Christ’s Post-Resurrection Appearances

In my previous post, The Events of the Morning of Christ’s Resurrection, I offered a logical sequence for the events that took place the morning Jesus arose from the dead. That sequence included Christ’s first three post-resurrection appearances. First, He appeared to Mary Magdalene. Second, He appeared to that group of women of which Mary Magdalene had originally been a part of earlier that morning. Third, according to 1 Corinthians 15:5 and Luke 24:34, He appeared to Peter at some unrecorded time and place sometime that morning. Now, with this post, I’m going to list all the other post-resurrection appearances that Jesus made as part of the forty days between His resurrection and His ascension (Acts 1:1-3).

Resurrection Sunday Afternoon: Mark 16:12-13 and Luke 24:13-27 both record how Jesus appeared to two of His followers who were walking the seven-mile road between Jerusalem and the little village of Emmaus. One of the men was named Cleopas (Luke 24:18). This appearance took place Sunday afternoon. These two men were part of a group of Christ’s followers who had been told by Mary Magdalene earlier that she had seen the resurrected Jesus, but they had not believed her story (Mark 16:9-11).

For some reason, neither Cleopas nor the other man recognized Jesus as He walked with them, talked with them, and explained to them what the Old Testament taught about the Messiah. It wasn’t until He joined them for an evening meal at Emmaus that “their eyes were opened and they knew Him” (Luke 24:30-31). At that moment, He vanished from their sight. The two men then immediately returned to Jerusalem (Luke 24:33-35).

Resurrection Sunday Night: Upon arriving in Jerusalem, Cleopas and the unnamed man from Christ’s Emmaus road appearance found the group of apostles (Luke 24:36-43 and John 20:19-25). The two apostles who were missing from the group were the betrayer Judas Iscariot and Thomas. The ten apostles were assembled behind locked doors in a large room in Jerusalem.

After allowing Cleopas and the other man entrance into the room, the ten apostles began telling them that Jesus had arisen and that He had appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34). In response, Cleopas and his friend told them their story about how Jesus had walked with them on the road to Emmaus and had even eaten with them in Emmaus (Luke 24:35). It was then that Jesus suddenly appeared in the room and said to all twelve of the men, “Peace to you” (Luke 24:36).

Strangely, His appearance did not bring peace to that group. To the contrary, it terrified them. Seeing their fear, Jesus said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have any flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:38-39). We would assume that such an offer would have evoked belief from the group, but it didn’t. Undeterred by their unbelief, however, Jesus said to them, “Do you have any food here?” Then they gave Him a piece of broiled fish and some honeycomb, both of which He ate in their presence (Luke 24:41-43).

The Following Sunday Night: When the ten apostles told Thomas about their experience with the risen Jesus, he didn’t believe their story. His reply was, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” Accordingly, the Bible says that he got his chance “eight days later” (John 20:26). Since the Jews counted any portion of a day as being a day, the phrase “eight days later” is generally accepted to mean “the following Sunday” with the inclusion of both Sundays accounting for eight days rather than the seven of a usual week. This explains why many modern translations translate the Greek behind the “eight days later” phrase as “one week later.” The point is, it was the following Sunday.

As had been the case the previous Sunday, the apostles were gathered together in a room with the doors tightly shut. The only difference this time was the fact that Thomas was with them. As before, Jesus suddenly appeared in the room and said to them all, “Peace to you” (John 20:26). Then He looked at Thomas specifically and said, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands, and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27). Thomas, to his credit, didn’t need to take Him up on the offer. He simply answered Him, “My Lord, and my God!”

The Remaining Days of the 40-Day Period of Time: What follows now is a listing of the rest of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances before His ascension. It is hard to label any of these appearances with an exact date because the Bible just doesn’t give us that information. With that understood, here’s the list:

-According to John 21:1-14, Jesus appeared to a group of seven of His apostles on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias (Galilee) early one morning. This is the famous story where He asks Peter three times, “Do you love Me?” Also, He prepares a breakfast of fish and bread for the seven apostles, who have been out on the water all night long fishing. They haven’t caught anything, but when Jesus shouts out to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some” they obey and catch 153 large fish.

-According to Matthew 28:16-20, Jesus appeared to the eleven apostles at a mountain in Galilee, and according to 1 Corinthians 15:6 He appeared to 500 of His followers at once. It is possible that these two appearances were one and the same. As the theory goes, the fact that Matthew 28:17 says “When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted” might indicate that more than the eleven apostles were present for that appearance. Basically, it’s hard to imagine that by that time any of the eleven apostles would have still been doubting that Jesus had resurrected.

-According to 1 Corinthians 15:7, Jesus appeared to James. Most commentators believe this refers to James, the earthly half-brother of Jesus, rather than to the apostle James. If that is a correct interpretation, this appearance could well have been what turned James from a non-believer (John 7:5) into the man who would become the leader of the early church in Jerusalem (Acts 1:14; 15:6-29).

-Finally, according to Acts 1:3-12, the resurrected Jesus appeared to approximately 120 of His followers on the Mount of Olives just before His ascension. During that appearance He told them to wait in Jerusalem a few more days until they were baptized with the Holy Spirit. This baptizing occurred on the Day of Pentecost that is described in Acts chapter 2.

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