THE MATTERS OF THE CHURCH: Why Jesus Appeared in His Resurrection Body
Why Jesus Appeared in His Resurrection Body
Dr. Reggie Ogea
- I wrote the first narrative, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and
teach 2) until the day he was taken up, after he had given instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3) After he had suffered, he also presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. (Christian Standard Bible)
We begin today a journey through the Acts of the Apostles narrative. Chronologically, it connects to the Gospel of Luke, because Luke, the physician who accompanied Paul the Apostle, wrote both narratives. Both Luke and Acts were written and dedicated to Theophilus. Luke is only mentioned three times, all in the “greetings” sections of Paul’s letters: In Colossians 4:14, greetings from Demas and “Luke, the dearly loved physician,” in Philemon, again linked to Demas, and in 2 Timothy 4:11, where Paul lamented his loneliness, “only Luke is with me.”
Luke wrote the Acts narrative as a continuation of his gospel narrative – I wrote the first narrative, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up. Now, Luke fills in that gap between Jesus’ death and resurrection, and his departure back to heaven – Jesus presented himself alive by many convincing proofs = tekmerion. A sure sign – an infallible, indisputable, unmistakable, convincing validation. Why did Jesus “present Himself alive – appear in His resurrected body? Five reasons.
- The Evidence Reason: Jesus appeared in His resurrected body to prove that He really is alive!
A synthesis of all the Resurrection narratives in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, identify ten specific appearances to eyewitnesses over this 40 day period. Jesus appeared to the women at the tomb, specifically Mary Magdalene. Jesus appeared several times to the Apostles as a group, to Cleopas and an unnamed disciple on the Emmaus Road, as well as individually to Simon Peter, Thomas, & James. Matthew and John both reported encounters with Jesus in Galilee, the one on a mountain and the other at the Sea of Galilee. Most interesting is the Apostle Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15 of an appearance to 500 brothers at one time, and then Paul’s personal testimony of Jesus appearing to him on the Damascus Road. John recorded in John 20:30, “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book.” Could there even be other appearances in addition to the ones in the biblical record? Possibly so, but 10 different appearances to over 500 eyewitnesses presents an undisputed case.
The importance of eyewitnesses goes all the way back to Deuteronomy 17:6 – charges that someone sinned had to be confirmed by the word of two or more witnesses. Paul instructed Timothy not to accept accusations against a fellow elder without the testimony of two or more witnesses (1 Timothy 5:19) Any attorney could make a case with two or three witness. 500 or more? A slam dunk. Eyewitnesses Make the Case! Jesus appeared to eyewitnesses in his resurrected body as primary evidence that he really is alive.
- The Identity Reason: Jesus appeared in His resurrected body to reveal what we will look like in heaven.
1 Thessalonians 4 reminds us that one day, a time only known by God, the shout of the archangel and the sound of a trumpet will signal Jesus return from heaven to earth. Jesus Himself confirmed in Matthew 24:27, “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” So, when Jesus comes back to Earth from the eastern sky – two things will happen simultaneously according to 1 Thessalonians 4. First, the bodies of all Christians will rise up from their graves and be reunited with their spirits. When we die, our spirit separates from our body. Our spirit goes to be with the Lord to await the second coming of Jesus. At His second coming out of the eastern sky, our spirits will re-inhabit our resurrected bodies. I’ve told my family – don’t bury me in a mausoleum with other bodies stacked on top of me. Bury me in my own grave – facing east, so that when my body resurrects from my grave, I’ll be facing the Lord and not have to fight my way through those who’ve been buried on top of me!
Simultaneous to bodies rising from their burying places, those who are alive when Jesus comes back will be instantaneously changed into a resurrected body, without experiencing death, and be caught up to be with the Lord. Some theologians refer to this event as the Rapture. So then, if we will inhabit resurrected bodies in heaven, what will we look like? Jesus clues us. In heaven, in our resurrected body, we will be recognizable. In Luke 24, Jesus appeared to one named Cleopas from Emmaus and to the Eleven (the disciples minus Judas Iscariot) those gathered with them. Initially, they thought they were seeing a ghost, but Jesus revealed His identity to them. Their fear vanished when they recognized Jesus. So the question, “Will we know each other in heaven?” has an answer, and the answer is “Yes!” In Matthew 8:11, Jesus promised: “Many will come from the east and the west, and will recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,” which would seem to indicate individual, recognizable identity.
Another question often asked is, “Will we be reunited with family and friends in heaven?” Again, the Scriptural evidence resounds YES. One of the earliest clues occurs in Genesis 25:8 concerning Abraham’s death: “Abraham took his last breath and died at ripe old age…. and he was gathered to his people.” The expression “gathered to his people” clearly implies something more than being carried back to the old family cemetery or being buried in a mausoleum. Moses was convinced that when Abraham died, he joined his deceased, God-believing loved ones in heavenly fellowship and personal association.
