Our lesson this week follows up with the post resurrected Jesus with the 11 disciples. Now, not everyone believed in the resurrection of Christ; even His own disciples questioned whether or not He was truly risen from the dead. So, our lesson this week takes a look at Jesus proving that He was truly risen from the dead.
Jesus appear to the disciples
In last week’s lesson – Risen from the Dead – I briefly mentioned the resurrected body of Jesus and how He was no longer bound to the physical limits of this world. Now, up until this moment, not all of the eleven had seen the resurrected Jesus.
Mary Magdalene had seen the resurrected Jesus when she went back to the tomb after Peter and John left (John 20:11-18). Luke records how Jesus had appeared to a couple of men, one named Cleopas, as they were traveling to a village called Emmaus. As they traveled, Jesus appeared walking with them and journeyed along with them and sat with them for a while though they didn’t recognize it was Him right away (Luke 24:13-35).
Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, wrote the appearances of the resurrected Jesus (1 Cor. 15:5-8). Paul wrote that Christ was first seen by Cephas (Peter), then by the twelve (it was 11 disciples). After that, Paul writes that Jesus was seen by over 500 others at once, and many of them were living at the time of Paul writing to the Corinthians.
Paul then stated that Christ was seen by James and then all of the apostles again and lastly, Christ was seen by him. Now, when Paul saw Christ, it was after Jesus had ascended back to heaven. Paul saw Christ on the road to Damascus and speaks about how he was later taught by Christ as well.
Hesitant to believe the resurrection
Now, scripture tells us that Mary Magdalene told some of the eleven that she had seen the risen Jesus (John 20:18). The two that were going to Emmaus, after they realized they had been with Jesus, made their way to Jerusalem to let the eleven know that they had seen the resurrected Jesus.
I, personally, believe that some of the disciples were a bit hesitant to believe in the resurrection of Jesus when Mary had shared news of her seeing Jesus. I say the didn’t believe her because she was the first one to deliver the message of seeing the resurrected Christ. The two coming from Emmaus would arrive much later that evening to share word of their seeing the resurrected Jesus.
Now, as we saw last week, I am not going to include John in the group of the disciples that were possibly hesitant to believe. My reasoning is because John not only saw the tomb but went into the tomb and we were told that he believed (John 20:8). However, the same was not said for Peter believing in the resurrection. I believe this to have been the case because Peter was likely a bit hesitant to believe.
Now, this is not me looking down on Peter because Peter is one of my favorite disciples! However, the truth of the matter is that we have to remember Peter denied Christ three times when he was under pressure just a few days earlier (Matt. 26:69–74). So, you could imagine that Peter was in a head space of feeling guilty for denying Christ and was probably still trying to figure things out, mentally.
So, I say this because in a verse that is outside of our lesson, we are told that the resurrected Jesus visited Peter before visiting the other disciples (Luke 24:34). Why? Scripture doesn’t really tell us but you have to imagine it was because of where Peter may have been mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Plus, Jesus had said to Peter they He would build His church on Peter so Peter needed to be lifted up for the others who Jesus would appear to.
Something else that we have to remember is that all of the disciples scattered and forsook Jesus when He was arrested (Matt. 26:56; Mark 14:50). After Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples went into hiding for fear that they would be crucified next for following Christ. So, aside from John and Peter, at this point, most of the disciples were not in a good place mentally, emotionally, or spiritually; you can imagine that they would not be so chipper at hearing news about the resurrected Jesus.
Seeing a ghost
Our lesson opens with the two from Emmaus coming to the eleven in Jerusalem and maybe they had Peter with them? I am not certain. It is also possible that Peter was there with the eleven but I am doubtful. Why am I doubtful that Peter was with the eleven? Because the two had spoken of how they saw Jesus and how Peter had seen the resurrected Jesus as well (Luke 24:34).
I believe the disciples that were either unaware or maybe hesitant to believe in the resurrection were ready to ask questions of these two. Scripture tells us that as they spoke, Jesus appeared and stood in the midst of them and said, “Peace to you” (v.36). Now, I am going to refer to the other gospels for some extra context.
