This lesson also references Mark 15:42-16:14; Luke 23:50-24:43; John 19:38-20:29.
Dr. Dean referenced a document on the post-resurrection appearances of Christ during this class. You can download it here.
Giving an Answer – Part 20
Resurrection: The Witnesses
Matthew 27:57–28:8; Mark 15:42–16:14; Luke 23:50–24:43; John 19:38–20:29
1 Peter Lesson #102
August 3, 2017
“Our Father, we’re thankful for this opportunity to come together to study, to reflect upon Who You are, and to come to understand what You’ve revealed to us, to realize that there are many convincing proofs of the truth of Scripture, truth of Christianity, truth of Who Jesus is, Who He claimed to be, and of the Resurrection.
“Father, we pray that we may internalize these truths so that not only do they give us, personally, confidence and courage, but also that we can communicate that as we witness to others. And that God the Holy Spirit can use it to impact the world around us as we function as light in the midst of a wicked and dark world.
“Father, we pray, too, for our country. We are thankful for those who are involved in this Bible study in the White House, those who are on the Cabinet. We pray that the man who leads it will be true to the Scriptures and teach the truth and challenge them, and that they will come to understand the importance of divine establishment and divine institutions, and why those must be upheld in order to maintain freedom.
“Father, we pray that You would now guide and direct our thinking as we study Your Word. In Christ’s name. Amen.”
An email came out today from wallbuilders.com. That’s David Barton’s organization. David Barton is a historian who has done a tremendous amount of work in alerting Americans to the Christian past, to the role of Christianity in the history of America. And it was just a reminder that on this date, back to 1785, when America first succumbed to blackmail, and intimidation, and extortion from the Islamic nations.
When many of you were in school, it was called the “Barbary Pirates”. It’s because these northern nations, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, on the southern shore of the Mediterranean, were Muslim nations, the Berber tribesmen. If you ever saw The Wind and the Lion, that talked about the Berbers. They were Muslims, and they were attacking the ships that were going into the Mediterranean, going through the Straits of Gibraltar. And then they were holding these Europeans and Americans captive.
For several years, with our infant nation, it was necessary to pay this extortion. But once Washington became president and the nation began to be settled, then they began to authorize a navy and to build the Navy. And once they did that under Washington and Adams, then when Jefferson became president, he stopped the practice of paying off these Muslim extortionists. So that’s really the first war in American history against these Islamic terrorists.
According to this great email that Wallbuilders sent out today—I’ve read much about this there, and through other sources—the first edition, the first printing of a Quran in America, wasn’t because they were trying to encourage people to know Islam—other than to know the horrors of sharia law, and why we were at war with these Islamic countries!
I love what Ronald Reagan said about liberals. He said, “It isn't so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so.” And they talk about, “Oh, Jefferson had a copy of the Quran. Wasn’t he open-minded?” And that’s just garbage. He had a copy the Quran so he would know how the enemy thought. He understood that their system of thinking and Islamic thought and the Quran was totally antithetical to the principles of divine establishment, to the principles that were embedded within the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and that Islam could never coexist with the American form of government. And we’ve got a wake people up to that reality.
Otherwise, we’re going to succumb to their extortion and intimidation again. And we already have. Any time some Muslim says that they’re offended ... One person out of 10,000 or 100,000 can say, “I’m offended by the American flag.” Then we’ve got to take it down.
That’s just the tyranny of the minority. And it’s got to stop, but we don’t have the moral fiber, the moral courage, because without the Bible and the Word of God, and the truth of Christianity in the souls of the people in America, they will never have the kind of moral courage necessary to take a stand against that which is false. And that’s the issue.
The only thing that we can do is we need to pray, and we need to study the Word for our own spiritual growth, and we need to witness to people, and we need to inform people of where they can go to get sound biblical truth and information. Because we are in an incredible, massive, spiritual war that is manifesting itself in a cultural war. And everything that we know and love is at stake.
Having said that, let’s get back to our topic here in 1 Peter 3:15, “Giving an Answer,” as we wrap up our study on apologetics and Christian evidences. This is our 20th lesson. I thought, at the beginning, I would do this in a short, succinct manner of six or seven hours. But I’ve never really taught through a lot of this in this manner, so it stretched out now to 20 hours. These are the passages on the Resurrection.
