The Strangest and Most Wonderful Story of All about Jesus–the Resurrection!

Yesterday was Easter, the day we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from death. Today, let’s take one more look at that event with the question: ‘Did Jesus really appear to his followers after his resurrection?’

I say Yes!

e he is risen2

The Women Visit the Tomb

Mark 16 tells the story of Jesus’ resurrection:

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body…they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.

As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.”

All four gospels report this event: Matthew 28 adds a violent earthquake and the young man becomes an angel whose appearance is like lightning. Luke 24 has two men and, as in Matthew, their clothes gleamed like lightning. Finally, John 20 has only Mary visiting the tomb but, like Mark and Matthew, he mentions someone dressed in white; and, as in Luke, John says there were two of them; and again with Matthew John calls them angels.

The four stories seem fairly consistent—even about the ‘angels’, though the word ‘angel’ simply means a messenger. We need not visualize some majestic creature with wings.

Jesus Appears to His Followers

After his resurrection, we read that Jesus appeared to a number of his followers. Matthew 28 reports his appeared to the women leaving the tomb:

Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Luke 24 states that Jesus met two followers on the road to Emmaus but they didn’t recognize him at first:

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.

When they told the disciples, the disciples responded:

“It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”

And then Jesus appeared to them:

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.

John 20 likely describes that same visit:

[W]hen the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Later, Jesus appeared to some of his followers again as they were fishing. John 21 says, ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”’ Again, Jesus ate with them.

Matthew 28 tells us:

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

It was there that Jesus gave them the great commission. And finally, according to Luke 24, Jesus met them one last time and departed. There are a few additional references to Jesus’ appearances in 1 Corinthians 15 and Acts 1.

Can We Trust These Resurrection Accounts?

As we examine these reports, some potentially troubling items stand out. On some of these occasions Jesus’ followers did not recognize him. Was Jesus’ resurrected body different in some way so that he did not look like himself?

Perhaps because of that some of them doubted—even in his presence. Why were they so doubtful about Jesus’ resurrection? Well, he WAS a dead person now ALIVE! That is a bit much to take in! They were not expecting that. But we know they became convinced because they were hiding out in fear from the Jewish leaders but then emerged, became public, and the church was born—all because of Jesus’ resurrection.

Why?

Jesus was a great leader, but he was killed. Jesus and his movement failed. His followers were disoriented and demoralized—a group of disappointed dupes with dashed hopes and vaporized dreams. No rousing purpose remained for the movement to continue. But then came Jesus’ resurrection, and Jesus’ followers were energized—even in the face of death.

People will fight and die for many things: money, power, freedom, an idea, a leader—but they will not follow a dead leader who failed in his mission. Jesus had provided his followers nothing but himself; he offered no prospect of money or power, and his promises were bound up in him personally. Without Jesus among them his followers had nothing.

But his resurrection changed the whole story!

Jesus’ Resurrection Continues to Inspire Us Today

Jesus’ resurrection is the strangest and most wonderful event of all! First, Jesus is with us and, secondly, Jesus’ resurrection assures our own eventual resurrection. We have just come through the Easter season; let us not allow that experience to slip away from us. Let us live in the light of the resurrection!

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42 Responses to The Strangest and Most Wonderful Story of All about Jesus–the Resurrection!

  1. tonycutty says:

    Excellent. Christos aneste!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Anthony Paul says:

    “Jesus Christ… The Hope of Glory”

    As Winter now gives way to Spring we see the cold deadness of the passing season yield to a vibrant newness and re-birth in all of nature which surrounds us each day. The resurrection of Jesus is God’s promise to His entire creation that one day we too will awaken from our own deadness so that we may rise and take our rightful place in the universe which was created for all to share and enjoy in peace and harmony.

