Introduction: Resurrection Appearances
What I would like you to do first is to turn to I Corinthians 15. We're going to be bouncing all through the Scriptures this morning, so you'll have to have your Bible rolodex ready. In the first epistle to the Corinthians, the letter may be divided into two halves. The division line is at I Corinthians 7:1a where Paul writes "Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me." From then on, Paul answers a number of questions that the church at Corinth had. For example, he discusses issues concerning marriage, idols, Christian liberty, spiritual gifts (particularly focusing on the gift of tongues). Then, towards the end of the book, Paul writes in I Corinthians 15:1, "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you". Finally, he closes the epistle with "Now concerning the collection for the saints.." in the first half of the first verse in the last chapter. As you can readily see, the latter chapters of first Corinthians are the inspired Apostles answers to questions that arose from within a local church.
Now, I know many of you, and certainly I, have been wondering about the resurrection. Since many of us have had our theology thrown up in the air as we have contemplated the preterist view of Scripture, we have wondered what does the resurrection mean in light of a preterist approach to the Scriptures. In fact about three months ago, we had someone preach to us about his view of the resurrection which certainly made us question as to what might be the truth concerning the resurrection. So I thought it would be important for us to look into the issue of the resurrection.
If I were to look into the entire topic about the resurrection, that would be too much to cover in one message. In fact, the sub-topic concerning the resurrection body of our Lord Jesus Christ is probably beyond what can be easily digested in an hour's message. But we will try to get through it.
So let's look at I Corinthians 15. As you are aware this is the normative passage concerning the resurrection. Therefore, if we want to find out something about the resurrection, we should use this text as the basis for our study. I am not going to exposit this passage, but use it as a guide for beginning our study. Notice how Paul opens the chapter by stating to them that he was going to declare the gospel known to them from the prior preaching of Paul. But now, drop down to verse 3b-4, "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures." So when Paul is going to discuss the resurrection, he begins first with a capsule summary of the gospel. Then he goes on in the next 4 verses and lists the post-resurrection appearances of the Lord Jesus Christ. Notice, in verse 5, "And that he was seen of Cephas , then of the twelve". And then in verse 6, "He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep." And then in verse 7, "After that, he was seen of James;" and in verse 7b, "then of all the apostles." And then in verse 8, "And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time." Let me point out a couple of things to you from this passage we just read. Number one, when Paul is going to discuss the issue of the resurrection. the first thing he is going to discuss with us is about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Although, he is going to eventually answer questions regarding the resurrection of believers, he first needs to lay an informational foundation. That foundation is Christ's resurrection. Therefore, understanding Christ's resurrection is a key to understanding our resurrection. So that's why today we are going to focus on Christ's resurrection. More specifically, we are going to focus on the resurrection body of Christ.
I believe the real root question from the Corinthian church is found in verse 35, "But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?" But before Paul is going to answer this question he must first lay the ground work. That ground work is understanding the resurrection body of the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, we must first learn as much as possible about Christ's resurrection body before we can answer questions concerning our resurrection body.
Well, if you're going to start studying about the resurrection body of Jesus Christ, you need to examine all the times when he appeared. I am sure many of you probably think Christ appeared only a couple of times after He rose from the dead. However, there are a number of appearances that Christ made after He rose from the dead. If you look at our passage in verse 5, you will note that He was seen of Cephas. But if you look in the gospels, there are at least two and probably three appearances that Christ made before He made his appearance to Peter. He first of all appeared to Mary Magdeline according to Mark 16:9. Then He appeared to other women along the way, probably Mary and Salome according to Matthew 28:9. He also appeared to those two men along the road to Emmaus, probably before He appeared to Peter, according to Mark 16:12 and also in Luke 24:13-32. So, Christ had three appearances, then He appeared to Peter, and then to the twelve as recorded in I Corinthians 15:5. However, He didn't appear to the twelve on only one occasion. He appeared to them the evening of His resurrection day (John 20:19-24), but also the following Sunday with Thomas (John 20:26-29) , some time later at the sea of Tiberius (John 21:1-14) and finally in one of the mountains in Galilee (Matt...... 28:16). Therefore included in I Cor 15:5b (and then to the twelve) are actually four post-resurrection appearances. Continuing in I Corinthians 15, we note that he was seen by 500 of them at one time (verse 6), then James (verse 7), then all the apostles, verse 7 (likely referring to His ascension). Therefore, we can count at least 11 post-resurrection appearances of our Lord. So if we can look at those eleven appearances, we might gain great insight as to what the resurrection body of Jesus Christ was like. Then, in the future we might use this knowledge to examine as to what our resurrection might be like.