And the Resurrection is the ultimate convincing proof, or evidence, that God set forth for who Jesus is—that He is the eternal son of God Who was authenticated as such, as the eternally begotten Son of God, by the Resurrection.
So, this last part of what we’ve been studying focused on three basic questions that a lot of people ask after they become Christians. Or maybe they’re asking as they’re witnessed to, “Can we trust the Bible?”
If we’re going to say that Jesus is God, how do we know that the Gospels are true? How do we know that the Gospels are not something that was written 150 years ago, some sort of legend about this guy, Jesus? How do we know Jesus even existed? All those kinds of questions. Can we trust the Bible? That was the first thing we looked at.
Second question was, “Who was Jesus?” Who did the Old Testament predict and prophesy about? We looked at those key prophecies. You should have five or six in your head. Prophecies like Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6, Micah 5:2—the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem.
Prophecies like Isaiah 53—several in Isaiah 53—that are clearly fulfilled in Jesus. You have, also, prophecies like Zechariah 11 about Jesus being betrayed, Psalm 16 that His body wouldn’t undergo decay. So many of them.
And think about the example I gave you in terms of probability. That for just 10 of the 100+ prophecies related to Jesus’ first coming that were fulfilled, the probabilities are like covering the state of Texas about four to five feet deep in silver dollars, marking one of them, stirring it into that whole pot, blindfolding somebody. And the chance of them picking that out the first time is a chance that only 10 of those prophecies could come true in one person. So, when you think about 100, the probabilities are astronomical. Once you get past a certain point in those probabilities, it is statistically impossible that this can all happen. So that shows that what we claim about Jesus in terms of those prophecies is remarkable. So, having that kind of material in your head is very important when you’re witnessing to people.
Then we’ve spent the last several weeks on, “Did Jesus really rise from the dead?” Talking about the issues related to the Resurrection of Christ.
These are the passages. We’ve covered them for about four weeks: Matthew 28:1–10; Mark 16:1–11; Luke 24:1–12; John 20:1–18. Think this through. Somebody says, “How do you know Jesus rose from the dead? How you know He was really dead? Why didn’t they steal the body?” We’ll talk about that a little more later on.
But here are the main things. First of all, to show that Jesus died. We talked about the evidence that’s given. For example, John’s eyewitness evidence, that when the spear of this Roman centurion entered the side of Jesus, what looked like blood and water came out. Medical experts who read that understand that that can only happen if the person is dead. And that would typically happen with the form of the body. When somebody is crucified, their body relaxes the pressure that comes on the diaphragm area, and the blood would separate out into lymph serum and to red corpuscle. Once that area of the diaphragm is pierced, it would come out and look like that.
The seal on the tomb and the guard on the tomb indicate that the Roman soldiers were professionals at this. This isn’t a guard that is hired down at the local labor market where you pick up 15 or 20 guys to go take care of a job for the day. These were professional guards. And they knew that their life could be at stake, so they made sure that Jesus’ body was still in the tomb. They closed the tomb. And then they put this seal, which was a rope that was affixed by a wax seal to the side. And it was a crime to break that seal.
The guard. Scholars suggest anywhere from eight to 24 guards. A typical guard was composed of four soldiers. So, some say it was only four. Just as at the Cross there would have been a detail of four, and one would’ve stood guard every shift. And the other view is that all four would stand guard every shift out of the 24. So, in either case, there was not the opportunity to steal the body. That’s one of the theories, that somebody—the disciples—snuck in and stole the body.
You have the desertion of the disciples. They were scared to death. They fled when Jesus was arrested. Where did they get the courage to stand up for the truth of who Jesus was unless the Resurrection had occurred? If they had stolen the body, where would they get the courage to stand up for the Resurrection if they knew it was a lie? It’s just illogical; it doesn’t make sense.
We have the fact of the empty tomb. But very few people debate whether or not the tomb was empty. It’s the significance of that empty tomb that is important, that it signifies that Jesus rose from the dead.