    Let’s try to remember that the promise is for the entire creation to be made new, and not just the parts which we choose to call righteous. It’s my belief that all of God’s creation is righteous insofar as it is an expression of His inscrutable Mind… the desert cactus no less stately than the Ponderosa Pine; and the mouse as majestic as the lion. Further, it’s written that “…the lion shall lie down with the lamb”. And so it shall be with every one of us when we all come to our final Spring.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. newtonfinn says:

    Has Jesus really been resurrected? And if so, what does that mean for us today? I know the resurrection stories and the history of the early church, and they lead me to believe, like Tim, that something happened to turn his demoralized followers into champions of his message and meaning, dedicated preachers of a gospel they struggled to understand. But look around at the world we live in, learn how the Jesus movement quickly morphed from challenging empire to becoming its official religion, and doubts about the resurrection as anything but a strange, mysterious event come rushing into the mind, at least into mine. These days, I don’t see much of Jesus’ teaching and life-example in the world around me. At best, there are pockets of people making gestures in that direction, gestures of varying depth and devotion. But these exceptions only prove the rule and show what little impact Jesus has actually had on human nature and human society. Isn’t Jesus himself portrayed as wondering whether he would find any faith left on earth, were he to return in the future? The older I get, the more that wistful question rings true, much truer for me than the triumphalism that usually surrounds the re-telling of the resurrection story.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Anthony Paul says:

      “These days, I don’t see much of Jesus’ teaching and life-example in the world around me. At best, there are pockets of people making gestures in that direction, gestures of varying depth and devotion.”

      I can feel my own searching pain (and yours, perhaps?) through your words which are sadly true. But as I struggle with this truth, the thought comes to me that even one single candle has the power to destroy the darkness…. and so we are grateful for those faithful few…. obedient to their calling, they light the way upon an often winding and twisted path.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Newton and Anthony, I agree that the impact of the Jesus movement sometimes seems very faint among us. And I think that the joining of the church with the empire was one of the most destructive things that every happened to the church.

      However, I believe the kingdom of God, which is not the same as the church, continues to grow unseen; and I am confident that the kingdom will one day succeed all over the earth.

      Liked by 2 people

      • newtonfinn says:

        May it be so. “I believe; help my unbelief” is as close as I can get. For those who yearn for a concrete, detailed vision of what the Kingdom might look like and feel like were it to come on earth as Jesus prayed (something not made terribly clear in scripture), let me again urge the reading of two late 19th Century works of prophetic genius: “Looking Backward” and “Equality” by Edward Bellamy. These books put the reader in that mountain top position, looking toward the promised land, that Moses and MLK were blessed to experience, knowing all the while that they themselves would never enter it.

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      • Chas says:

        Tim, I agree that the joining of church with empire was very destructive, but I suspect that the church was already quite decayed, even then.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Chas says:

    Tim, this suggests the first believers only believed in Jesus because of a miracle. However, many people have come to believe in Jesus without having thought about the resurrection, so it cannot be essential to believe that the resurrection actually happened.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Chas, I would not say it is essential to believe the resurrection actually happened in order to come to Jesus; but I think it was this that energized Jesus’ followers into action. I think they believed Jesus was resurrected, and I also believe Jesus was resurrected.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Dennis Wade says:

    Hi Tim
    I suspect that most people on this blog would have read the book “Who Rolled Away The Stone?” by Frank Morison. But if you haven’t, then it’s a worthy read.
    It was written by a man whose primary intention was to discredit the physical resurrection and who ended up totally accepting it. It’s on Kindle Amazon, but it was written quite a few years ago and the style is very outdated. Also, the Kindle edition seems to have been put out without proper editing, as there are a lot of proofreading mistakes within.
    The author approaches the Biblical account of the resurrection as if it were evidence offered to a court of law, and examines it from that point. He plays the part of someone looking for loopholes in the eyewitness accounts to see if he can discredit them.
    Amazingly, he is able to demonstrate that the stories hold up quite well under close examination, and his personal conclusion is that if this had occurred in today’s world and the stories were offered up in a modern courtroom, they would be very hard to discredit.
    This doesn’t mean that he has proved the physical resurrection, but only that from the point of view of the witnesses, he cannot discredit it.

