For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that, He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that, He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all, He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
They Saw Jesus After He Died
Resurrection is not an easy concept to accept. It is not a trick of Hollywood or magic of the movies. Death is the most final thing imagined and when someone dies there is no coming back. Thinking it possible that a man would be dead for a number of days and then reappear alive and well is beyond anything the mind can grasp, understand or acknowledge with great fear. There would be legions of doubters failing to accept the possibility of life after death in the visible form. Science cannot explain it; morality will not grasp it and all the treasures of human wisdom fail to express the idea with any clarity. Resurrection is not possible but Jesus of Nazareth stood before a host of people just as real as He had been a week earlier. Everyone in Jerusalem had heard of the death of Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. They had hoped He was going to redeem Israel but the chief priests and rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death and crucified Him. Many stood beneath the cross and witnessed Jesus die and the soldier pierce His side with a spear. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus (who had come to Jesus by night) had taken the body of the dead Jesus, wrapped it in linen and placed Him in the tomb of Joseph. They sealed the tomb with a large stone and a number of women witnessed the sealing of the tomb. Later, the Jews feared the disciples would steal the body asked for a Roman guard to be placed at the tomb and Pilate permitted it. Jesus was dead and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind the man from Nazareth was dead. And yet there He stood in front of them as alive as He had ever been before.
Paul’s letter to Corinth was written more than twenty years after the resurrection of Jesus. He was not with the original group of believers who knew Jesus and saw His miracles. Through the stories told by Peter and the apostles and many others, Paul learned of the short time Jesus appeared to His disciples before ascending to the Father. After His resurrection, the Lord spent forty days teaching the disciples of the coming Kingdom and work they were to engage in as the church was established. The Holy Spirit guided the mind of Paul to know of the events in the life of Jesus and His teaching. It was clear in the mind of Paul that Jesus had appeared to Peter, the twelve apostles as one body and then by a large number of disciples that he described as more than five hundred saints at one time. Many of that number were still living when Paul was in Ephesus writing to the Corinthians. James had seen the Lord and then Paul himself testified that he had seen the Lord as one born out of due time. There was no doubt Jesus was alive. This was not a sighting that could not be confirmed or testimony that could be easily disputed. The resurrection may be impossible in the mind of human wisdom but the divine revelation of God was clearly defined by the reality of a man who was dead standing alive before a large number of people. Nothing like this had ever been seen. There had been resurrections before but none would compare to this resurrection. Jesus was the Son of God.
Two thousand years has removed the distance between the faith of saints today and those blessed souls who peered into the eyes of Jesus following His resurrection. There are doubters today who deny the possibility of life after death. This is not any different than the forty days Jesus revealed Himself following the resurrection and the testimony of that generation that spent time with a resurrected man that had been crucified and placed in a secure tomb. If Jesus stood in the midst of men today He would receive the same treatment of contempt as men give Him as revealed through the holy word of God. The resurrection of Jesus is real today because He comes alive through the word of God. If a person will not accept the risen Lord in scripture they will not accept the risen Lord in the body. The first century was filled with many turning to the gospel of the risen Christ but most people in the first century denied the resurrection of Christ. Two thousand years will not change that. If a man will not accept the testimony of the fully revealed word of God that testifies to the love of God and the power of the resurrection revealed through the word, the heart would not accept the physical form of Jesus standing in their midst. Jesus did not show Himself to the whole world after the resurrection. He only appeared to the disciples. Believing in Jesus must come through the avenue of faith in the word of the Father. The resurrection is the proof Jesus is the Son of God. Without this belief, there will be no salvation.