And then we looked at the grave clothes. The way they were left indicates that the body just dematerialized, and rematerialized as a resurrection body that was no longer mortal. It wasn’t a spirit; it was a different kind of physical body. And then we come to the post-Resurrection witnesses.
So, we looked at each of these topics.
The securing of the tomb.
The seal on the tomb.
The guard at the tomb.
Somebody sent a great observation. They said, “The reason you don’t see the fourth guy? He’s taking the picture.”
Then the desertion of the disciples.
And the fact of the empty tomb.
And now we’re on the post-Resurrection witnesses.
Deuteronomy 19:15, the foundation of law in Western civilization is the Law of Moses. We all know that in order to convict anyone of a crime, especially a serious crime, a crime of murder or any kind of felony, there need to be more than one witness, there need to be two witnesses. So, this is grounded in several passages in the Mosaic Law.
In Deuteronomy 19:15 we’re told, “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any stand that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.” This same principle is found in the New Testament, in Timothy.
I believe it’s in 1 Timothy 5. It says, “Never accept a charge against an elder in the church [ a pastor] unless it’s confirmed by two or three witnesses.” Otherwise, it’s just gossip. And I can’t tell you the stories I’ve heard that have been passed around about different pastors. And they may not be good pastors! They may be heretics, but it can’t be gossip. There has to be that objective, confirmatory evidence by two or three witnesses or more.
When it comes to the talking about the importance of the Resurrection and its significance ... If the Resurrection didn’t happen, if it was a hoax, if the tomb wasn’t empty, if there weren’t witnesses, then how did it get started in the first place? If you didn’t have people who were convinced—against every opposition—that Jesus had risen from the dead, you wouldn’t have Christianity.
In C.S. Lewis’ book, Miracles, he said, “The first fact in the history of Christendom is a number of people who say they have seen the Resurrection. If they had died without making anyone else believe this ‘gospel’ no gospels would ever have been written.” It’s one thing to preach it, but if they hadn’t convinced others that it was true, then no Gospels ever would’ve been written. There had to have been a positive response to that message from people who were there at the time.
And that’s what we see in the Book of Acts. In the Book of Acts, we see over a million people who have come to Jerusalem for that Feast of Pentecost. And when Peter stands up on the Temple Mount and declares the truth of the Resurrection, there are people there that could easily contradict him and say, “Well, there was no empty tomb. We were there. There’s a body there. We can show you where the grave is right now.” And that kind of thing never happened.
Day after day the disciples proclaimed the reality of the Resurrection, and that they had seen Jesus, they had talked to Jesus, they had put their hands into the nail prints and into the sword wound on His side. They were convinced of that. And people knew it was true, because there was no evidence to contradict what the apostles were saying.
J.P. Moreland, who’s written another apologetic book on the Resurrection, says, “Finally, the Resurrection appearances [that is, those that are described in the Gospels.] He says that these are extremely reserved. What he means is, there’s nothing extravagant. They don’t make any bizarre claims. Look at the apocryphal gospels that come out in the middle of the second century and into the third century. You’ve heard of the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. There’s a whole bunch of these different “gospels” that are bogus and were written 100, 150, 200 years after the events.
He says, “When one compares them [that is, the four Gospel accounts in the New Testament] with the reports in the apocryphal gospels (second century on), the difference is startling. In the Apocrypha, detailed explanations are given about how the Resurrection took place. Gross details are added [in the Apocrypha]. For example, the Gospel of Peter (mid-second century) reports a cross coming out of the tomb after Jesus, and Jesus is so tall he extends above the clouds.” It’s this kind of bizarre stuff that is added by these apocryphal gospels later on.
So, what I wanted to do—I started this little bit last week, and I wanted to summarize it. I gave you a handout. If you are on the Internet, if you’re watching, this document is posted. If you go to the 1 Peter lessons site on the Dean Bible ministries website, you can go to where this lesson is posted and there is a Word document there that you can download.
For those here, I had a handout passed out. That handout is taken from the Bible Knowledge Commentary which was published by Dallas Seminary in the early ’80s, about ’81 or ’82. Most of the men who wrote were professors of mine, and it’s very good. They couldn’t write a commentary that good today, let me tell you. It’s very good. That doesn’t mean I agree with everything there. There are a few guys that are a little flaky on some things, but overall, it’s very, very good.