    There is one VERY important fact that he points out quite convincingly:
    The early church was running around Jerusalem and the Holy Land proclaiming that Jesus had risen from the dead. They were doing this in front of the very powers who had put Him to death. Jesus’ body was put into the family tomb of a very well known and influential person.
    It would have been the easiest thing in the world for these powers to go to that tomb and get the body in order to completely discredit the early church’s statements.
    But they never did!
    They did claim that the body was stolen away, but the author points out that the very close disciples who would have been the ones to do this were hiding in fear at the time, and also the window of opportunity was very very small and the pharisees had requested Pilate to have the tomb guarded for that very reason. His conclusion, which contains a lot more than just this, is that the body being stolen is actually the least likely thing to have happened because the events surrounding this death were too public , including that it happened in the midst of one of the most important religious holidays that annually drew hundreds of thousands of jews from all over to Jerusalem and the city was packed to the brim.
    Also, the first public declaration of the early church in the book of Acts also took place in Jerusalem at another holy holiday when it was again filled with worshippers from all over. If the pharisees had been able to convincingly demonstrate that they had evidence to discredit these claims, they would have definitely done so.

    Like I said, it’s a fascinating read that is definitely worth it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Dennis, I think I remember this book from waaay back but I don’t recall whether I read it. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

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  6. newtonfinn says:

    Let me give another report on my reading of Hart’s new translation of the NT. At this point, I’ve read all four gospels, a letter of Paul, and the three letters attributed to John. I’m just moved into Acts and will read other letters of Paul now and then as I work my way through Luke’s sequel to his gospel. I’ll then hit the rest of the letters and wind up with Revelation.

    My reading so far has also prompted me to re-read Thomas Paine’s “Age of Reason,” in which he draws such a clear distinction between special and general revelation, affirming the latter as being true knowledge of God derived from His creation, while rejecting the former as hearsay reports which inevitably engender sectarianism and conflict. His cardinal point is that special revelation, if it occurs, would come directly from God to a particular man of woman, and that whenever another person chooses to believe in a report of revelation not personally received, he or she is putting faith in a hearsay account, not in revelation in any meaningful sense. I mention these points made by Paine because they dovetail so well with the thoughts and feelings that have arisen in me as I wade my way through Hart’s fresh NT translation.

    Here and there in the NT books I’ve read are verses that strike me as containing profound truth and wisdom. For example, there is that stunning statement in the first letter of John which summarizes the entire message of Jesus as being that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. There are also wonderful and inspirational statements about how God is love and we are accordingly to love one another. But then you read further in First John and come across all kinds of assertions concerning who is in God’s favor and who is out, who will be saved and who won’t be, who we should associate with and who we should shun, etc.–and how all of this turns upon what one believes conceptually and acknowledges publicly about the metaphysical nature of Jesus. The same was true of each and every gospel and the letter of Paul that I previously read.

    So at this point I can only say that, SO FAR, Paine’s perspective impresses me as much more perceptive and appealing than that of a believer in the Bible as somehow being God’s special revelatory word. But I will make no final judgment in my own mind and here on JWB until I have finished the entire NT translation and pondered the whole thing more deeply than these top-of-the-head impressions.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Tim, I know that you believe that everyone will be included in this kingdom that you mention that is separate from the church, but does it really matter what we believe about Jesus and His resurrection? I think it does. Remember in Matthew 25 He lists three groups of people who will stand with Him upon His return. His brethren, the sheep and the goats. There is seen a very different role for each in the coming kingdom.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Jerry, you said: “Remember in Matthew 25 He lists three groups of people who will stand with Him upon His return. His brethren, the sheep and the goats. There is seen a very different role for each in the coming kingdom.” This sounds like an interesting thought; can you expand upon it?

      Liked by 1 person

      • In Matthew 24 we see the Tribulation that theologians argue over then His stated return. And when He returns His Judgment of Nations in ch 25. The signs He used in chapter 24 are based on Daniels prophetic visions where the Abomination of desolation that Jesus spoke of originates.
        Jewish scholars believed that there would be three types of people on earth when Their Messiah comes. The Righteous, The totally wicked and an intermediate group who would have until the day of repentance to make up their minds to repent.
        Interestingly Jesus seems to draw on that. The righteous I assume would be His brethren; these would be those who come out of Great Tribulation by Resurrection and the much debated Rapture. If you follow Revelation they would have needed assistance to live — neither able to buy or sell. The Goats who did not feed, clothe or give Him drink would be the wicked. The Sheep were those who did unknowingly feed clothe and supply drink to His brethren Jesus says that they are given entrance into eternal life and the kingdom prepared for them. This would seem to be one interpretation. And if true would seem to imply as I stated in my post back to you that what we believe about Him could make a difference. Your thoughts?

