The King's Resurrection
The Appearances of Christ
Not only was the tomb empty, but the disciples actually saw their resurrected Lord, on at least ten separate occasions after He left the tomb. These appearances were probably in the following order:
- To the other women (Matthew 28:8-10)
- To all eleven disciples, eight days later (John 20:24-29)
- To seven disciples by the Sea of Tiberias (John 21:1-23)
- To five hundred followers (1 Corinthians 15:6)
- To James (1 Corinthians 15:7)
- To the eleven, at the ascension (Acts 1:3-12)There were probably many other times He appeared to one or more of His disciples. Luke says: "He showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days" (Acts 1:3). He was apparently seen by Stephen (Acts 7:56). Finally, of course, He was seen by Paul (Acts 9:38; 1 Corinthians 15:8) and once again by John (Revelation 1:12-18).
Now, of course, skeptics have tried to avoid the testimony of these numerous post-resurrection appearances of Christ by pointing out various contradictions in the six accounts which list them (Matthew 28:8-20; Mark 16:9-20; Luke 24:13-51; John 20:11-21, 14; Acts 1:1-11; 1 Corinthians 15:5-8), or else by charging the writers with fabricating the stories themselves. Of course, the mere fact that there do appear on the surface to be a number of superficial discrepancies and omissions in the account is clear proof that the writers were not engaged in some kind of collusion. If they were making up the tales, each one evidently was doing so independently of all others. This in itself would be quite a remarkable state of affairs, especially since these discrepancies all vanish when they are compared under close examination. It is a well known rule of evidence that the testimonies of several different witnesses, each reporting from his own particular vantage point, provide the strongest possible evidence on matters of fact when the testimonies contain superficial contradictions which resolve themselves upon close and careful examination. This is exactly the situation with the various witnesses to the resurrection.
The only other possible device for explaining away the post-resurrection appearances is to assume that they were all merely hallucinations, or visions, perhaps induced by drugs or hypnosis or hysteria. Such an absurd hypothesis is surely its own refutation.
Such hallucinations, if this is what they were, are quite unique in human history and warrant the most careful psycho logic scrutiny. They were experienced by a large number of different individuals, all seeing the same vision, but in different groups, at different times, both indoors and outdoors, on a hilltop, along a roadway, by a lake-shore, and other places. Furthermore, they were not looking for Jesus at all. Several times they didn't recognize Him at first, and at least once actually believed it was a ghost until He convinced them otherwise. He invited them to touch Him and they recognized the wounds in His hands (John 20:27; Luke 24:39). They watched Him eat with them (Luke 24:41-43). On one occasion, over five hundred different people saw Him at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6), most of whom were still living at the time when that evidence was being used.
The vision theory is thus quite impossible and therefore the numerous appearances of Christ must be regarded as absolutely historical and genuine. This fact, combined with the evidence of the empty tomb, renders the resurrection as certain as any fact of history could possibly be.
There, in a few hundred words, is the reason why the Christian faith is almost surely the closest of all in terms of describing the Truth of the Word of God. This is why Christianity has endured, despite endless attempts to destroy it. This is why Christianity will always endure, and why faith will always sustain Mankind through our darkest moments.
There are those who say that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth is merely a story. They will claim, falsely, that the Risen Lord is derived from an agricultural myth. They will assert, wrongly, that "Easter is originally the celebration of Ishtar, the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility and sex." They will declare, contra the historical evidence, that Jesus Christ never lived or was crucified on a cross by the Roman authorities.
It is strange, is it not, that they should tell so many palpable lies in the service of that which they say to be truth?
The Apostle Paul once said that if the story of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ is not true, then we Christians are the saddest and most pathetic of all men.
Everything we do, everything we believe, everything for which we hope and strive, is a lie.
It is strange, is it not, that so many observable and long-lived truths should stand so firmly on such a flimsy foundation of falsehood?
From Plato to Zelazny, men of letters have written of the purer things, that in their perfection spawn lesser shadows and imitations that reflect but an aspect of the true essence. From where does truth come, if not the Truth? And did Jesus not say that he was the Way, the Truth, and the Life?
Those who are Aristotelian devotees of reality stand by the Lesser Truth that A is A, and that A is never Not-A. But the Lesser Truth descends from, and depends upon, the Greater Truth, which is this:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Yesterday the light shone in the darkness. Today the light shines in the darkness. Tomorrow the light will shine in the darkness. And the darkness will never, ever, overcome it.
It is not a story, it is The Story, it is the oldest story, it is the true story from which all other stories flow. Light versus dark. And despite the darkness that surrounds us, that pervades us, that haunts us, the light of all mankind is winning.
That is why, all around the world this morning, there are millions of men and women who will greet each other with three simple words of hope and truth and triumph.
Christ is risen!