And that’s a list of all the things that took place after the Resurrection. It’s not a list of all of the appearances—they’re included, but it’s a list. So, keep it; fold it up. Stick it in your Bible, because it won’t be long before we’re going to get there in Matthew on Sunday mornings. So, we’ll need to have that again, and probably post it with that Matthew lesson when we get there.
But this is from Matthew commentary in the Bible Knowledge Commentary which was written by Lou Barbieri, who taught in the Bible Exposition Department. I think I had him for post-exilic prophets in the Gospels when I was a student. He taught many, many years at Moody before he came to Dallas. He was only at Dallas for four or five years, and then he went back and spent the rest of his career at Moody Bible Institute.
What I’m going to do is go through the list of the appearances and read through the passages. Because one of the things I find is that a lot of people just have never read what the Bible says about all these things. They’ve heard it, but they’ve never really looked at it. So, we’ll look at some of the details. Not every one of them. Some of the passages are a little long. And I looked at a couple of these last week.
He first appeared to Mary Magdalene. She got to the tomb, the tomb was empty, and, as is described in Mark 16:9, she comes. She’s with Mary, and she is with a couple of other women. So, when she leaves, she’s alone. She’s going to go seek out Peter and John to tell them, and Jesus appears to her. And that’s described in Mark 16:9. “… He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons.
“Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.” That is John 20:14. So, she’s the first one. Now, if you were writing an account and you wanted it to be believed at that time, you would never have Jesus appear first to a woman. It wouldn’t happen.
Women never testified in court—or rarely did. Their testimony wasn’t considered valid. So, this is a really significant statement here. It indicates the honesty and the accuracy of the event, and that they weren’t trying to just create a scenario to get people to believe them, but they were telling what had actually taken place.
The second group that He appeared to were the other women that had come with Mary on the way to the tomb. And Matthew tells us about this, Matthew 28:9. “And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, ‘Rejoice!’ So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.”
Now, the “them” there refers back to those women. “Then Jesus said to them—to the women,—‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.’ ”
In Matthew 28:1, we read, “Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary …” We really don’t know who the other Mary is at that point; by comparing Gospel accounts, we learn that she’s the mother of James. This would be James the Less.
The mother of James, and then another woman named Salome. Now we’ll come back and look at some of these names later on; all Matthew tells us is that it’s Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. But there was a group of women.
Salome, when you compare the different passages. For example, Mark says that it’s Mary, the mother of James, and Salome. So, we know the name of the third woman. When you look at Matthew, he talks about two women named Mary, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee—and that is Salome, when you compare with John.
John says that this other person there—he doesn’t name Salome, but he says that she—is the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus. So, if Mary’s sister is Salome, and she’s also the mother of the sons of Zebedee, then that means that James and John are first cousins to Jesus. Mary’s family was very interesting! Because Mary’s cousin was Elizabeth, who is the mother of John the Baptist. And Elizabeth was married to a priest. And we’re also told that John was related to the family of the high priest. So, apparently, on Mary’s side of the family, she’s got familial connections to the tribe of Levi through marriage. So, that’s an interesting scenario there. But that’s who Salome is.
So, there are these women. There are at least three—maybe four—women that are present. I think another the passage mentions a woman named Joanna. They are present. So, they’re the initial witnesses.
Third, He appears to Peter later in the day. This is described in Matthew 28:9–10.
Then He appears fourth to the Emmaus disciples on the road to Emmaus. I talked about this last time: that great Bible study that Jesus would’ve had with these two guys, Cleopus and another one. And they didn’t know Who He was. He sort of disguised Himself. They didn’t recognize Him. Then He revealed Who He was at the end, and they were just amazed. And this is when Jesus took them through the Old Testament, showing all the passages that talked about Him. So that would’ve been a tremendous Bible study to listen to.
Now, all of this is happening on Sunday. He’s appeared to all of these: the women; He’s appeared to Peter; He’s appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. And then, by the end of the day, He appears to all of the disciples, except for Thomas.