Notice also, there are three post-Ascension appearances recorded in Scripture. In Acts 7:55-56, we note that the risen Lord appeared to Steven: "But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." Notice how he recognized Jesus Christ for who he was and knew he was the Son of Man. This emphasizes the fact that the being standing on the right hand of God is a human being....a human being with a post-resurrection body.
Secondly, we note how Paul describes his seeing the risen Lord in 1 Cor 15:8 "And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time." So, Paul doesn't make any distinction between those who saw the risen Lord before His ascension and Paul, who saw our Lord after His ascension. The same resurrected Jesus Christ appeared not only to His Apostles, but also appeared to Paul. To emphasize this point again, there is no distinction made by Paul between the pre-ascension risen Christ and the post-ascension risen Christ.
The final post ascension appearance is recorded in Rev 1:12-13, where John has his vision of the risen Lord: "And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle."
This morning we are going to look at three major characteristics of Christ's resurrection body based upon the foundation we have already laid.
1.) We want to emphasize that that being walking around claiming to be Jesus Christ was in fact the risen Jesus Christ. The Scripture, as you will see, emphasizes the identity of this being with Jesus Christ. We need to understand that the essence of Jesus Christ, His identity as a person, was carried over into His resurrection being. Why is this so important? Many of us have questions about our future in the Lord. What happens to us, individually, after we die and go home to be with the Lord? Will it be truly us when we drop this earthly body and put on an heavenly, eternal body? These verses emphasize the identity (the very essence of his person) of Jesus Christ with this resurrected being. We may safely infer that our identity (the very essence of who we are) will carry over to our resurrected bodies after death.
2.) The second point that I would like to make is that Jesus Christ had a physical body. I use the word physical in the sense that Christ's resurrection body had physical properties. We will discuss more about what "physical properties" means later in the message.
3.) The third point is that Christ's resurrection body had spiritual properties. Now right there you can readily see a contradiction. His resurrected body had physical properties and it had spiritual properties. Some people would use terms such as material and non-material properties. How these two, apparently contrasting characteristics, blend together in one resurrected being may be difficult for us to completely comprehend. However, this is not unusual in Christianity. Take for example the Trinity. We all know that there is one eternal being known as God. Yet this one eternal being exists in three individual persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Logically, in our current human minds we cannot entirely understand how one Being can exist in three persons. Yet we affirm both truths to be true. Another example would be the tension between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. God, through eternity past, planned (decreed) and foreordained everything that has and will come to pass. Yet, I as a moral agent am completely responsible for fulfilling His moral demands on my life. How exactly the two blend together, I don't understand. Yet, I hold both to be absolutely true. I think the same thing applies to the resurrection body of Jesus Christ. We can affirm completely that Christ's body had both physical properties and spiritual properties. Both of these are true. We need to affirm both truths without violence to the other. So the best way for us to approach Christ's resurrection body is to describe it's properties and then make some conjectures as to how these contrasting properties might blend together in one resurrected body. Any conjectures that we make about Christ's body must not deny either the physical or spiritual characteristics of His resurrection body. That being said, let's move on to the next level in our study.
