The GOSPEL TRUTH
Sermons on the Resurrection:
THE RESURRECTION APPEARANCES OF CHRIST
Doremus A. Hayes
We have come to the end of the list of the appearances of the Lord from the resurrection to the ascension. At this point we would like to make six general observations concerning these appearances. First, we have found them to be ten in number. We name them now in order. First, the appearance to Mary Magdalene in the garden. Second, the appearance to the women on the public road. Third, the appearance to Peter and the private interview in his room. Fourth, the manifestation to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus and in their home. Fifth, the first meeting with the apostolic company and others on the evening of that first Easter day. Sixth, the second meeting with the entire apostolic band of eleven and others with them in the same place on the next Sunday evening. Seventh, the manifestation on the shore of the sea of Tiberias. Eighth, the appointed meeting on the mountain top giving the great. commission to more than five hundred brethren at once. Ninth, the appearance to James. Tenth, the final meeting with the eleven at Bethany and the ascension from the ridge over against Bethany, marking the end of his personal instructions to the leaders of the church and the close of his physical manifestations to believers.
When Paul parted from the elders at Miletus, they sorrowed most of all that they should see his face no more. They clung to him and kissed him and hardly could bear to let him go. When Jesus ascended until the clouds received him from the apostles' sight they looked steadfastly into heaven until he had disappeared, and then they fell on their knees and worshipped this Ascended Lord; and then they returned to Jerusalem with great joy and were continually blessing God. No sorrow here that they should see his face no more; but great joy he had ascended to his Father and their Father and was preparing for them a home.
They realized that the gospel of the resurrection was a gospel of great joy. It was the greatest reason for rejoicing ever given to the race. In the eighth century John of Damascus put their faith into his verse.
''Now let the heavens be joyful, Let earth her song begin;
Let the round world keep triumph, And all that is therein;
Invisible and visible,
Their notes let all things blend, For Christ the Lord is risen
Our joy that hath no end."
Second, while ten of these appearances are recorded in our New Testament, we cannot be sure that this list is complete. No one of our authorities gives the entire list of ten. Mark records only three of them. Matthew gives only two. We think that Luke has the account of four. Paul tells us of another appearance, not recorded anywhere in our Gospels, the appearance to James. Paul's entire list for this period includes five appearances. He mentions more than anyone of our Evangelists. If there were these ten appearances and no one of our authorities gives them all but on the contrary each of them omits one half or more than one half of the list, may not each of the authorities have omitted to mention other appearances of which they knew as well as these?
If Matthew records only two appearances and Luke records four entirely different ones and John adds to this list of six, three other appearances of which neither Matthew nor Luke have made any mention and then Paul tells us about another not mentioned in any of our Gospels, if any new writer in the apostolic times had chosen to take this theme, might we not have expected that he would have told us about still other appearances well known at that time but unrecorded by any other? We are not told at any place in our narratives that Mary the mother ever saw the Risen Lord. Surely if he had appeared to Mary Magdalene he would have appeared to her. Surely if he appeared to other women he would appear to his mother too. The private interviews with Peter and with James are merely mentioned in our Scriptures. We are told nothing in detail about them. Possibly the interview with the mother was felt to be too sacred to be made public at all.
Enough appearances have been recorded to settle the fact of the resurrection. That was all which each of our writers was interested to do. No one of them suggests that he is making a complete statement of the facts in the forty days. What he states is a sufficient foundation for the faith. We might have thought that anyone of our writers had made a complete statement of the ease, if his narrative had stood alone. As it is we find that all the other writers have supplemented his facts. We have no compelling reason to think that when we have put all our narratives together and have made up from all of them our list of ten appearances we thereby have exhausted the number granted at this time. There may have been still others which were of such a private character or which were of such comparatively minor importance to the general church that none of our writers cared to mention them.
We also should remember in this connection that the earliest of our gospel narratives is an unfinished one. The close of the Gospel according to Mark has been lost. We do not know how much of the original manuscript has disappeared. Zahn, Voight, and Burkitt have suggested that possibly as much has been lost as we have now remaining, or at least that a considerable portion of the narrative is lacking at the present time. We may not be sure of that, and yet we may regret exceedingly that even a fragment of a page is missing at just the point which Mark had reached in our manuscripts. It would seem almost certain that he would have given us added information concerning the resurrection appearances. It may be that he would have added to their number considerably. It may be that he would have given us a full account of the appearance to Peter, since he is reproducing the reminiscences of Peter in his book. Streeter, Harnack, and others have suggested that John 21 represents the missing end of Mark. We never shall know how much information concerning the resurrection we have lost with this lost portion of Mark's narrative. Whether he recorded them or not we hope there were other appearances.