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Jerry thanks for your elaboration. It assumes a dispensational perspective; I am not a dispensationalist so I would not consider this a prophecy of the endtimes. I take this to be a parable to emphasize an important issue for Jesus’ followers to address–care for the marginalized.

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    • newtonfinn says:

      Jerry, if you’re talking about Jesus’ “sheep and goats” vision of the great assize, what is the third group of people, besides those in the sheep group and those in the goats group, who are pictured as standing before the Son of Man? Are you referring to the assemblage of all humankind before they were so divided into two, and only two, groups? The reference to brethren (in some NT translations) is to those whom, on earth, before the assize, the sheep had shown compassion and the goats had not. Nowhere in the “sheep and goat” vision is there a third group of people standing around, at least as I can see.

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      • newtonfinn says:

        Should be “brethren” instead of “brethern.” Is there any way to allow editing of typos or self-corrected spelling on JWB without undue expense or hassle? My age is catching up with me in this regard.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Newton, I can make corrections and am willing to do so. Just indicate what correction is needed (as you did here), and I will take care of it–no problem. I do it for people all the time. BTW, I have just corrected the typo you mentioned.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Ok, newton do you agree that when Jesus comes back there are still mortals in the nations left on earth? And do you or do you not agree that He brings back with him the resurrected who would then be immortals now worthy to be sons of God as stated here:
        35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 36 for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.
        Luke 20:35-36 NASB
        This He said in response to the Sadducees who were trying to trick Him concerning the Resurrection. So when He comes He resurrects the righteous, as is depicted in chapter 24 before the judgment of the sheep and goats who obviously from the conversation don’t know Him or the scripture — I say this because of their response to Him. All of this together is why I would argue that they are still mortal and not of His brethren, whom He refers to as these My brethren, and therefore I see three groups.

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      • Newton as I reread your question I guess you are questioning the addition to the reference to brethren? That I would think is difficult to nail down.

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        • newtonfinn says:

          You see, Jerry, I don’t think there’s anything even remotely difficult about Jesus’ vision of the sheep and the goats at the final judgment. I would agree with Tim that the vision is metaphorical, but the meaning of the metaphor seems obvious. When, at the end of time, all human beings stand before Jesus (to whom the Father has given the power of eternal judgment), the criterion he will use to separate the redeemed from the unredeemed, the saved from the lost, is whether one acted, while on this earth, with compassion toward those who were suffering…or whether one did not. PERIOD. That is the only standard by which each of us will be judged by Jesus. And he goes on to make it even clearer that at this point when the entire universe finds its culmination, when we are standing there before him and all is revealed, all secrets known, our verbal expressions of religious belief and testimonies of religious faith will be ABSOLUTELY IRRELEVANT. Here, right here–much more than in the crucifixion and resurrection and our various concepts and beliefs about them–is the beating (and bleeding) heart of the gospel. The rest is commentary.

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          • Newton are you saying that we are saved by our own righteousness rather than by Jesus sacrifice for our sins, which sacrifice we are asked to believe in for the forgiveness of sin. I would hate to think that my eternal separation or inclusion is dependent on my righteousness? Why then did He die? Would not the message of good works have been enough? I do realize that the sheep goats Judgment is based on works, but these are people who have seemingly not heard of him. This is evidence of His perfect Justice. But we have heard, and we know that we are sinners. And on Apostle John says if we sin we have an advocate who will forgive us our sin. Not that we want to sin, but that being human and not yet perfect we do. Am I missing your point?

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  8. newtonfinn says:

    No, Jerry, you get my point to a tee. My take on this rather startling story of the final judgment, related metaphorically by Jesus, is that sinners (which we all are) find ultimate redemption only in the love they have shown, during their confused and conflicted lives, to those less fortunate than themselves. When all is said and done, the presence or absence of such works of love in their lives will determine their eternal destiny, without regard to whether they were fundamentalists, evangelicals, liberal Christians, adherents of other religions, spiritual but not religious, agnostics, or atheists This, I believe, is the most definite and most radical teaching we can recover from the historical Jesus, and the one that has for understandable reasons been the most ignored or “explained away” throughout the history of the institutional church. Indeed, that checkered history can at least partially be explained by the suppression, distortion, or rejection of this simple, compelling, and illuminating story of the sheep and the goats. Imagine what the world might look like today if the church, from its inception, had taken the spreading of this elemental, universal message of love and compassion as its Great Commission.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Jerry and Newton, I see things a bit differently than either of you explain here. I don’t think our salvation is based on Jesus ‘dying’ for our sins OR out doing good works.