The Identity of the Risen Christ
First of all, lets turn to Luke 24:36 to start looking at the identity of this resurrected being. To set the stage here, what has happened is that Christ has already made three resurrection appearances. According to Mark 16:10, 11, 13, after He made these three appearances, the individuals to whom He appeared had already returned to the upper room where apostles and disciples were gathered. In fact as noted in the verses in Mark, these disciples did not believe the verbal testimony of the witnesses to Christ's resurrection. In verse 35, the two men, who had seen Christ on the road to Emmaus, we actively explaining to the disciples there experiences on the road and how Christ was made recognizable to them in the breaking of the bread. Then in verse 36a, "as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them." and continuing in verse 37-43, "But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them."
Notice that the being in that room emphasizes His identity with the crucified Christ. The Greek makes this emphasis in a couple of places. In verse 36, Luke writes that "Christ, himself stood in the midst". It was not another person. It was not another person combined with someone else. It was Christ, Himself, who stood in the midst. This emphasizes His identity with the crucified Lord. Also note the Lord Himself, testifies to this fact noting in verse 39, Behold, my hands and my feet, that it is I myself". In this small verse, Christ uses the first personal pronoun 4 times: my hands, my feet, it is I, myself. The identity of this being cannot be denied to be the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to realize and affirm that this being appeared in the upper room was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Why is this so important? We need to realize that the identity of the Lord carried over to His resurrected person. This was not merely a Christophany or Theophany. Nor was it the Spirit of Jesus taking on a human body. The very essence and identity of the Lord Jesus Christ was one and the same as that being that appeared in the upper room.
There are further evidences that support that this being was truly the Lord Jesus Himself. In fact, since we are looking at Luke 24, back up to verse 4-7 which states: "And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again." Therefore, not only did Jesus Christ testify that it was He, Himself that arose from the dead, but heavenly angelic beings joined in the testimony as to His identity. It was the risen Lord that left the empty tomb, that He was not there, but that He had gone ahead to Galilee as he had told them earlier that he would do so.
In addition to self witness and angelic witness, a number of His disciples saw and testified that this was truly Jesus Christ, who had now risen from the dead. I ask you to now turn to John 20:11-18. This is the story of how Mary Magdeline met the Lord Jesus Christ along the road. Notice that in verse 18, Mary declares that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things unto her. She identified that person, who she initially thought to be a gardener, as Jesus Christ Himself. We have also the verbal testimony from two other ladies who had seen Him (Mt. 28:8-10, Mk. 16:7-8, Lk 24:9-11). Finally, the two men on the road to Emmaus (Mk 16:13, Lk 24:33-35) bore verbal witness that this was Jesus Christ. Therefore, based upon the verbal testimony of Jesus Himself, the angels, Mary Magdeline, other ladies, two men, we can safely identify this being as the risen Lord.
However, the identification of this being with the risen Lord does not depend only upon the verbal testimony of a few individuals. In fact, you may ask now, how did Mary Magdeline and other knows that it was truly Jesus Christ? If there verbal testimony was merely based upon repeating the testimony of Jesus Christ or angels, then basically there were only two independent witnesses to the identity of Christ and the rest in only heresay. Note that the confirming testimony of two independent witnesses should still be considered accurate. However, with multiple witnesses the proof of identification is even stronger. Therefore in this next section we will show that multiple different personal characteristics of the pre-risen Christ were used to identify this being to be Jesus Christ Himself.
