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Resurrection! – The Appearances of Christ

May 24, 2009

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. He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.

Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.

They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:13-49)

The Eyewitnesses

In U.S. courts, those charged with crimes are either found guilty or not guilty based on the presentation of evidence and the testimony of eyewitnesses. To prove the resurrection of Jesus, Christians could point to the empty tomb and the lack of a body as evidence and to the testimony of a great number of eyewitnesses who had seen the resurrected Jesus.

The apostles spoke with great confidence about the Resurrection of Jesus because they actually saw him. The apostles said that Jesus had appeared hundreds of people who were still alive and could be cross examined about what they had seen. Paul said “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
(1 Cor. 15:3-6)

Why does Paul mention that most of the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection were still living? Paul was inviting those who did not believe that Jesus had been resurrected to cross examine the eyewitnesses for themselves. There is no ambiguity in what Paul is saying. His testimony is very clear and his testimony can be backed up by more than five hundred other eyewitnesses who could be questioned by those who heard Paul’s testimony.

The Transformation

Further, what could account for Paul’s transformation? Paul was a highly esteemed Rabbi. He had been trained by Gamaliel, a highly regarded Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin (the highest Jewish council in the first century). Paul was a Pharisee, the largest and most influential religious-political party during New Testament times. Further, Paul persecuted the early Christians severely (Acts 7:51-8:1, Acts 8:3, Acts 9:1-2, Acts 22:3-5). How does a man like Paul (also known as Saul – Acts 13:9) suddenly change from a persecutor of Christians to a proclaimer of Christ? Only one thing could account for such a rapid change – he had seen the risen Jesus (Acts 9:4-5, Acts 22:7-8 and Acts 26:14-18).

The Decision

If you were a jury member in a trial to determine the truth about whether Jesus was resurrected, and you had seen the empty tomb and heard the testimony of over five hundred eyewitnesses who testified that Jesus had been resurrected, what would your verdict be?

Keep the faith, Jeff

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