BY L&T Columnist Gary Damron
The resurrection is foundational to Christian faith. Following the death of Jesus, his followers were left scattered, frightened, discouraged, in turmoil. Early first-person accounts detail the appearances he made. You can read them in John chapters 20 and 21; Luke 24; Mark 16 and Matthew 28.
Those who sought Jesus’ death understood the significance of the resurrection. They sealed the grave, posted a company of guards, and afterward paid them to lie about the empty tomb (Matthew 28:11).
Mary Magdalene, who’d been befriended and forgiven by Jesus, was one of the first to see him alive. In her loneliness and grief, she found him at her point of need, and sorrow turned to joy. Other women who’d been faithful at the foot of the cross ran to tell the good news when he appeared to them.
The two disciples who traveled the Emmaus Road were troubled as they tried to fit the events they’d just seen into the context of their knowledge. As evening fell and a traveler joined them, they had the scriptures opened in such a way that their hearts burned within them. Jesus sat down and broke bread with them, and they realized who he was.
Though there’s no first-hand account in the Gospels, Jesus sought out Peter according to Paul’s reference in 1 Corinthians 15. Paul also notes 500 brethren, many of whom were still living at the time, who saw Jesus alive. The disciples in a locked room suddenly saw him, and lest they’d think he was a ghost he showed them his wounds, even urging Thomas to touch them. Several reports tell of him eating with them, something not possible if he were a spirit or an apparition.
John 21 gives the story of a man on the seashore, who called out to fishermen in a boat to cast their nets on the other side. As they hauled in their miraculous catch and then ate the breakfast he cooked for them, those disciples realized they were privileged to see the greatest miracle, the resurrected Jesus, for the third time. Three friends were standing with and viewed Jesus as he returned to heaven.
After the ascension Stephen was stoned for his beliefs. Acts 7:55 says before he died, he “gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” Later Paul, who had assented to Stephen’s death, was knocked to the ground, blinded and heard a voice say, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5).
The people who witnessed the resurrected Lord had much to lose and little to gain from telling the story. Their belief brought alienation from their Jewish faith, and they faced ridicule, persecution and martyrdom. Yet over and over they recounted the details and carried the news. With confidence they gladly proclaimed “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” … And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 15).
Each time Jesus appeared he addressed needs, bringing love, freedom from fear, and deliverance from confusion. Because of the resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit, we can count on the same promises.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to activities of Easter week and the birth of a grandchild, Gary took a break from the “Words from the Cross” series, which will return next week. This article first appeared April 2010.