All of the disciples [later Apostles] other than Thomas. This is described in Luke 24:36–43, and John 20:19–24. So, I want you to turn in your Bibles to John 20:19–24. And while you’re turning there, I want to read the account to you that is given in Luke. “36 Now as they said these things—they were debating whether Jesus was actually risen,—Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’ ”
Now, this isn’t a vision. It’s not a hallucination. You can’t have group hallucinations. It is psychologically impossible. There are a lot of studies on this, and you can read about them. Hallucinations are unstable and they fluctuate. If a person’s hallucinated, they’re not even going to describe it the same way twice. So, to get a large number of people to have the same hallucination and agree on the details is just absolutely absurd. That kind of thing just doesn’t happen, according to psychologists.
So, Jesus appears to them. We learn something about this new body that Jesus has, in that He doesn’t knock on the door and wait for them to open the door in order to come in. He just materializes right there in front of them. And it scares them to death! One minute, Jesus isn’t there. And then, He’s there. And they’re terrified and frightened in verse 37 of Luke 24. “37 But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit.” I think the old King James would’ve said, “a “ghost.”
“38 And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?’ ” Remember, many times the Gospels said that when He had predicted His resurrection, they debated among themselves what He meant by it. They just didn’t comprehend it!
Now, we have a hard time because many of us have heard about the resurrection of Christ, maybe even long before you were saved. Because, in this country, we celebrate Easter. So, those who grew up in an American culture that still had some residual Christian influence in it would have heard that Jesus rose from the dead. And we understood what that meant in some vague way. They’d never heard of anything like this, so every time Jesus said, “I’ll rise from the dead,” they just didn’t comprehend it.
So, He appears to them. And He holds out evidence! “39 Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” I think it’s interesting: He’s not flesh and blood anymore. 1 Corinthians 15:50 says, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” He is flesh and bone. It is a different body, different makeup, different chemistry and biology than what we have in our mortal bodies now.
“40 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 41 But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, ‘Have you any food here?’ ” So, they’re still not fully buying into it, and they still don’t understand it or believe the Resurrection.
“42 So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. 43 And He took it and ate in their presence.” Now, what that tells me is that, for those of you who are foodies, yes, indeed, in your resurrection body, you will be able to eat. I don’t know if you’ll want to eat, but you’ll be able to eat. He ate.
“19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week—so this is Sunday evening sunset,—when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” Notice how the two accounts agree. It doesn’t say they believed. They were glad to see Him, but they weren’t at that point where they were comprehending just what had happened yet.
“21 So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ ” I mean, they’re believers. They’re saved! They were saved as Old Testament saints, but just not getting it yet! So, He says, “ ‘As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ ” This was temporary—and most people miss this. That Jesus, at this point, on the Day of First Fruits, the Day of Resurrection, that is about 49 days before the Day of Pentecost, is giving them a temporary gift of the Holy Spirit.
“He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ 24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.” So, that’s in John 20:24. And what happens, because he’s not there, when they tell him, he’s going to be pretty skeptical; he’s not going to buy into it.
“25 The other disciples therefore said to him—that’s to Thomas when he shows up,—'We have seen the Lord.’ So he said to them, ‘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.’ ” So, he wants that empirical evidence. He wants to know hard and fast proof. He wants to feel Jesus’ body. He wants to feel the holes in His hand—to know for sure that He has been raised from the dead.
Now I think this is really, really interesting for some other reasons. But he says, “I’m not going to believe until I feel the nail prints—until I have that empirical evidence.”
And then Jesus says to him when he appears, eight days later. “26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside—so this is a little more than a week later,—and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst—again emphasizing He just materializes through the doors,—and said, ‘Peace to you!’—Shalom!—27 Then He said to Thomas, ‘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.’ ”
Every now and again, you get people who will make some issue out of signs or evidence—that that’s something less. John MacArthur does this. In Lordship salvation, what he does is, he says, “You can have a faith in Jesus that isn’t saving.” How do you know? That’s the question you should ask. And he would reply, “Well, if you go back to John 2 …”
In John 2, it says that Jesus did many signs. He went into Jerusalem, and He did many signs. And people “believed in Him.” And he uses the same phrase he uses all the way through John for the Gospel: Believe in Him—believe in Him—believe in Him. And then it says, but Jesus didn’t trust Himself to them.