We hope that there was the personal appearance to Mary the mother. Surely the sword had pierced through her soul as through no other at the crucifixion. There was no sorrow like unto her sorrow when her son was laid in the grave. Would the risen Jesus appear to Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome and the wife of Cleopas and other women who were much less closely bound to him by natural ties and leave his own mother alone?
We suggested that John hastened away to tell Mary the good news as soon as the resurrection hope had been born within him at the sight of the undisturbed graveclothes, and that Peter thus had been left alone at the time of the Lord's appearance to him. Jesus had entrusted Mary to the keeping of John, but would he be any less interested in her comforting and restoration to hope and to faith than was John? Surely if anyone had been inventing the story of these resurrection appearances, he would have put among them an appearance to Mary the mother, the most highly favored among women, the bride of the Most High, whose son was called the Son of the Most High. No account of any such appearances is given, but we think that her son would not forget her now. She would be given a share in the joy which his resurrection brought.
We hope that there was some private conversation between Lazarus and his Lord. What a privilege it would have been to listen as those two talked, Lazarus raised from the dead and Jesus risen from the dead! What mysteries of the unseen world they may have meditated upon together. Lazarus had been called back into the earthly and fleshly life. Jesus had risen into the life immortal. Lazarus still faced toward death and Hades. Jesus held the keys of death and Hades in his hand. Lazarus had been snatched back out of the grasp of death. Jesus had triumphed gloriously over death.
All other resurrections so-called had been merely reanimations and resuscitations. Those raised from the dead by Elijah and Elisha, like the daughter of Jairus, and the son of the widow of Nain, and Lazarus the brother of Martha and Mary and the friend of Jesus, simply had resumed the conditions of their former life. They were called back from the dead only to live awhile and then again to die. The resurrection of Jesus was of a different sort and of a higher order. They were raised to physical life in a physical body. He was raised in a spiritual body to the enjoyment of life eternal. He was raised never to die. He was in a true sense the firstborn from the dead, the first begotten from the dead, the first Fruits of them who slept. The resurrection of Jesus was a veritable resurrection, the first in the history of the race. He could say, not only, "I have been raised from the dead," but also, "I am the resurrection and the life." No other resurrected man could say that.
Every other resurrected man still was under death's power and had to face the possibility and the certainty of death again. Every other resurrected man still was liable to suffering and sin, still was in bondage to mortality and pain. Jesus was the first resurrected man to be released from the dominion of death into a life free from pain and infirmity and filled with glorious immortality. He is Death's conqueror. He has the keys of death and of Hades. He has power over the whole realm of death. He can unlock the doors of the tomb and set free whom he will. We can imagine how in private conversation with Lazarus these things would be made plain to him, and his faith in the power of the resurrection of Jesus would be his hope of immortal life for himself in heaven.
Then, how about John? Jesus loved John as he loved no other. Were there not personal conferences between these two in which John saw more deeply into the plan of salvation and into the heart of God than any other apostle ever did? Was he not trained to be the greatest theologian of the Christian church? In view of the fact that all our accounts of the resurrection are so fragmentary and that every new account gives us the story of some new appearance or appearances we may at least suspect and hope that there were these or other appearances unrecorded by any of our authorities.
We note, in the third place, that Luke tells us that all the post-resurrection and pre-ascension appearances occurred within the space of forty days. This interval of time always is a noteworthy one in our Bible. Westcott says: "The space of forty days is always in Scripture a period of solemn waiting followed by issues of momentous interest. When the hope of the world was sheltered by the ark there was rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights. When the people had been rescued from Egypt Moses was forty days on the Mount before he received the Law. For forty days the spies examined the land of Canaan, the image of our heavenly country. For forty days Elijah tarried in Horeb before he obtained the revelation of God. For so long repentance was offered to the Ninevites; for so long Ezekiel announced the typical punishment of God's people. Only once again the same period is mentioned in the Bible, where it is written that the Lord fasted in the wilderness for forty days before he began to proclaim glad tidings to the world. So it was that Christ's ministry ended as it began. The same mysterious measured space in each case separated and united the old and the new."
Forty days of temptation at the beginning of the ministry; forty days of triumph at the close. At the beginning forty days with the Fiend and the desert beasts. At the close forty days with the Father and the disciples of the new faith. In the forty days in the wilderness Jesus completed his preparation for his life ministry. In the forty days of the resurrection appearances the disciples were prepared for the preaching of their life ministry, the proclamation of their message of the conquering Christ. Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit when he went into the wilderness temptation; the disciples were all filled with the Holy Spirit in the Pentecostal baptism ten days after the Ascension.