In Mark’s gospel, Mark writes that this group of disciples were sitting at the table and during this appearance, Jesus rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart because they did not believe the word of those that had seen Him (Mark 16:14). John gives even more detail about this appearance in his gospel; this would suggest he was present for this appearance or got this information first hand – I believe he was present. John tells us that the doors to where they were located were closed and Jesus appeared in the midst (John 20:19).
So, with this additional information, we will see that there were two reasons as to why Jesus said, “Peace to you” when He appeared. Now, as the scripture of our lesson tells us, the disciples were terrified and frightened because they believed they had seen a ghost (v.37). So, Jesus first said “peace to you” to ease the disciples at His appearance.
Secondly, we are told that Jesus asked them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts (v.38)?” This confirms what Mark wrote in his gospel about Jesus rebuking the disciples’ unbelief and hardness of heart. Jesus presented Himself to them because, just like Peter, they needed to be healed mentally, emotionally, and certainly spiritually. These were the men who be commissioned to share the good news and as they currently were, they were not in the condition to do that.
To calm them even further, and to prove that He was no ghost, Jesus told the disciples to look at His hands and feet. Jesus said to them, “Handle (touch) Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have (v.39).” The resurrected body of Christ is so fascinating to Me which is why I did a study about it in my study – The Transfiguration of Jesus.
The post resurrected body was the same as Jesus’ body before death, yet at the same time, there were major differences. While there was flesh and bones, Jesus simply appeared out of nowhere in this room; He did not walk inside. While Jesus could be touched and handled (v.42), again, He could just come and go. While He appeared in this physical world, He was not bound to the limits of this world.
To further prove that He was ‘real’ Jesus asked the disciples, “Have you any food here?” When they gave Him a piece of broiled fish and some honeycomb, Jesus took it and ate it in their presence (vss.41-43). Again, the post resurrected body of Christ is fascinating to me because while He was physically working with things and even eating, His glorified body did not require food. Jesus simply ate for proof, or for ceremony, if you will.
After physically proving His resurrection, Jesus goes to the word of God to confirm scripture. This certainly needed to be done because for us to do, we don’t have the physical proof of Christ but what we do have is the word of God.
Jesus said to the disciples, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me (v.44).” As you may have heard me say before, Jesus was the end of the law; He is its conclusion. The prophets prophesied about His coming and His earthly manifestation confirmed the promises.
Jesus then reminded them of what He had said about how He would suffer, be killed, and rise from the dead on the third day (v.46). As I mentioned in last week’s lesson, Jesus told Peter, prior to washing his feet, during the feast of Passover that the disciples would not understand what He was doing at the time (John 13:7). Jesus was now explaining to them how His death and resurrection was what He spoke of.
To further help them along the way in their faith and understanding, Jesus spoke about sending the “Promise of the Father” upon them (v.49). The “Promise of the Father” being the Holy Spirit which is given to all of those who choose to genuinely believe in the Father’s only begotten Son.
Again, as I mentioned last week, the disciples received the Spirit of truth to help bring them more understanding of the truth (John 16:13). Not only did the Holy Spirit serve in that role for the disciples, but it still serves in that role for all who believe today.
Believing the proofs of the resurrection
Personally, I am happy that all of this is shared with us in scripture, especially the part about the disciples’ unbelief. I say this because there are many of us who live with the same unbelief today. Many say today that if they could have seen Jesus that they would believe.
Let us remember, as Peter said, the disciples were eyewitnesses to the majesty of the only begotten Son (2 Pet. 1:16). For those that doubt the resurrection of Christ, we are essentially doubting something that our neighbor witnessed. Yes, these apostles, women like Mary Magdalene, and several other followers of Christ lived thousands of years ago but they knew what they saw. What they saw, they shared with the world no matter how much the world believed them to be crazy.
So, I choose to believe their eyewitness report. Not only do I believe their eyewitness report, most importantly, I believe in the word of God. For me, the word of God is all the proof that I need, but if that is not good enough for you, we have the eyewitness report of the gospel then and still now. You see, the Lord is still at work today and all of us are living testimonies of God’s grace.