See, MacArthur makes this ideological leap. He says, “See, if they had really believed [the text would indicate they really believed], Jesus would’ve trusted them. Now, my problem with that is—there’s a lot of Christians out there that I won’t trust at all!
But the text says that they asked Him for a sign. And MacArthur says, “See, if you believe because of a sign, then that’s not saving faith.” Do you get the illogic of that? He says that in his book, The Gospel According to Jesus. I’ve heard him say it, and I read what he said.
You see, all through the Gospel of John, it’s going to say when we get to verse 31, “these—signs—are written that you may believe.” The whole Gospel of John is based on giving miraculous signs so that people will believe Jesus is the Messiah! Absolutely insane position, but that’s the problem with the legalism of Lordship.
“28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ ” Now, did Thomas stick his fingers in the holes? No. Because when he saw the Lord, it was a self-authenticating reality. He knew that was Jesus! And he didn’t need any more proof.
“29 Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’ ” Now, MacArthur would read that, “Well, you see me, so you don’t have real faith.” Because of his absurd view on the role of miracles; it’s totally bogus.
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus is pointing out that, in future generations, there are going to be people who don’t have this kind of empirical evidence. “They are not going to be able see My Resurrection body, touch My hands, touch the side. They’re going to believe on the basis of the evidence of Scripture. And they will be blessed.”
Then John says, “30 And truly Jesus did many other signs …” There been seven—plus one sign. The greatest sign in John was the Resurrection. The first sign was changing the water into wine.
“30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these …” These what? See, we often just quote John 20:31 in isolation, “but these are written that you may believe.” So, a lot of people think it’s these stories, these episodes in Jesus’ life. But that’s not what it is saying. It says that He did many other signs, but these are written. These what? The signs are written.
That’s what John is saying: “But these [signs] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ—Messiah,—the Son of God, and that believing—or by believing—you may have life in His name.” Salvation is by faith alone. So, that’s a great episode to go to when you’re talking to somebody. “How do I know the Resurrection is real?” Take them through what Thomas went through.
Then Jesus appeared to the seven by the Lake of Tiberias, otherwise called the Sea of Galilee, or Ginosar, Gennesaret, Kinnereth, all variations. That’s described in John 21:1–23, which is a great passage. The disciples are out fishing, trying to get some food. Jesus shows up on the shore. They’re not sure who that guy is. And you’ve got Peter and Thomas again, and Nathaniel, the sons of Zebedee, James and John, and two others are out there. They’re fishing, and they can’t catch anything.
This guy shows up and he says, “If you throw your nets on the other side, you would catch your full. “So they cast,—in verse six—and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.” At that point, they realize Who that Man is on the beach, and they realize it’s the Lord. And Peter, in his typical enthusiasm, takes off his outer garment, jumps into the Sea of Galilee, and swims ashore. And then the others are left dragging the net with the fish. And when they come to land, they sit down and they eat breakfast together. So that’s that appearance.
The eighth appearance is described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:6, that He appeared to a multitude of 500+ believers on a mountain, on the Sea of Galilee. Now, if you go to Israel and you’re up on that part, they’ve identified Tabgha as the location for the fish. Then there’s a hill behind. That’s just tradition; there’s no evidence. Word got out that Jesus was there. And others came. Remember, most of Jesus’ ministry is in the north; it’s in Galilee. So many came to see Him.
So, over 500 were there. Paul records this in 1 Corinthians 15:6. “6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present—you can go talk to them; they’ll all give you the same evidence,—but some have fallen asleep.” That is, they’ve died—it’s a euphemism for believers who have died physically. But he says, “Go talk to them.”
Then He appears to James. This is James, His brother—His half-brother according to His humanity. 1 Corinthians 15:7, “After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.”
The 10th appearance. He appears to the Eleven again. This is described in Matthew 28:16–20; Mark 16:14–20; Luke 24:33–52. So, there are at least three different appearances to the Eleven.
Then, the fourth—that we know of—was at the Ascension. This is recorded at the beginning of Acts 1:3–12. Jesus is with His disciples on the Mount of Olives, and He is about to leave them. So, He’s giving them their last-minute instructions, telling them to stay in Jerusalem to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Then He ascends.
