The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: The Witnesses

Witnesses to the Resurrection of Christ

Of the many people that witnessed Jesus Christ in His resurrected body, only a handful of specific people are named. Each appearance was purposeful, even though some incidents are recorded without details. For the events that are recorded, the Scriptures reveal specifics that are both intriguing and inspiring. When each Gospel narrative is read carefully, and all the details are put together, the big picture becomes quite clear.

Many who saw the crucifixion of Jesus also witnessed His resurrection. During the 40 days Jesus lived in His resurrected body before ascending into heaven, he first appeared to Mary Magdalene. Verses in the Gospel of Matthew imply that Mary, the mother of James, also saw Him on that first Sunday morning. Jesus appeared to Peter, then to two men on the road to Emmaus, and to the Apostles, except Thomas. Eight days later, Jesus appeared again to the Apostles, this time with Thomas present. Jesus appeared to more than 500 believers on one occasion, and to His half brother James. Lastly, after the ascension of Jesus, He appeared to the man who would become the great apostle Paul.

"For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas (Peter), then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once." After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me (Paul) also, as by one born out of due time." (1 Cor. 15:3-8)

Mary Magdalene is first named in the Gospel of Luke, chapter eight, as one of several women that traveled with Jesus, ministering to and caring for Him. She had been delivered from severe demonic activity, and was a loyal and loving follower.

Peter was the man to whom Jesus gave 'the keys of the kingdom of heaven.' Although he denied even knowing Jesus on the night of His arrest, Peter ran to see the empty tomb on Resurrection Sunday morning. By the time Cleopas and his friend arrived in Jerusalem from Emmaus, the Lord had already appeared to Peter, although the details of that incident are not recorded.

Beginning in Luke 24:13, the account of Cleopas and another disciple walking on the road to Emmaus is given. Jesus, whom they did not initially recognize, accompanied them to Emmaus, expounding the Scriptures to them while they walked. It was not until He broke bread with them during their evening meal that they recognized Him. Afterward, Jesus vanished from their sight. Cleopas and the other disciple immediately returned to Jerusalem and informed the other disciples that they had seen the Lord. As they were speaking, Jesus appeared in their midst. While He ate in their presence, Jesus explained to them the many Scriptures regarding Himself.

Eight days later, Jesus appeared again to His chosen men, and this time, Thomas was with them. Jesus confronted Thomas' doubt, and said, "Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen yet have believed."

The final chapter in John records Jesus' third appearance to His disciples, and seems to focus primarily on Jesus' confrontation and exhortation of Peter. Peter had decided to return to fishing. Thomas, Nathaniel, James and John, and two other disciples followed his lead, and they all went fishing at the Sea of Tiberius (Galilee). After they had fished all night and caught nothing, Jesus appeared on the shore, again unrecognized. When they followed Jesus' instruction to cast their net on the right side of the boat, there were so many fish that they were unable to pull in the net. Realizing it was Jesus, Peter swam to shore, and the others brought in the boat, dragging the net of fish. Jesus had a fire going, and he cooked some of the fish and ate with them. During this time, Jesus exhorted Peter, the future leader of the church.

There are no details in the Bible regarding Jesus' appearance to more than 500 hundred people, or His visit to His half-brother, James, except in the reference in Corinthians. James, however, went on to become the prominent leader in the church in Jerusalem after Peter, and Paul mentions both James and Peter in Church leadership roles in the first chapter of the letter to the Galatians.

Paul did not see Jesus on the road to Damascus, he only heard His voice. There is only one reference in Corinthians that indicates that Paul actually saw Jesus. But, Paul's tireless and tenacious commitment to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ certainly suggests encouragement from the Lord Himself.

These are the truths recorded for all time in God's Word, and, as Jesus stated in John 17:17, "Your word is truth."

Written by: Pete Miller

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