Jesus is alive. He literally and physically rose from the grave. He was crucified, dead, and buried, yet on the third day He was resurrected from the dead. During the 40 days between His miraculous resurrection and His ascension into Heaven, Jesus appeared to numerous witnesses. Many first hand testimonies of personal encounters with the risen Lord have been recorded and preserved in Scripture. The post-resurrection appearances provide compelling evidence that Jesus conquered death and is the divine Son of God.
Let’s quickly review the post-resurrection appearances that we’ve already covered...
- On the morning of His resurrection, the risen Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene. She initially mistook Him for the gardener before realizing His true identity. This took place at or near the tomb.
- Soon thereafter, Jesus met a group of other women as they returned from the empty tomb. These included Mary the mother of James, Salome, Joanna, and possibly several others who remained unnamed.
- Later that same morning, or perhaps in the early afternoon, the risen Jesus appeared to the apostle Peter. Additional details regarding this appearance are not recorded in the Bible.
- That afternoon, the resurrected Lord appeared to 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus. They did not recognize Him while they were travelling, but finally did so after they arrived at their destination. When they did, Jesus vanished.
- On the same day of His resurrection, during the evening, Jesus appeared to a large group of apostles and other followers who were gathered together hiding in Jerusalem. The apostle Thomas was not with them at the time.
Jesus made 5 post-resurrection appearances on the same day that He rose from the grave. He appeared to and spoke with almost all of His followers who were present in Jerusalem at that time. These included numerous women, various other disciples, and all of the 11 remaining apostles (Judas Iscariot had already gone astray) except for Thomas. This morning we will consider the next 2 recorded instances in which Jesus appeared to people after having risen from the dead.
I. THE SIXTH APPEARANCE - THE DISCIPLES WITH THOMAS (John 20:26-29)
Everyone but Thomas had now seen, spoken with, and in many cases had physically touched the risen Jesus Christ. They were all amazed and overjoyed that He was alive and well. They spoke about it amongst themselves almost constantly. However, Thomas had not yet had a personal encounter with the risen Lord and was left with only the disciple’s spoken testimonies. While they were all insistent that Jesus was alive, Thomas was hesitant to believe until He saw Jesus for himself.
Because of his skepticism, over the centuries Christians have given Thomas the dubious distinction of “Doubting Thomas”. Honestly, this is an unfair title. The Bible indicates that none of the disciples initially believed the reports of Mary Magdalene and/or the other women. They too refused to believe that Jesus had been resurrected until they actually saw and touched Him. The doubts that Thomas experienced were no different than any of the other disciples, yet he alone received the notorious nickname. For an entire week, Thomas was left to wonder if Jesus had actually risen from the grave.
The Sunday after His resurrection all of the disciples were gathered together again in their Jerusalem residence. This time the apostle Thomas was present with them. The risen Jesus appeared to the entire group, but spoke directly to Thomas inviting him to touch His nail-scarred hands and sword-pierced side. Seeing this, Thomas believed and cried out “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus answered saying, “Blessed are those who have not seen yet still believe.”
This encounter with the disciples, most notably with “Doubting Thomas”, is the sixth post-resurrection appearance of Jesus Christ found in Scripture. The popular saying “Seeing is believing” originates from this story. As Christians today, our faith serves as the evidence of things not yet seen… such as the living Jesus.
II. THE SEVENTH APPEARANCE - SEVEN OF THE DISCIPLES (John 21:1-23)
During the Last Supper, which occurred prior to His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus told the apostles that He would go before them into Galilee. On the morning of the resurrection, the angels at the empty tomb told the other women (not including Mary Magdalene) to tell the disciples that Jesus would meet them in Galilee. The risen Christ restated this command when He appeared to these women on their way back from there. Thus, the disciples had been instructed repeatedly to meet Jesus after the resurrection somewhere in Galilee.
Depending upon the speed of one’s steps, the route taken, weather conditions, and various other factors it might take around 10 days or so to walk from Jerusalem to Galilee. If the disciples departed shortly after the Lord’s appearance to them and Thomas, they might have arrived in Galilee sometime during the middle of the next week. This would be approximately 20 days after the resurrection. Most likely they went to the seaside city of Capernaum, which had been the home base of Jesus’ earthly ministry.
A small group of these disciples - namely Peter, James, John, Nathanael (also know as Bartholomew), Thomas, and 2 others - decided to go fishing on the Sea of Galilee (Tiberias). They fished all night long and caught nothing. As the sun rose, they heard a man calling from the shore to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. They did so, and the nets were filled with fish - so many that they couldn’t pull them up! Peter remembered a similar experience from a few years earlier when he’d first been called to become a disciple. Recognizing that the man on the beach must be the risen Jesus, Peter immediately dove into the water and swam to meet Him. The others rowed their boat ashore, dragging the fish-filled net with them.
That morning the Jesus and these select disciples had breakfast together on the beach. It was on this occasion that the risen Christ restored Peter and told him 3 separate times to feed His sheep. Jesus also spoke about the future persecution of both John and Peter, foretelling that Peter would die as a martyr but John would survive. This, of course, actually happened just as the Lord predicted.
This breakfast on the seashore was the seventh appearance of Jesus Christ after his resurrection. It was His third encounter with the apostles as a group. His first 2 appearances to them had occurred in Jerusalem, once with Thomas and once without.
Jesus had now appeared on 7 distinct occasions following His resurrection. He had been seen alive by numerous women, the 11 apostles, and a large number of other disciples. He had been seen alive multiple times on the day of His resurrection, again a week later, and again a week and a half after that. He had been alive seen near His tomb on the outskirts of Jerusalem, inside a secure room within the city of Jerusalem, on the way to and in the nearby village of Emmaus, and now several miles miles away on the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. Not only had He been seen on these occasions, but also spoken with, eaten with, and physically touched. There is absolutely no reasonable doubt - the evidence is bountiful and irrefutable… Jesus had physically risen from the dead. He is alive! If you still need convincing, there’s even more to discover next week…