Let’s continue with 1Cor 15:3-8:
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: 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 that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”
Resurrection Appearances, part 1Now let’s look at the list of resurrection appearances. He appeared to Peter, then the Twelve, a whole mess of disciples, then James, then the apostles again … can you think of a glaring omission from this list? Who was the first to find the empty tomb and to see Jesus?
The women! The fact that the gospels record women as finding the tomb and Mary as seeing Jesus first is evidence of the truth of the story. Here’s why: In those days, the Jews had very little respect for women. They thought they were all a bunch of empty-headed gossips, and the word of a woman was considered unreliable. A modern equivalent might be having the only witness be the town drunk. If someone in that day were going to make up a story, they would not have had women finding the tomb or seeing Jesus. The men would have seen Him and brought the news to the women. Now, some have objected to this saying that a woman’s testimony was acceptable if she was in a unique position to know the truth. That’s fine. The point is that if you were making up a story you wouldn’t make it up with only women finding the tomb.
Next let’s look at the appearances to Peter and the Twelve. What do we know about the behavior of the apostles during the arrest and death of Jesus? They ran scared and hid (Mark 14:50, John 20:19). Peter denied Him. They had been taught that God would not let His Messiah die (Strobel, p246; Maclear, p124). When Jesus was arrested and executed, they thought it was over. On Sunday morning they were not expecting a risen Savior but a Roman soldier to visit them.
If you are going to make up a story like the gospels, would you spin a tale that makes you come out like a bozo – never understanding what Jesus said and then hiding in fear? No! A made up story would have had them waiting outside the tomb on Easter morning with a big cake saying, “Welcome back!” No one would have made up their role in this story.
We know something else about Peter and the apostles. Before the resurrection they ran scared. Afterwards they were bold. When someone said, “Stop preaching about Jesus or we’ll kill you,” they answered, “Do your worst!” Many people throughout history have died for what they believed was true, but no one dies for what they know is false. The apostles were part of a small group in the unique position of knowing for certain whether or not Christ really rose from the dead, and they all went to their deaths proclaiming that He did. This is very difficult to explain apart from their seeing the risen Christ.
Next time we'll look at the rest of the appearances.
Strobel, Lee, The Case for Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998).
Maclear, GF, A Class-Book of New Testament History (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1866).