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Jefferson’s Bible Was a Page Short - Part 4

Appearance #7: Seven apostles saw Jesus alive by Lake Tiberias, and ate the breakfast He cooked (John 21:1-23).

Appearance #8: On a mountain in Galilee, all of the apostles again saw Jesus alive (Matthew 28:16-20), Barnes points out that that Paul's reference to "then to all the apostles" (1 Corinthians 15:7) possibly means that Jesus appeared often to the disciples. This makes sense because Jesus was on earth forty days after His resurrection, and the evangelists mention only about a dozen appearances, which would average only one every three days. Jesus' ministry suggests that He was not one to waste so much time and opportunity (cf. John 9:4). The Bible records the more prominent appearances, which easily substantiate the resurrection.

Appearance #9: Five hundred brethren at once saw Jesus alive (1 Corinthians 15:6). This was the promised meeting in Galilee, but the exact place is unknown. Jesus had said to the women at the sepulcher, "Go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me" (Matthew 28:10). Matthew recorded, "The eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them" (28:16).

Jesus had spent the greater part of His public ministry in Galilee, and had more success making disciples there than anywhere else. It was proper and practical, therefore, that these disciples should have public confirmation of His resurrection.  Many of these were still living twenty-two years later when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians in A.D. 55 (1 Corinthians 15:6). If the testimony of five hundred could not prove the resurrection, then no number of witnesses could. And if five hundred people could be deceived, then any number could be, so it would be impossible to substantiate any simple matter of fact by the testimony of eyewitnesses.'

Appearance #10: James saw His brother alive (1 Corinthians 15:7). This was James the Less, Jesus' half brother, who authored the Epistle of James. The other James was dead when 1 Corinthians was written (Acts 12:1-2). Since this appearance is not recorded in Christ's biographies, how did Paul know of it? He was inspired of the Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16). Also, after Paul's return from Arabia, he had visited James (Galatians 1:19). It is likely that Paul told him of his vision on the Damascus road, and that James then told Paul of his meeting with Jesus.

There had been a time when Jesus' brothers did not believe in Him (Mark 3:21, 31; John 7:5), but later at least two—James and Jude—did believe. Since the earthly family of Jesus was handpicked by God, it is no wonder that these men turned out to be valuable to the church. This teaches us the value of strong homes in the church. One set of dedicated parents can influence many generations for the good of the kingdom.

Appearance #11: All the apostles saw Jesus alive when He was taken up into heaven (Acts 1:4-12). None of the disciples had seen Jesus come out of the grave, but all of them saw Him leave the earth. It was not necessary to see Him arise for them to know that He was alive. It was only necessary to see the tomb empty and Him alive. However, it was necessary to see Him leave the earth, because if He had just quit showing up, they might have wondered where He went.

The ascension took place at Mount Olivet (Luke 24:50-51; cf. Acts 1:2, 5-7, 10). If resurrection Sunday was the most exciting day of the disciples' lives, ascension day must have been the most exciting for Jesus. He who had descended so far and given up so much was now heading home, like a soldier returning across the ocean from a long and bloody war, or an astronaut shedding his spacesuit to gulp the familiar atmosphere. Home at last! Jesus' prayer at the last supper with His disciples reveals something of this point of view. Jesus prayed, "I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gayest me to do. And now, 0 Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (John 17:4-5). Like an old man reminiscing, Jesus let His mind wander back to a time before the Milky Way and the Andromeda. He wanted to go back to the way things were before He had hands and feet, before He knew loneliness and weariness.

Jesus vanished into a cloud; the scene was empty. Still they stood and gazed, not knowing how to go on or what to do next. The disciples stood dumbfounded, like children who have lost a parent. Two angels who were sent to calm them asked the obvious question, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?" (Acts 1 : 11). It was time to let Jesus go; it was time to get to work telling the world what Jesus had done.

Appearance #12: The first Christian martyr, Stephen, saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55).

Appearance #13: Paul saw Jesus alive on the road to Damascus (1 Corinthians 15:8; Acts 9:1-9, 17; 22:1-11; 26:1-18). It was required that an apostle be a witness of the Savior's resurrection (Luke 24:48). So Paul became qualified on the way to Damascus (Acts 9:17). Paul saw the same Lord Jesus, the same "body" which the others had seen, or else his assertion in Corinthians 15 could not have been used as proof of the resurrection. It was not a revelation like John had, but a physical sight' of the ascended Redeemer.  Since Paul says the he saw Jesus "last of all," there have not been any further appearances of Jesus on earth (although many have been claimed).

The Extra Blessing. Jesus told Thomas, "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" (John 20:29). These privileged few could hardly disbelieve. Except for the five hundre fifteen witnesses, every Christian who has ever lived falls into this "blessed" category. Vance Havner was once asked to go to the Holy Land. He said, "No thanks." When asked why, he answered, "I don't want to go where Jesus was; I just want to stay right where He is!" Jesus is indeed "with" us (Matthew 28:20).

As a group, these appearances comprise overwhelming evidence for the resurrection—evidence that would stand up in any court of law in the world.3 What a pity that Thomas Jefferson missed the evidence for the greatest of all miracles.

No thanks, Mr. Jefferson, we will keep that page of the Bible.

Allen Webster

Glad Tidings of Good Things
Volume 15, Ferbruary 26
Page 2