The 12th. 12, 13, 14, and 15 all have to do with appearances that are sometime later. The appearance to Paul on the road to Damascus would’ve been about four or five years later. That’s described in Acts 9:3–6 and 1 Corinthians 15:8. “Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.”
We’re told in Acts 7:55 that He appeared to Stephen. Stephen is being stoned. He looks into Heaven and sees the Lord standing at the right hand of God.
The Lord appears to Paul in the temple in Acts 22:17–21.
Then the last appearance of the resurrected Lord is to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos in approximately AD 90, probably AD 90, 92. That’s described in Revelation 1:10–19.
So, you have these 15 different appearances. Now that’s remarkable! This isn’t a hallucination that three or four people had in the Upper Room while they’re under a lot of emotional turmoil right after the arrest and Crucifixion of Jesus. He appears to all of the disciples, plus the 500, over a period of 32 days following the initial Resurrection.
He appears subsequently to Paul and to Stephen, to Paul again, and to John. All of this is evidence; there are more than two or three witnesses to this. And at the time the apostles are writing the Gospels and writing the New Testament, many of these people are still alive. These events—people remembered them.
People from all over had gone to Jerusalem. Josephus indicates that there were about 1,500,000 people in Jerusalem at the time who all went back home. And they told these stories when they went back home. They said, “We were there. We heard about it.” So that evidence spread. Nobody questions the empty tomb.
Nobody really questions the Resurrection. They’re questioning the interpretation of the Resurrection. And that’s where real apologetics comes in—dealing with those issues.
Now, there are a lot of bogus ideas that come out about the Resurrection. I remember when I was probably in high school or junior high, there was a great bookstore over at Meyerland shopping center. I would go in there and look for books. At the time, I was really into the Tarzan books; I was always looking for those.
There was this book by a guy named Hugh Schonfield, called The Passover Plot. I was about probably 13 or 14 years old, and I thought, “I wonder what that’s about?” I pulled it off the shelf and kind of skimmed through it. He was just another person, a Jewish scholar, coming out, “Jesus just passed out on the Cross. They buried Him, and then He came to and managed to get out of the tomb.” And that had a lot of popularity, of course, at that time. This was in the early ’60s.
But that idea that Jesus had just passed out is called the “swoon theory.” Look at the medical evidence. You can go out on the Internet and search for medical reports on the Crucifixion of Jesus, and you will find a number of them that have been written that indicate that on the basis of everything described in the Gospels, it perfectly fits what we know about crucifixion. And it would be impossible for somebody to have just passed out.
It was impossible, if the descriptions are correct, that Jesus wasn’t dead when He came off the cross. Now, that’s the other problem. What you have is people who, in order to put forth their theories that either He just passed out on the cross, or that the body was stolen, just basically have to say, “None of the evidence that’s written in the four Gospels is true. We reject that out of hand.”
That’s what happens with that group of select scholars that made the papers and the liberals really fawned over back in the ’90s, called the “Jesus Seminar.” These are the scholars who had their little five or six colors of colored pencils, and they went through, and they color-coded every verse in the Bible according to these different codes. And one code was “that could never have happened.” Second one was “it probably didn’t happen.” The third was that it was “highly unlikely that this happened.” Then there was one category that “this probably happened.” There were maybe 20 or 30 verses in the four Gospels that they thought actually occurred.
These are the people that you see on shows about Jesus on the History Channel, and the Discovery Channel, and these kinds of documentaries. Over the past year or two, I’ve recorded several of them at home, and I watch them. I can only handle about 20 or 30 minutes at most before probably my blood pressure’s going up. But I look at the so-called “experts” that they interview, and then I go Google them.
I search for them to find out, “Who are these people?” And they seem to go to the people have the most outlandish, extreme views! Because that’s how they get funding at whatever university they’re in. They’ve got some new theory, and we’re going to promote that, it’s going to get funded, and that kind of a thing. They’re not people who have solid scholarly views or that really believe the Bible. Their assumption is, “The Bible isn’t true.” That’s how they start. They don’t ever approach it as presenting any kind of valid evidence whatsoever.