If the resurrection took place on Easter Sunday. April 9, A.D. 30, the ascension took place on Friday, May 19. Pentecost would then come on Sunday, May 28. Between the resurrection and the ascension there were five weeks and five days, or forty days in all, "a period of solemn waiting followed by issues of momentous interest." The next ten days must have been days of still more solemn waiting, and yet we are told that they were days of great joy.
We note in the fourth place that the resurrection appearances of the Lord may be divided into two groups geographically, those in Judea and those in Galilee. Seven of the ten recorded appearances were in Judea and three were in Galilee. The three in Galilee were the appearance by the sea, the appearance to James, and the appearance on the mount of the Great Commission. Of these the last was of the greatest importance to the general church.
Chronologically, all the recorded appearances might be divided into three groups, a first group of six appearances in Judea, a second group of three appearances in Galilee, followed by the final appearance to the eleven in Judea again. Of the seven appearances in Judea, the first five were on the first Easter Sunday, the sixth on the Sunday following, and the tenth and final one, forty days after the first; and we cannot definitely date the seventh, eighth, and ninth. The seventh was separated from the sixth by an interval of at least one week and possibly two. The eighth probably was separated from the seventh by an interval of several days and possibly a week or more.
Four of these appearances were to large companies of people, in one case to more than five hundred at one time, and in all of the four cases including either all or a majority of the apostolic band. One appearance was to seven of the disciples together. One was to a group of women. One was to two disciples, and three were to individuals, Mary Magdalene, Peter, and James.
We notice in the fifth place that all of the resurrection appearances, including the Ascension, were granted to believers or disciples, with the possible exception of that to James, who was more than half convinced. As far as we can gather from our records no unbeliever and no enemy of the faith ever had a glimpse of the resurrected Lord up to this time. The appearances to Mary Magdalene, to Peter, and to James doubtless were altogether private manifestations. The two appearances to the disciples at Jerusalem were within closed doors, the Jews being excluded because of fear. There were seven disciples at the sea of Tiberias. There were above five hundred disciples at the appointed mount of meeting; but we have seen that they probably were very carefully selected and that the meeting was in a secluded place where they might be free from any intrusion. Only the eleven and a few other faithful disciples were with the Master on that last night at Bethany, and only this chosen company saw his ascension in the early morning on Olivet.
Now if the appearance to the women on their way from the tomb to the city was on the public road there might have been other passers-by who saw the figure of the resurrected Lord. This appearance, however, may have been on some private path rather than on the public highway, and at any rate it was in the very early morning and before many people would be astir. We have no hint in the narratives that any others than the women recognized the Resurrected One. On the way to Emmaus we suppose that the three pilgrims must have passed many people, but as the two disciples did not recognize the Master as they walked on the road, we may be sure that no one of the multitude did. To everyone who glanced at him he was a pedestrian rabbi and nothing more. So that we conclude that the manifestations of the Risen Lord were to loving friends alone.
We can see at least five reasons for this fact. In the first place, in all probability it would have been of no benefit to his enemies if he had appeared to them. Did not Abraham say to the rich man in the parable, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead"? Had not the raising of Lazarus from the dead led only to more bitter hostility on their part? It had not helped them to faith. It had made them more determined to make an end of Jesus. Suppose now that Jesus had appeared in the temple courts or on the Jerusalem streets or in a session of the Sanhedrin. Would they not have cried out at once that he was an imposter? Would they not all the more obstinately have clung to their unbelief? Their condemnation would have been the greater if the Risen One had appeared to them and they had rejected him, and there was no reason to think that since they had refused the truth concerning him already given them they would be persuaded though he showed himself to them risen from the dead.
Therefore, in the second place, it was in mercy to them that this revelation of the Resurrected One was not made to their blinded eyes and hardened hearts. It would have been spiritually injurious to them, and therefore it was mercifully withheld.
"Let us for a moment imagine the spiritual and glorified body of the Redeemer exposed to the irreverent or malignant scrutiny of those who had just before been shouting, Crucify him! Crucify him! What would they have said or done? Probably they would have declared that he had never really died. Impossible as it would be for any human being to survive the long torture of the cross, superadded to the preparatory scourging with rods, and to the stab of the soldier's spear, much less to move about in perfect health and strength after all this, as Jesus did, the majority of the nation were so abstinately set against the man who had balked them of the Messiah they wanted (a great earthly conqueror), that they would have accepted any lie that might serve as a pretext for not believing the actual facts.
