The 12 Appearances of Jesus
Jesus died in public and his body was released by the Roman authorities to Joseph of Arimithea and Nicodemus who placed him a in sepulchre (tomb) which was also observed by the women from Galilee. Matthew records that a “great stone rolled to the door of the sepulchre”. Matt.27:60. The chief priests remembering that Jesus had prophesised that he would rise again after 3 days went to Pilate who commanded in Matt 27:64 that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day lest his disciples come by night and steal his body saying ‘he is risen from the dead’. To the ever-cautious Pilate this would have given him some security and an action to keep the appearance of control. So they also sealed the stone and set a watch. The seal meant that if the stone were moved it could be shown that the grave had been tampered with. The guard meant no one could come in or out without being seen and noted by the guard.
So everything was secure by Friday evening according to our manner of describing days. The Sabbath day rest ended at 6p.m. on the Saturday and by then it would be too dark to work and so no one, like Mary Magdalene, would come to the tomb until the first day of the Jewish week. That would be Sunday for us. (I presume she came early once it was light even though the day time temperatures are not too extreme being about 65F in the middle of the day which would be about 17 or 18 degrees centigrade.)
The 12 appearances of Jesus after his resurrection from Easter Sunday onwards are:
1. Sunday morning to Mary Magdalene. John 20:11-18 Mary Magdalene came to the tomb, presumably soon after the dawn of the day, one would imagine, the sun weakly putting its rays across the tops of the trees and rocky outcrops. One would not think that she was looking forward to attending to the body, but it would have been important to do this service to her Lord. But she finds the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. She runs to get Peter and John and they find the linen that Jesus’ body had been wrapped in and the head cloth also folded up. Mary stands there crying and moving towards the entrance to the tomb sees two angels sitting inside. They ask her why she is crying and she says they have taken her Lord away and don’t know where they have put him. Then turning around she sees Jesus, although she does not recognise him thinking him to be the gardener. Why she did not realise? It may be incorrectly assumed that Jesus in his resurrected form was not wholly human and therefore did not always chose to be like his former self and he may not be wearing his usual clothing. He says her name and she says “Rabboni”. Then she knew and embraced him the resurrected Jesus who then sends her to spread the news by telling the disciples.
2. The women returning from the sepulchre. Matt 28:9-10 says ‘they’ but who are ‘they’? Matthew in verse 1 has Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Mary Magdalene it seems had already left the scene but the other Mary was there and whoever came to help them, maybe Salome as recorded by Mark. Jesus speaking to them clearly marks that they knew him and this time, the scripture says, they fall towards his feet. This time the message was to tell his brethren. To whom is Jesus speaking? The Greek word is athelphous as in brothers literal or figurative. It may simply mean the 11, or his relatives or the brethren in general.
3. Appearance to Peter. This is recorded in Luke 24:34 as well as in 1 Cor.15:5. It does not say where or when. It has been suggested that Simon Peter alone was on the road to Emmaus or alone in Jerusalem. But it clearly happened and after Peter denied him three times and cut off the ear of the soldier that Jesus had to heal, it must have been of special comfort to him.
4. On the road to Emmaus Luke 24:13-31. There were two walking to the village of Emmaus, which is 7 or 8 miles from Jerusalem. Cleopas is the one named. It is thought he may be Alphaeus the father of James who was one of the twelve, but not James the son of Zebedee. The other could be Peter again, but it seems it was not one of the other twelve. One commentator has suggested that it could be Luke himself. But the two record a stranger joining them on the road, not an unusual event to see someone from out of town as it was the feast of Passover. Again they did not recognise him in his new form and his old clothes had been divided among the soldiers. They pour out their hearts all the things that they had seen and known about in Jerusalem from his death on the cross a few days ago to the empty tomb and the message from the angels that Jesus was alive. The apparent stranger, that being Jesus, expounded on the scriptures that the Messiah should die before being glorified (given honour). The two asked him to remain with them, clearly keen to have passages being opened to them and he stayed to have a meal and he took the bread, blessed it and broke it and they then knew who he was before disappearing from in front of them or vanished as the scripture states. In these days of science fiction it would be said he dematerialised.