When we look at the Scripture, you have a lot of witnesses, such as Joseph and Nicodemus. And the two Mary’s were there at the tomb, while Joseph and Nicodemus are preparing Jesus’ body. The soldiers, certainly, are hostile witnesses, and they believed that Jesus was dead. And then you have the guards. And none of these people are coming forward after the Resurrection to say that the claims of the Resurrection are false.
There are only two possible explanations for the empty tomb. Only two. One is that it was empty because of something people did; it’s a human work. The other option is that it’s a divine work.
If it’s a human work, there are only two groups of people that could have done something with the body. Either it’s removed by the enemies of Jesus, but they wouldn’t really have a reason to do that. They wouldn’t have a motive to do that. Why would the enemies of Jesus steal His body to make it look like His prophecy of Resurrection had come true? That’s just absurd.
His friends wouldn’t have the ability; they’re scared to death, they’re frightened, they’ve scattered. Why would they come back? They don’t have the ability to overpower the guards. They don’t have the ability to steal the body. And if they did steal the body, and they knew that what they were preaching was totally bogus and a lie, why would they give their lives?
We know from history and tradition that the only one who lived and died a natural death was the Apostle John. All of the others died a martyr’s death. They all died for the claim that Jesus rose from the dead. Why in the world would they do that if they knew that they had conspired to steal the body? That’s just absurd!
And yet, the intelligentsia, these academic elites with their PhDs, and their dissertations, and the multiple books that they churn out to deny the Resurrection, think that we’re stupid. They believe that somehow the disciples were deceived, or they were promoting a hoax, or something on that basis.
Paul says of the Resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:12, “Now if Christ is preached—if it is proclaimed—that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” That was part of the problem in Corinth. There were Christians who were saying, “No. That can’t really happen.” They had already been saved, but then, through philosophy, they thought, “No. Nobody can really be raised from the dead.”
So, Paul gives this argument as to why the Resurrection is so important. He says, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead—if that is impossible,—then Christ is not risen.” That would be the logical conclusion.
“14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty—in vain—and your faith is also empty—in vain”. So, to deny the Resurrection is to deny Christ is alive. And if you deny Christ is alive, then Christianity is done for—there is no such thing as Christianity.
And he goes on. He said, “Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ [Jesus], whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise.”
“16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ—your loved ones—believers—have perished.” There is no hope for them.
He concludes. He says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” We’re believing a lie, and we’re to be pitied. So, if the assumption is that Christ didn’t rise from the dead, physically and bodily, then there’s no hope. That’s the linchpin of Christianity.
That’s why, at the beginning of Acts, in Acts 1:3, Luke records that Jesus appeared with many convincing proofs. And the word that is used there in the Greek indicates that these proofs are an ironclad case—an irrefutable case—that Jesus rose from the dead. And that’s why we believe—because of the evidence of the Resurrection that God gave us.
So, in summary, what do we look at? Just try to remember this:
- The seal on the tomb
- The guard on the tomb
- The desertion of the disciples
- The fact of the empty tomb
- The grave clothes
- And the witnesses
Just a little bit of that. How can somebody reject the Resurrection on the basis of all that evidence? But we’re not to be pitied, because we have hope! Because, as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:14, “We have believed that Jesus died and rose from the dead.” Let’s close in prayer.
“Father, we’re thankful we have this great hope: hope of life eternal; hope of resurrection; hope that this life doesn’t end in the darkness of death. But that is just the entry into a future life, a heavenly life, a life of service, a life of ruling and reigning with Christ in the kingdom. That this is only the beginning; that real life really begins after death.
“Father, we pray that if there’s any who listen to this lesson that have never trusted Christ, that they would come face-to-face with the evidence of His Resurrection. That is the foundation for the hope that we have as Christians—that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried according to the Scripture, and He rose again the third day according to the Scripture.
“And those references to the Scripture are all talking about Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfilled, the promises and the prophecies of the Old Testament. For hundreds and thousands of years, Jesus is the One God promised to send.
“Thank You for our encouragement that we have in this series we’ve had on apologetics, “Giving an Answer.” And we pray that we would be able to remember these things, to study them, and make them a part of our life and our discussions with unbelievers. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”