"As they gave out that his trembling, terror-struck disciples, in their despair, stole away his body, removing for that purpose a huge stone with which the tomb was closed, while sixty Roman legionaries, in spite of the penalty of death for sleeping at their post, all slept so profoundly that not one of them perceived the long and laborious transaction so as to give the alarm that would at once have prevented it; so they would not have scrupled to give out that he had never been really crucified, or that his body had been saved from the torture of the cross by the aid of the demon which they said possessed him. Or if all these pretexts had broken down, if they were forced to acknowledge that he had really been crucified and had really died, they would have said that the body with which he now appeared was not a real body, but only a specter or apparition.
"And as it would have been inconsistent with the plan of redemption that the Redeemer should suffer a second lime, and as it would, therefore, have been necessary to preserve his sacred person inviolate, should they again attempt to seize him, his immunity from insult and injury would have been, no doubt, wrested by those inveterate unbelievers into a proof that the body they were no longer allowed to desecrate must be unreal. So that any possible display of the Risen Savior to the unbelieving nation, made in such a way as not to be absolutely incompatible with the dignity and glory of his new existence, would have been literally a difficulty in the way of their being brought to accept his claims, rather than a recommendation of those claims to their acceptance. It would have been a derogation from the Savior's majesty, without any adequate counterbalancing result." (Reichel).
Then, in the third place, it would have been inconsistent with the whole method of the incarnation if the Lord had granted to the doubting Jews any manifestation of celestial splendor or heavenly being or power which would have compelled their reluctant faith in him. He had refused to give them any sign from heaven again and again in his ministry. He had told them that no sign would be vouchsafed to that evil and adulterous generation. He had refused to call twelve legions of angels to his help. He had refused to come down from the cross at their suggestion. He would compel no man's faith by any gross material manifestations of his Messianic power. Miracle faith was not a substantial or enduring faith. The Christ would build his church not upon wonder or astonishment or fear. He would build his church upon nothing but love. Miracles might strengthen love, but they would not create it. Even this crowning miracle of the resurrection could not be used to create a personal bond of affection between Jesus and any followers. It must simply strengthen such bonds of affection as already had been established.
Let that be a fourth reason why the resurrection appearances were granted to believers alone. They could be of profit only to those who were spiritually susceptible of the truths the resurrection was to teach. Jesus had said to the eleven in that last discourse in the upper room before the crucifixion, "Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also." Judas, not Iscariot, said unto him, "Lord how is it that thou will manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?" Jesus answered and said unto him, "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." During the whole period of the earthly incarnation Jesus had been manifested to the world. Men might see him, hear him, handle him as they would; but he had told them that after the resurrection it no longer would be so. No longer would he be subject to the malice of men. He would come only to those who loved him. He would be manifest henceforth not to the world but to his lovers alone. He had said it beforehand, "He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him."
Peter preached to Cornelius and his family, "Him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly, not to all the people, hut unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead." Jesus said that those who would be chosen of God for this manifestation were the ones who through all their doubt and their despair yet loved him. He rose from the dead to manifest himself to their love. He would appear, not to Pilate but to Peter; not to Caiaphas but to Cleopas, not to the Jewish rulers or the Roman authorities but to the humble men and women who loved him and had been true to his memory and his teaching.
In the fifth place:
"In withdrawing his sacred and glorified body from the rude gaze: and the irreverent attempts of determined unbelievers, our Lord acted on the very maxim which he himself enunciated as the role of all God's providential dealings, and which the experience of mankind declares to be that rule, To him that hath shall be given, and he shall have more abundantly; while from him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to have. Apply this to the case before us. Obstinate refusal to listen to evidence already given disqualifies for the reception of further evidence. When men show that they will not accept and weigh proofs they already have, it is not God's method to give them more. And this holds good just as much in the concerns of this life as in those of the life to come; just as much in secular as in religious history.
"Is truth attained by contemptuously rejecting all evidence which does not fall in with our prejudices? Do men, who set out with a preconceived theory of what the course of history ought to have been, succeed in throwing light upon its dark places? Are they the authorities to whom the intelligence of our race will bow, and by whom it will be lessoned in the future? I trow not. Those who refuse instruction, no matter on what subject, so far as it is at the time accessible, disqualify themselves for additional instruction, supposing additional instruction to become available. By their own act they limit their own powers, and must not complain of this limitation if their powers lessen or destroy their future possibilities of knowledge or of action." (Reichel)
What end was served by these resurrection appearances? They are so few, only ten of them in all recorded. Of these five occurred on one day. There are only six days in the forty on which any appearances are mentioned. The greater part of the forty days Jesus was invisible. Only at intervals of time did he manifest himself to anyone. What was the purpose of the occasional manifestations? (1) They established the faith of the disciples in the fact that Jesus had been declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead. (2) They gave opportunity for a final interpretation of the Scriptures in the light of their fulfillment in the life and death and resurrection of the Lord. (3) The disciples thus were prepared by personal conviction of the truth of the resurrection and by their personal instruction in the exegesis of the Scriptures to be efficient and successful witnesses and preachers of the new gospel of the crucified and resurrected Savior of the world.
