There is one other post-resurrection appearance I want to think about as we wait for Pentecost. Paul recounts to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 the appearances between Christ’s purposeful death and resurrection and His ascension back into heaven. “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,(Christ died and rose again with purpose foretold in scripture)5 and that he appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” (Paul is referring to his encounter with Jesus on the Road to Damascus that happened sometime later.)
Have you ever wondered about the large gathering of 500 that saw Jesus? What was His purpose? In each post-resurrection appearance, Jesus purposefully met with those who needed to see Him most- the grieving Mary, the doubting Thomas, the guilt ridden Peter and the unbelieving disciples. What could have been His reason for appearing to 500? Perhaps He wanted those who did not know Him as intimately as the disciples to experience His love and power first hand? Perhaps He wanted to make known the reality that He was alive and they could carry on. Perhaps He wanted to comfort, ignite, give hope, …. Seeing Him again, knowing the reality of His death on the cross, knowing He had been buried and was alive for them to see must have been eyeopening, challenging, fearsome, awesome, unbelievable….. One can only imagine what it must have been like to see Jesus.
Today as you think about this, try to picture yourself as one of the 500. We have an advantage as we have His indwelling Holy Spirit within us to convict us and bear witness to our faith. We do not need to see Him to believe. Jesus addressed this issue in John 20:29 as He spoke to Thomas. “ Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Faith is a blessing from God. Thank Him today for your ability to believe even though you were not there with the 500. You can know that He loves, cares for you and is with you always.
Several of the post-resurrection appearances were to specific individuals instead of groups. Jesus met Mary as I wrote about in the blog of May 3, 2019, but today I want to look at Jesus’ appearance to Peter and James. The appearance to Peter is mentioned in passing in Luke 24:34 “saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” and in 1 Corinthians 15:5 by Paul “and that he appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the twelve”. The Luke message was delivered to the disciples by the two men who Jesus met on the Road to Emmaus (blog of 4/23/2019). Here the men referred to Peter as Simon using his old name. Jesus also referred to Peter by his old name when He told him he would deny Him three time before the rooster crowed. The prediction of the denial is recorded in both Matthew 26 and Mark 14. The actual denial event is recorded in all 4 gospels, Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22 and John 18. Peter was not acting with his new believing nature, clinging to the rock of faith which is Jesus, but with the old, impetuous, doubting nature of unbelieving Simon. It shows great compassion from our Lord to singularly appear to Peter to forgive and restore him. Jesus would have known the anguish and guilt Peter was feeling after his denial of Jesus the night before the Crucifixion. The forgiven Peter went onward, never doubting nor denying his Lord and Savior again. Jesus personally knows what we need and seeks to be there for each one of us. What a wonderful, compassionate and loving Savior we serve.
The other post-resurrection appearance that was mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:7 was to James. Scholars believe this was James the half-brother of Jesus and not one of the other followers named James. His brother did not believe in Christ before the resurrection, but afterward became a prominent member of the church in Jerusalem, wrote the book of James and died a martyr’s death in 62 A.D. “Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” This appearance speaks to me of Jesus’ compassion and love for his earthly family and for those who are lost. 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”. He knew James needed to see Him personally to be confronted with his unbelief. Jesus does that for each one of us as we seek to come to faith and trust in Him. He is a personal God that loves and cares for each of us.
Is Jesus personal to you today? Do you claim Him as your God and Savior? Mary did in Luke 1:47 “and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,” Thomas did in John 20:28 “ Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” and Paul in Philippians 4:19 “ And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Let Him hear your words of declaration today as you thank Him for being your God and Savior.