5. Sunday evening without Thomas. John 20:19-25 The disciples, minus Thomas, were gathered in a (locked) room with the doors shut, when Jesus came in the middle of them without coming through the door saying, ‘Peace be with you’. Having done so he showed them his hands and his side. In the Luke account (Luke 24:36-49) he shows them his feet and then eats with them. He appears as a human with skin and bone. It does not categorically say the scars were there but there was no doubt in the mind of the disciples that it was Jesus. Proof would have been needed and that is why he did not ascend to his Father for 40 days.
6. One week later. John 20:26-29 This time Thomas is present. It has been suggested by some commentators that Thomas was a pessimist and perhaps a person who felt his ‘glass was half-empty’ rather than ‘half- full’. This characteristic appears to be used to put this record down. Thomas says unless I see his hands and the print of the nails, put my finger into the print of the nails and put my hand in to his side, I will not believe. Thomas had his hands put in the nail print and the gash in the side and says, “My Lord and my God”. Clearly Jesus here has the precise signs that Thomas was wishing to see that of a person who has died by crucifixion with a gashed side as recorded in John 19:34 that prooved he was dead before they took him off the cross as the blood and the water were separate.
7. Three weeks later to the disciples on the shores of Galilee John 21:1-14. John records it “at the Sea of Tiberias” and states this is the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples. Seven of the disciples had gone fishing. These included Simon Peter, James and John, Thomas and Nathaniel (otherwise known as Bartholomew) as well as two others that are not recorded but could be Andrew and Philip. They went night fishing but caught nothing. Jesus was standing on the sea shore although they did not recognise him. He tells them to cast their nets on the other side and they catch so many fish that they were not able to draw the net in. At that point John realises that it is the Lord Jesus and tells Simon Peter who realises the truth of John’s statement and rushes out towards the shore. Jesus prepares breakfast and gives it to them and afterwards has a long conversation with Peter.
8. To the eleven on a mountain in Galilee as Jesus had appointed. Matthew 28:16-20. We do not know what mountain as it is not recorded and when they, which would include Matthew himself, saw him and they worshipped him. Although it says some doubted, it does not say whom or what those doubts entailed.
9. To more than 500 brethren (athelphous) in Galilee 1 Cor.15:6. The significance of this is the large number; for us a moment to imagine as if we were of that 500.
10. James at close of 40 days.1 Cor.15:7 No other details are added. It is thought that this is more likely James, the writer of the epistle, rather than James, the son of Zebedee (Acts 12:1-2) who would have been dead by the time that the first epistle to the Corinthians was written by Paul in approximately A.D.55.
11. His Ascension Luke 24:50-51. Jesus led them to Bethany presumably from Jerusalem. He lifted up his hands and blessed them and then it appears that he was carried or lifted up. The Greek word for carried up is anefereto which means to take up literally or figuratively–bear, bring, offer up, carry, lead up. Acts 1:9 records Jesus being “taken up”. In this case it is the Greek word ‘epirthy’ which means to raise up literally or figuratively, exalt self, poise, lift, take up. He was carried up into heaven. The Greek word for heaven is ouranon which gives the idea of elevation, the sky, heaven as the abode of God, by implication happiness, power, and eternity. Ouranon is also used in Rev.21:1. Acts 1:9 (Diaglott) says “a cloud carried him away from their sight” while they were looking towards the heavens (ouranon). This is a spectacular event that they were watching. One can imagine them gazing for any last sight in case he should come into view for one more glimpse. However they were distracted by the sight of two angels which the record states as “two men standing by them in white raiment” with a message of encouragement.
12. Paul on the road to Damascus. Acts 9:3-6 The account says as Paul neared Damascus a light came suddenly from heaven and a voice said, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord? Asks Paul. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting’. Paul’s life was transformed from that moment when he heard the Lord Jesus.
Maybe this final one should not be included as there was no visible sight, just a light and sound as Jesus had already ascended to the Father. Jesus’ voice and words are prominent proof of his resurrection in several of these sightings.
How does this prove the resurrection
It proves that the resurrected Jesus was seen of MANY PEOPLE much more than 500 hundred, women and men. He was seen or heard many times—to be exact eleven or twelve times of those recorded in the New Testament and for a period of 40 days. Even those inclined to doubt received proof. The many details given in the accounts also attest to its authenticity. All the records agree he could speak audibly, could eat and appear as flesh and bone and reason and instruct with intelligence. It shows the form of such a resurrected being and would backup what they already knew that Jesus was the Son of God. It also shows the surprise, elation and other emotions being evoked and that these accounts were real and not contrived in advance.
So surely one can say ‘I know my redeemer lives’.