The second clue: In heaven, we will also be human-like, but different. In all of the resurrection appearances, Jesus verified his flesh and bones, hands and feet, yet He was able to appear, disappear, and reappear. And, like human existence, in several of his resurrection appearances, He ate! I’m glad to know that, aren’t you? Can you imagine what the food will be like in heaven?
Why did Jesus appear in His resurrected body? To reveal what we will look like in heaven.
- The Prophetic Reason: Jesus appeared in His resurrected body to validate that all prophecy must be fulfilled.
In conversation with Cleopas on the Emmaus Road, Jesus confirmed, “These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you – that Everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled. (Luke 24:45)
Biblical scholars agree that there are at least 109 distinct prophecies which the Messiah must fulfill, and some evidence exists of 300 prophecies about Messiah. For all of them to be fulfilled by one individual requires a person so unusual and a life so unique as to eliminate all pretenders and imposters and indeed all men who have ever lived – except one! We are most familiar with the prophecies announcing His birth and heritage: an Israelite by ancestry, from the tribe of Judah, the family tree of David, born of a virgin in Bethlehem and visited by magi. In addition to prophecies concerning His birth and heritage, Scripture also affirms His life and ministry, His death and resurrection, and His return, both a Second and Third Coming. As Messiah, Jesus must fulfill ALL of the prophecies, or He is an imposter.
The principle of All or None! Remember, Jesus confirmed, “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me!” What are the odds of one person fulfilling 109 prophecies? Arithmetically speaking – impossible. The mathematical probability of one person fulfilling 8 prophecies is 1 in one hundred quintillion – the number 1 followed by 17 zeros. One person achieving 48 prophecies = 1 chance in 10 to the 157th power. One person’s life matching up with 109 prophecies = only Jesus! Jesus appeared in His resurrected body to continue the fulfillment of prophecy.
- The Assignment Reason: Jesus appeared in His resurrected body to define our earthly assignment.
During his earthy life, Jesus prepared His followers for life without Him. On the night before the crucifixion, during that Last Supper, Simon asked Jesus, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow later.” “Lord,” Peter asked, “why can’t I follow you now?” Jesus answered that question during the 40 days of appearances in His resurrected body, by defining two assignments for leaving them behind. I’ve sometimes wondered, haven’t you, why Jesus leaves us here on His planet, instead of allowing us to enjoy heaven. Jesus leaves us behind with Two Lifelong Assignments: To engage in personal witnessing and to be empowered by the Holy Spirit. Our assignment for as long as we live on Earth is to be engaged in personal witnessing. I’m responsible and you’re responsible for sharing Jesus with those who are spiritually lost and personally unchurched, so that at least they know the truth – no one gets to heaven without an encounter with Jesus. Assignment #1 is useless without Assignment #2. Jesus confirmed to these disciples that they would not be successful until they were empowered by the Holy Spirit. And neither can we. We’ll drill down deeper into these assignments in next week’s sermon.
- The Eschatological Reason: Jesus appeared in His resurrected body to confirm that He is coming back!
Eschatology is a theology of the end times. While eschatology deals with such ultimate personal realities as death and glorification, it also touches on more general or cosmic issues, including the second coming of Christ. The second coming of Jesus Christ to this earth is one of the most significant events mentioned in the entire Bible. The New Testament alone includes 321 references to this awesome occurrence, making it the second most prominent doctrine presented in Scripture next to the doctrine of salvation.
In John 14, Jesus described heaven to His disciples, and then announced, “I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself. Again, we’ll get to this in next week’s sermon – well, I just can’t resist. Let’s take a peek at next week – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (1:8) After he had said this, he was taken up as they were watching, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going, they were gazing into heaven, and suddenly two men in white clothes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen him going into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)
Jesus appeared in his resurrected body to demonstrate and confirm his second coming! I’ve come here today to remind us that Jesus is coming back again! He’s Coming back! He’s coming Back!
I leave you with a question and a challenge.
The Question: Do you believe in life after death?
All of the appearances of Jesus in His resurrected body – the evidence reason, the identity reason, the prophetic reason, the assignment reason, and the eschatological reason, point in one direction – life after death. Do you believe in life after death? If you believe that Jesus is the Messiah – the one and only way to heaven – if you believe that Jesus lived as God in human flesh, died a human death, but raised to life after death as demonstration of God in all power – and if you believe in the place called heaven that Jesus is preparing for those who believe in Him as the way, the truth, and the life, then you must also believe in life after death. The question is – are you ready to die?
The Challenge: You’re not ready to live until you are ready to die. So, when the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and time shall be no more. And the morning breaks eternal, bright, and fair. When the saved of earth shall gather over on the other shore, when the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there. When the Roll is Called up Yonder – Will You Be There?