      I believe Jesus died in confrontation with the powers of evil and of death and defeated the ultimate powers of both in his resurrection. His resurrection makes possible our eventual resurrections and eternal life. Our role on earth includes the very important aspect of loving others with empathy, compassion, and care; but our failure in that regard does not prohibit our receiving eternal life with God.

      The parable is designed to emphasize the importance of caring for the marginalized and not to define the basis for final judgment.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. newtonfinn says:

    Tim, while Jerry and I take opposite sides in the traditional faith vs. works debate, you seem to be pointing toward a third way of understanding how one obtains eternal life. But I must confess that while I think I understand Jerry’s viewpoint, I cannot quite get a handle on yours. Would you mind elaborating on the manner in which you believe that Jesus confronted and overcame the powers of evil and death, on more than an individual basis? And would you also explain how someone today might participate in whatever this victory was? Is there anything at all–mental, physical, or emotional–that one must do? If not, and our role is purely passive (receptive), then why do we even bother about this stuff that happened two thousand years ago? Why worry about money already in the bank? If you’ve laid this out in prior posts, Tim, please just point me in that direction. Thanks much for considering my request for elaboration, and eager I am to better understand your take on these ultimate things and maybe alter or expand my own thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Sure, Newton. My comment was, “I don’t think our salvation is based on Jesus ‘dying’ for our sins OR our doing good works.”

      What I mean by this is that I agree with Jerry that Jesus’ death AND resurrection TOGETHER secure for us eternal life with God after death. I can also agree that Jesus saves us from ‘sin’ but not ‘sin’ as defined as original sin or God’s wrath toward us because of our sin(s). I think God wants to heal us of our fear, alienation, and brokenness; I think God approaches all of us with empathy, compassion, and care.

      On the other hand, I agree very much with you that our behavior, rooted in love (empathy, compassion, and care), is extremely important for followers of Jesus and can also be seen in those who do not follow Jesus–though we all fall short. But this does not secure our ‘salvation’.

      If we think of ‘salvation’ in terms of our eternal destiny, I think Jesus took care of that by providing eternal life for us in his resurrection by conquering the ultimate power of death. I believe Jesus is the ONLY way to this eternal life, but I suspect that God will offer eternal life to everyone at a time when they have a clear mind and understand what it means. This might be after death.

      However, there may be some who reject eternal life with God, and I think God will honor them by accepting their rejection and allowing them to expire naturally (I do not believe Plato’s teaching of immortality of the ‘soul’).

      As to the requirements of following God’s kingdom, I think Mark 1 is simple and normative: “Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’”

      Repent means to change one’s mind. So all we must do is to respond positively to the good news, change our direction, and align with God in order to be part of the kingdom of God. Certainly a big part of the good news is God’s love for us, and part of our response should affect our behavior toward others.

      I do have articles on the various aspect I mention. If you indicate which aspects you might want to read, I can share those links with you.

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  10. atchait says:

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. michaeleeast says:

    Tim, the post-resurrection appearances always seem to me like modern reports of people seen shortly after death by loved ones. Although Jesus’ importance may have made these events more vivid. Or perhaps they have been embellished. But it would have been a surprise to the disciples who believed in Sheoul. You are quite right to remind us that we will rise with Jesus.

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  12. MARK WILLIAMS says:

    Hi Tim, I have been pondering a theory about resurrection – Jesus said many times that believers would be resurrected on the last day. What if the “last day” is the day that one dies? What if the resurrection takes place then, in a new heavens and new earth, e.g., an alternate universe that God created when Jesus, the first person rose from the dead? Modern science has theorized recently that there could be many universes. Since there are uncountable galaxies and stars, why not? Why not a resurrection universe? This won’t change my belief in Christ, but it seems comforting!

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