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04-22-07-Appearances of the Risen Christ

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The scriptures tell us that Jesus appeared to over 500 people after He rose from the dead (1 Cor 15:5-8).  So we are looking at some of these appearances of Christ.  The purpose of these studies is to see why Jesus appeared to so many people and how His appearances are important to our faith today.

Last week we saw how Jesus appeared to 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus.  After Jesus broke bread in their house they knew who He was, then He disappeared.  The 2 disciples went back to Jerusalem and found the other disciples gathered together.  They tell them about their experience and that Christ really has risen from the dead.  Today we will pick up the story where we left off in Luke 24:36-49.

Ø     Luke 24:36-49 (NIV) 36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus Himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at My hands and My feet. It is I Myself! Touch Me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

40 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, He asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave Him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and He took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” 45 Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what My Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

As we resume the story on the night of the resurrection, we see that the 2 disciples are in the process of telling the other disciples what they had experienced on the road to Emmaus earlier in the day.  When suddenly Jesus Christ appears in their midst.  He greets them just like any other Jew would have in that day with the greeting of peace or in the Hebrew—Shalom!

Only the 2 disciples from Emmaus knew the truth that Jesus was alive.  The other disciples had heard the stories from the women, Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John that the tomb was empty and the stone rolled away.  Now these 2 disciples had come to tell them of how Jesus had actually walked along with them on the road to Emmaus.  It is one thing to hear and compare reports about an event (vv. 33–35); but it is quite another to have the appearance of someone that you knew was dead appear in the midst of your group that was hiding behind locked doors. 

vs. 37 says, “they were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.”  Wouldn’t you have been scared if you had been in their shoes?  But Jesus understood their fears and immediately tries to calm them down.  He told them 38 “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at My hands and My feet. It is I Myself! Touch Me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

Here is an important revelation that we must not miss.  Notice that Jesus said that His body was flesh and bones.  Our bodies today are made of flesh and blood.  The scripture tells us that the life of any creature is in the blood (Lev 17:11, 14).

 It is a scientific fact that once our hearts stop pumping blood through our body, we die.  We must have blood to survive as long as we are in these physical bodies.  I know that Joe Gogue can tell us better than anyone here how important the blood is to our survival on this earth.  Notice that in both the physical body that we have today and the glorified body of Jesus there is still flesh.  So what changed in Jesus’ body after the resurrection was not His flesh.  What changed is that there was no longer a need for blood.  The flesh remained the same, but there was no longer blood flowing through the body of Jesus.  In fact, in this glorified body, Jesus had the ability to walk through locked doors and walls—something that we flesh and blood creatures cannot do!.

Paul gives us a further glimpse at this revelation in:

Ø     1 Corinthians 15:50-56 (NIV) 50 I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”c 55  “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”d56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Friends this is what we have to look forward to one day—a glorified body just like the one that Jesus had.  Our perishable bodies will be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of eye, into an imperishable body.  We will no longer be mortal flesh capable of dying (which is what the word mortal means), but instead we will be immortal flesh that is incapable of dying. 

Many people have strange ideas about what happens to us after we die.  Think about it, if we are going to know each other in heaven, won’t we look the same then as we do now?  When Jesus appeared to His disciples, the scriptures tell us that they recognized Him.  How?   Because He was the One walking 2 feet above everyone else in the room?  No, it was because He looked just like the man they had come to know and love.  His face was the same as it was before He died.

Christ showed us the reality of what our bodies will be like after we die and are raised to life at the rapture of the church. 

Ø     1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (NIV) 16 For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.

Jesus’ resurrected body was no longer subject to death.  This was the same body that had been crucified and buried, but now it was alive.  That is why we can stare death in the face today—that is why death has lost its power over us—because whether we die or are alive when the trumpet sounds it makes no difference, on that day we are going to fly away and be with our Lord forever.  Hallelujah!?

Well, the disciples did not know this truth nor did they understand what Paul later had revealed to him, so Jesus has to show them the truth by the reality of His physical body.  He tells them to look at His hands and feet and see where the nails had pierced them.  He encourages them to touch Him and see that He is real and not just a figment of their imaginations.  Then as they stand around in shock and unbelief, Jesus asks if they have anything to eat.  So they gave Him a piece of fish, which He promptly ate right before their eyes. 

Can you imagine what that scene must have actually looked like?  Imagine giving a piece of fish to someone who you think is a ghost.  Someone, my guess is Peter since he was usually the first one to act or speak, reached down and took a piece of fish and tentatively offered it to this person who looked like Jesus and sounded like Jesus, but maybe was only the Spirit of Jesus.  Ever so cautiously, he took the piece of fish and slowly brought it to the form of this man that stood in front of him.  I imagine he kept his eyes on this appearance every inch of the way, ready to snatch back his hand instantly if he sensed any danger.

