesus died on the cross for the remission of my sins and was raised from the dead on the third day moved me to obey his command to “repent and be baptized for the remission of my sins” (Acts 2:38). His word has caused me to cast aside the old man of sin and to put on the new man created in his likeness. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). “Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:20-21).
Consequently, I anticipate seeing Jesus “whom not having seen I love.” My life is filled with confident expectation because that grave was empty, because the Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. Praise God for he is risen!
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 20, pp. 632-634
October 15, 1987