This morning we will conclude our 4 week study of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ. We have titled this series “Proof Positive” because these encounters provide compelling evidence that Jesus actually rose from the dead. Thus far we have identified and discussed 7 distinctly different post-resurrection appearances. The risen Lord appeared to Mary Magdalene, the other women, Peter, 2 disciples on the Road to Emmaus, the disciples without Thomas, the disciples with Thomas, and to 7 disciples on the seashore.
In today’s sermon we will consider 3 additional post-resurrection appearances. Before we get started, let’s take time to remember that the disciples had journeyed from Jerusalem to Galilee. They were likely staying in the city of Capernaum, located on the northwest edge of the Sea of Galilee. They had come following Jesus’ command to meet Him there. Some had already seen and had breakfast with Jesus on the beach, but many of the others had not. It had now been over 3 weeks since the resurrection had occurred...
I. THE EIGHTH APPEARANCE - OVER 500 FOLLOWERS (Matt 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18; 1 Corinthians 15:6)
Though the Bible does not directly state the location, tradition holds that the disciples and many other followers met with Jesus in Galilee on Mt. Arbel. This peak stands on the eastern shore of the Sea of Tiberias, only 20 miles south of Capernaum. It is the highest elevation in the region. Those standing on the top of the mountain could see for miles around and across the sea to the numerous places where Jesus had ministered. This would be a fitting place for Jesus to arrange a meeting with His disciples.
The disciples climbed the mountain, along with many others. Together the crowd numbered over 500 people. This was an appointed meeting, so they expected Jesus to be there. Sure enough, He appeared to them on the mountain top and delivered one of the most well-known commands in all of Scripture. It has become known as the Great Commission. Jesus told them to go into all the world, to make disciples of all people, to baptize them in His name, and to teach them the things of God. He then described some characteristics of those who would believe. In short, He told His disciples what they were to do now that He was going away...
This mountain-top meeting in Galilee with over 500 believers at once was the eighth appearance of Jesus Christ following the resurrection. The size of the crowd, coupled with the fact that many were still alive to corroborate their story at the time Paul mentioned it, make this event extremely significant. It was here that Jesus commissioned His church.
II. THE NINTH APPEARANCE - JAMES (1 Corinthians 15:7)
Many men were named James during the New Testament era, just as many women were named Mary. This particular James was the half-brother of Jesus Christ. A few have speculated that he was also a disciple, but this is highly unlikely as he was a nonbeliever prior to Jesus’ death. Like his other siblings, James doubted that his own half-brother could be the Messiah. However, following the resurrection James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem. He was a prominent figure in the early days of Christianity and was eventually martyred (stoned to death) for his faith. He also wrote the book of James.
Scripture gives no information or details about Jesus’ encounter with his half-brother James. The only mention of it is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. It seems plausible that the appearance would have occurred in somewhere Galilee, where Jesus’ family likely resided at the time. Though nothing is known about it, such an occurrence would explain the radical transformation that took place in James’ life. Before seeing the risen Jesus, James was lost in disbelief. Afterward, he rose in prominence to become a pillar of the New Testament church.
Jesus’ meeting with his half-brother James was the ninth post-resurrection appearance. It remains uncertain as to what exactly happened or was said, but whatever it was James’ life dramatically changed. Such is the case for many sinners who find Jesus today.
II. THE TENTH APPEARANCE - THE DISCIPLES (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:4-11)
Scripture suggests that Jesus made at least 3 appearances in Galilee - on the seashore where He ate breakfast with some of His disciples, on the mountain top where He delivered the Great Commission to over 500 people, and in an unknown place where He met His half-brother James. Following these appearances the disciples returned to Jerusalem, and one would presume that the newly converted James with them. Perhaps He’d told them to go back there during one of these 3 encounters. If they had been in Galilee for a week or more, then took another 8-10 days to return to Jerusalem, they would have arrived there almost 40 days after the resurrection. This perfectly fits the timeline as presented in the Bible.
Apparently, Jesus appeared to the disciples once again in their Jerusalem hiding place. He spoke to them and taught them there. He then led them out of the city towards the small village of Bethany, and they stopped on the Mount of Olives. It was less than 2 miles from Jerusalem to Bethany and the Mount of Olives was situated between them. This was one of Jesus’ favorite places to visit. The Garden of Gethsemane was located at the base of the mountain, where Jesus often went to pray whenever He was in the vicinity.
The disciples asked the risen Jesus when He intended to return and restore the kingdom of Israel, but He told them not to be overly concerned with this. Instead, He promised that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came and would be His witnesses throughout all the earth. Then, as they stood there watching, Jesus ascended upward into heaven. After He had disappeared from their sight, 2 angelic men told them that He would someday return in the same manner. They returned to Jerusalem and waited.
The ascension of Jesus Christ from the Mount of Olives into Heaven was the tenth post-resurrection appearance. Since then, Christians have been anxiously awaiting His glorious return. Ten days after the ascension, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples and the New Testament church was born.
Over the course of this series, we have learned about 10 separate and well-documented appearances of Jesus Christ after His resurrection. He appeared to numerous people in several different places over a period of 40 days. His presence was so real that many of these people actually died as martyrs for their uncompromising defense of His physical and literal resurrection. Why would they give up their lives if his was all a lie or an elaborate hoax? There is simply no other reasonable conclusion that any rational person can derive when one considers their eyewitness testimonies, the absence of Jesus’ body, and the exponential growth of the early church despite heavy persecution. The only logical outcome is that Jesus had conquered death and had risen from the dead!
As Christians today, we must display the same confidence and assurance in the resurrection as these early believers did. We must stake our lives, reputations, and fortunes upon this fact. We must boldly stand for Jesus in the presence of our enemies and against all forms of oppression. We must continue to loudly proclaim that He lives even though this world would seek to keep us silent. We must find strength in His presence and through the power of Holy Spirit to press forward in Jesus’ name. We must do more than simply believe; rather we should know for absolute certain that Jesus rose from the grave, is alive today and seated at God's right hand, and will soon come again for us. Hallelujah!