Well, now that Jesus has proved to them that He really is alive, He gets down to the business at hand.  The first thing He does is opens up their understanding of the scriptures about who He really is.  I can see Cleo and Ben (remember them from last week) nudging Peter and saying “we’ve heard this one before you’re going to love it!”  vs. 44 says that Jesus told them “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”  He reminds them that everything He had said while He was with them had been prophesied in the scriptures and now had been fulfilled.  This was proof that He was the Messiah.

But just like Cleo and Ben the disciples needed their spiritual eyes opened to the truth so they could understand the scriptures.  I know I said this last week, but it bears repeating, we need the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of our heart to the truth of God’s Word, so that we can understand it clearly.  We need to learn to pray as Paul did in Ephesians:

Ø     Eph 1:18-19 (NIV) 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and His incomparably great power for us who believe.

In vs. 44 it talks about The Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms which were the three main divisions of the Hebrew Old Testament. Taken together, they represent the entire Old Testament from Genesis to Malachi. What was the message of the Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ?  It was:

1. That He must suffer (Psalm 22:1–21; Isaiah 53:1–9).

2. That He must rise again from the dead on the third day (Psalm 16:10; Jonah 1:17; Hosea 6:2).

Now that Jesus has opened up their understanding to comprehend all these Scriptures about Him as the Messiah.  He tells the disciples the real purpose for why He had to suffer and die and be raised from the dead.  In vs. 48, 49 Jesus says that the disciples are witnesses of the resurrection for a reason.  Jesus did not just appear to them to give them something to talk about with the reporters of the Jerusalem Times.  He appeared to them to commission them to do the work that He had for them.  He told them that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

Jesus tells them that they must go forth to proclaim the wonderful message of repentance and forgiveness for all mankind.  Now I can see Peter getting caught up in the moment of excitement and wanting to go out and do it immediately.  But Jesus knew that this was not a task that they could accomplish in their own strength.  He knew that first they must wait for the Promise of the Father, i.e., for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  (The Holy Spirit was promised by the Father in Old Testament passages such as Isaiah 44:3; Ezekiel 36:27; Joel 2:28.)  The Promise of the Father in the Old Testament shows that sending the Holy Spirit was not an afterthought of God, but part of the plan of God from the beginning.  It was after the Holy Spirit came that they would be endued with divine power to be witnesses of the risen Christ.

Today, although we have not seen our Lord with our physical eyes, we have the proof of the resurrection in the Word of God.  But just like the disciples we need our spiritual eyes opened so we can understand God’s Word and apply it to our lives.  We need the Holy Spirit to teach us the truth of God’s Word. 

Also, like the disciples we need the power of God’s Holy Spirit to enable us to be His witnesses in the world around us.  We need to learn to walk in God’s power instead of our own so that we can fulfill the commission of Christ.  The disciples had to wait in Jerusalem until God’s power from on high came upon them. There are times when as Christians we may seem to be wasting time, as we wait upon the Lord.  But action without preparation will often fail. There is a time to wait on God and a time to work for God.  

“Fay Inchfawn writes of the days when life is a losing contest with a thousand little things.

“I wrestle—how I wrestle!—through the hours.

Nay, not with principalities and powers—

Dark spiritual foes of God’s and man’s—

But with antagonistic pots and pans;

With footmarks on the hall,

With smears upon the wall,

With doubtful ears and small unwashen hands,

And with a babe’s innumerable demands.”

And then, even in the busyness she lays aside her work to be for a moment with God.

“With leisured feet and idle hands, I sat.

I, foolish, fussy, blind as any bat,

Sat down to listen, and to learn. And lo,

My thousand tasks were done the better so.”” [i]

Church, the quiet times in which we wait on God are never wasted.  It is in these times when we lay aside all of life’s responsibilities and burdens that we are strengthened to do those very things.  As we continue to reach out to our Jerusalem I ask each of us to set aside time to seek God’s will and then wait on Him.  We have a prayer time here at the church every Saturday from 4:00 - 5:00 PM and I invite you to come and join us.  If you can’t come to the church, then set that time aside at home to seek God’s will for New Prairie.  I believe that as we learn to wait on God He will fill us with His power to be witnesses of the resurrection of Christ so that we can accomplish the task of reaching our Jerusalem.


c Isaiah 25:8

d Hosea 13:14

[i]The Gospel of Luke. 2000, c1975 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.). The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. (296). Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.

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