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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Don Stewart :: To Whom Did Jesus Appear after His Death?

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To Whom Did Jesus Appear after His Death?

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ – Question 5

The main reason the disciples believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is that they saw Him alive after He was dead. The New Testament says that Jesus presented Himself alive on a number of different occasions to His followers.

Thus we see them testifying, time and time again, to the fact they were eyewitnesses of His resurrection. This firsthand evidence of the disciples is a powerful argument for truthfulness of the resurrection of Christ. The disciples knew that He had risen because they saw Him with their own eyes. The evidence is as follows.

Jesus’ Testimony about His Resurrection

First, we have Jesus’ own personal testimony is that He was raised from the dead. In the Book of Revelation, it records Him saying,

I am the living one who died. Look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave. (Revelation 1:18 NLT)

The risen Christ gives testimony to His own resurrection.

On that first Easter, Luke records Jesus’ saying,

Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. (Luke 24:39 NRSV)

Jesus, who never lied about anything, testified that He came back from the dead.

The Various Appearances of Jesus

Many different people saw Jesus Christ after the resurrection. The recorded appearances found in the New Testament, of Christ coming back from the dead, are as follows.

1. Mary Magdalene

The first appearance of Jesus was to Mary Magdalene. We are told this in the Gospel of John. It reads as follows:

When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). (John 20:14-16 NRSV)

This appearance was totally unexpected. In fact, at first Mary thought that Jesus was someone else. Again this illustrates that she was not looking for a resurrection.

2. Mary the Mother of James, Salome, and Joanna

Jesus also appeared to three women; Mary the mother of James, Salome, and Joanna. This happened after the appearance to Mary Magdalene.

An angel told them at the tomb of Jesus that He had risen. While they were on their way to tell Jesus’ disciples what happened they met the risen Christ. Matthew writes,

Suddenly Jesus met them and greeted them. They went near him, held on to his feet, and worshiped him. (Matthew 28:9 CEV)

Again, we have another unexpected appearance. As was true with Mary Magdalene, these women touched the body of Jesus.

3. Peter

Peter is the first person mentioned in Paul’s list of witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection, and is the first of the apostles to see the risen Christ. This was a private appearance to reassure him, since he had just denied his Lord a few days earlier. The gospels are completely silent as to the details of this meeting. Luke merely wrote,

The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter! (Luke 24:34 NLT)

Peter, the man who earlier had denied knowing Jesus, saw the risen Christ.

4. Two Disciples on the Emmaus Road

Later on Easter Sunday, Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Luke explains the account as follows:

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. (Luke 24:13-16 NRSV)

As was true with the women, these two disciples were not expecting Jesus to rise. In fact, they were leaving Jerusalem because they had lost hope in Him.

5. The Eleven Disciples—Thomas Absent

This is the last of the five appearances of Jesus on Easter Sunday. It took place in the evening, probably in the upper room in which Jesus had instituted the Lord’s Supper. It is recorded in both Luke’s and John’s gospel, giving us two independent accounts as to what happened. John wrote the following:

That evening, on the first day of the week, the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he held out his hands for them to see, and he showed them his side. They were filled with joy when they saw their Lord! He spoke to them again and said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Then he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you refuse to forgive them, they are unforgiven.” One of the disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. (John 20:19-24 NLT)

Jesus showed them His wounds; it was indeed Him who has risen.

6. The Eleven Disciples with Thomas Present

Eight days later He appeared again—this time with Thomas present. The Gospel of John records the following:

After eight days His disciples were indoors again, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and observe My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Don’t be an unbeliever, but a believer.” Thomas responded to Him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:26-28 HCSB)

Thomas saw and he too believed.

7. To Seven Disciples on the Sea of Galilee

Another appearance was to seven disciples on the Sea of Galilee. We read the following in the Gospel of John:

Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary from Magdala went to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb’s entrance. So she ran to Simon Peter and the other disciple, whom Jesus loved. She told them, “They have removed the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they’ve put him.” (John 20:1, 2 God’s Word)

This appearance was away from the city of Jerusalem.

8. To Eleven Disciples on a Mountain in Galilee

There is also the account of Jesus appearing before His eleven disciples in a mountain in Galilee. Matthew records it as follows:

Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them still doubted! (Matthew 28:16, 17 NLT)

In this instance, there were some who still had their doubts.

9. To over Five Hundred People at the Same Time

On another occasion, Jesus appeared to over five hundred people at one time. Paul wrote about this to the Corinthians:

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 Corinthians 15:6 NIV)

Nothing else is known of this appearance.

10. James

Scripture also says that Jesus appeared to His half-brother James. Paul is the only one who tells us about this appearance. He wrote,

After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. (1 Corinthians 15:7 KJV)

The details of this appearance are not recorded.

11. All of the Apostles

Jesus also appeared to all of the apostles. Again, we learn this from Paul, who wrote the following to the Corinthians:

Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. (1 Corinthians 15:7 NRSV)

These apostles are disciples of Jesus who are not among the Twelve.

12. Saul of Tarsus

After Jesus’ ascension He appeared again—this time to Saul of Tarsus. The conversion from Saul to the Apostle Paul is recorded three times in the Book of Acts. In Acts chapter nine, it says the following:

Now as he [Saul] was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:3-5 NRSV)

The experience of Saul was unique in that he had never been a believer in Jesus when the risen Christ appeared to him.

13. John

Jesus’ final appearance was to the Apostle John when he was banished to the Isle of Patmos. He records it as follows:

It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit. Suddenly, I heard a loud voice behind me, a voice that sounded like a trumpet blast. It said, “Write down what you see, and send it to the seven churches: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.” When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. And standing in the middle of the lampstands was the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. (Revelation 1:10-13 NLT)

This is an appearance of the glorified Christ.

Jesus Christ Is Risen Indeed!

These are the appearances of Jesus that the New Testament records. They caused His disciples to believe that He had indeed risen from the dead.

In fact, Luke says that Jesus showed Himself alive with many convincing proofs. He wrote,

After He had suffered, He also presented Himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during 40 days and speaking about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3 HCSB)

Without a doubt, Jesus Christ appeared alive after His death. This is what the records states.

Summary – Question 5
to Whom Did Jesus Appear after His Resurrection?

Scripture says that Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead. Indeed, the testimony is loud and clear.

First, we have Jesus’ own statement that He was alive. Since He never lied about anything we should take His word when He testified to His own resurrection.

In addition, the Bible also says that Jesus made many appearances after His death. They were to a number of different people over a forty-day period.

The Bible specifically says that on Easter Sunday Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, the women that came to Jesus tomb (Mary the Mother of James, Salome, and Joanna), Peter, and two disciples on the Emmaus road. He also appeared to the remainder of the Twelve Disciples with Thomas absent. Later He appeared to them with Thomas present.

There was also an appearance to seven disciples on the Sea of Galilee. On another occasion, He appeared to over five hundred people at the same time.

There is also an appearance to James, His half-brother. The gospels tell us that James did not believe in Him during His earthly ministry. Jesus also appeared to all the apostles.

After His ascension into heaven, Jesus Christ appeared to an unbeliever, Saul of Tarsus. This man became the Apostle Paul; the greatest missionary the Christian church has ever seen.

Finally, the glorified Christ again appeared to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos.

These appearances convinced His disciples, beyond any doubt, that He had risen from the dead.

What Historical Facts Are Undisputed about Jesus and His Resurrection? ← Prior Section
What Observations Can Be Made about Jesus' Resurrection Appearances? Next Section →
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