We cannot conceive of any better method of establishing the disciples in the faith upon which the Christian church has been founded. Had Jesus appeared among his followers and lived with them continuously in the old habits of life, sleeping in their homes, walking along their highways, talking with everyone in the old familiarity, resuming in every respect the experiences of the former days, would not the disciples have been tempted to think that there was a real and genuine humanity in Jesus, but there was no more of divinity in him than there was in the resurrected Lazarus? On the other hand, if all the appearances of the Resurrected One had been with divine splendors and manifestations of superhuman powers, would not the disciples have been likely to conclude that Jesus bad become the Son of God with power but he had lost his humanity in the transformation?
There was a sufficient variety in these appearances through the forty days to convince them of the real humanity of Jesus and at the same time to make it clear that he was in a spiritual body and belonged to a higher order of existence than Lazarus or any other resurrected one ever had known. As we study these appearances in turn we cannot see any better way than that which they furnished of superinducing upon the old faith in Jesus the man, the new faith in Jesus the Lord and Christ. Henceforth they were assured of the bodily resurrection and of the reality of the eternal life.
Let us notice again that these resurrection narratives do not have the marks of works of fiction or unlicensed imagination or extravagant invention. An ingenius fiction writer might have had the risen Lord appear to Caiaphas and curse him as the direct instrument of the crucifixion death and send him out as the Wandering Jew to bear his obloquy through all the coming yean. He might have pictured an appearance to Pilate, reproaching him for his cowardice and prophesying his future misfortunes and his final death in disgrace. He surely would have had the Lord appear to the Sanhedrin, sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven, making good the promise at the time of his trial and proving that he was indeed the Messiah he had claimed to be. Why do we not read such things in these narratives? Because they did not happen.
The resurrection stories we find in our Gospels have an air of soberness and reality about them. There is nothing ecstatic or incoherent in these accounts. They are not the records made by unbalanced minds. These are plain matter-of-fact people telling just what happened to themselves. They tell how impossible it was for them to believe in the possibility of the resurrection at first. They tell of how some of them doubted the evidence of their own senses until they were forced into their final faith. They tell how Jesus was not immediately recognized by many to whom he appeared, and even by some of his most intimate friends. These are damaging facts, but they are not glossed over. Taken as a whole, these narratives do not seem like the products of partisan prejudice or like unbridled flights of fancy. They have all the artlessness of simple honesty. They furnish just such testimony as the facts would warrant, and such as plain people convinced beyond any question or doubt would give. They have all the signs of veracity.
DOREMUS A. HAYES (1863-1936)Doremus Hayes was born in Russellville, Ohio, in 1863. His undergraduate work was done at Ohio Wesleyan, from which he received the A.M. degree in 1884. Proceeding at once to graduate study, he received the Th.D. degree from Boston University in 1887, which school in 1901 honored him with the degree of S.T.D. He was the first member of his family to become attached to the Methodist Church and in that denomination he served throughout the remaining years of his life. He began his teaching in the University of the Pacific and then in the Greek Department of San Jose College, and after further graduate study in Leipsig and Berlin, he became the Professor of Biblical Theology at Iliff Seminary in Colorado in 1895. The following year he was named Professor of English Bible at Garrett Biblical Institute in Evanston, Illinois, where he remained for forty years. From 1912 until his death, he was the Professor of New Testament Interpretation, and for many years also was the Librarian of that institution. Among many other notable preachers of this country, he made an indelible' impression upon Dr. Charles E. Jefferson of the Broadway Church, New York, and Dr. Charles R. Brown of Yale. Dr. Hayes was the author of some fifteen volumes, among which are the following: Paul and His Epistles, 1915; John and His Writings, 1917; Greek Culture and the Greek New Testament, 1925; The Heights of Christian Love (on 1 Cor. 15), 1926; The Heights of Christian Blessedness (on the Beatitudes), 1928; The Heights of Christian Devotion (on the Lord's Prayer), 1930; The Resurrection Fact, 1932. I cannot recommend these volumes too highly.
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