First, let us turn to Luke 24:30. Again, this is the story of the two men on the road to Emmaus. Jesus Christ has just sat down to eat with them. "Then he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" (Luke 24:30-32). My question then is, "How did they recognize him to be Jesus Christ?" Well, I can see a number of possibilities. First of all, maybe they recognized how He broke the bread. Maybe Christ's unique and personal way of breaking bread was recognized to them. Note that sharing a meal together was common among the disciples, therefore, the breaking of bread does not need to have reference to the breaking of bread that established the ordinance of the Lord's supper. Another option is that when He broke the bread, they saw the scars in His hands and recognized Him to be Jesus Christ. Maybe, it was the entire course of events, His mannerisms along the road, His voice, His oral communication, etc. Note that in verse 16 it says that these two men "eyes were holden that they should not know him". This implies that Christ would have been readily recognizable to them had not God sovereignly blinded there recognition of Him. However, temporally associated with the breaking of bread that blindness was lifted (...their eyes were open...Lk 24:31) and they immediately recognized Him to be the risen Christ. Therefore we can surmise that Christ would have been readily recognizable to them had it not been for God's temporary blinding of their perception.
Now turn with me to John 20: 11-13. "But Mary stood without at the sepulcher weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulcher, And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him." Let me stop here. Notice how she is looking for a specific person. They have taken away her Lord and she does not know where they laid Him. Continuing on in verse 14: "And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus." I would like to focus on two Greek words here. The word "saw" is the word, theoreo. In general, it has the idea of to behold, look or consider. However, John tends to use this word differently than the other New Testament writers. According to John's usage of this word, theoreo emphasizes the physical function of the eye without emphasis on the corresponding processing of the mind. In other words, it simply refers to the physical activity of seeing , but not the mental aspect of understanding or perceiving what has been seen. Therefore, Mary sensed with her physical eyes that someone was present. The next Greek word to examine is translated know in the KJV is the Greek word "eido." The word, eido, is often also translated seeing. However, this word emphasizes not the physical aspect of seeing, but rather the mental aspect of seeing, that is, to understand, perceive, consider. Therefore, she physically saw Jesus with her eyes, but did not see Jesus with her mind (comprehension, understanding). What was Jesus's reply? continuing in verse 15-16: "Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master." So somehow in the way Jesus called her name, she recognized Him, or if we were using Greek, she now "eido" him. Was it His vocal characteristics? Was it the tenderness in His voice? Was it the compassion He showed her? We can only surmise. However, clearly she recognized him after He called her name. Note that earlier He had spoken to her without recognition (verse 15). So what was the difference? Maybe it was His continuing conversation that made Him recognizable. Therefore, it was may not have been His voice alone, but rather His speech.
Now I would like you to drop down to John 21. To set the background, several disciples had gone fishing on the sea of Tiberius. So let's pick up the story in verse 3-4: "Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus." Why didn't they recognize Him yet? Well it could have been a long night fishing. They might have been too far to see enough of His physical features to recognize Him. But notice, they were at least within an earshot as it says in verse 5-7: "Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord." Notice that they did not recognize Jesus yet (too far? too tired? too different?), but when Jesus performs a miracle that they had previously seen, John immediately recognizes Him to be the Lord. Unlike in prior episodes, the disciples do not need verbal confirmation that this is the Lord, but all of them recognized Him (v. 12). Therefore, Christ did not have to give verbal testimony as to His identity. All disciples clearly knew it was Him by what He did.
Before I move on to the next section, let me discuss one more point at this time. A detractor may scoff that it took a while for her to recognize that this was Jesus. I think the explanation for the delay was three-fold. First of all, none of the disciples were mentally prepared to meet the risen Lord. As they saw with their physical eyes this being, their brains' might have been saying, "Can't be Jesus; He's dead; must be someone else." Secondly, notice that when He appeared to those two men on the road to Emmaus, He appeared to them in a different form (Mk 16:12). Being in a different form, He might have not been as readily recognized. Thirdly, along the same line of thought, the risen Christ, although same in identity to the pre-risen Christ, was in His resurrection body, nonetheless different enough so as to cause a delay in recognition by His disciples. This concept of "same identity, but different form" forms the basis for our remaining discussion. The resurrection body of Jesus, although truly being Jesus Christ (same identity) was somehow different than the body of Jesus that hung on Calvary (different form). In fact, this uniqueness and difference was great enough that none of the disciples recognized Him to be the Lord immediately. Therefore, it was essential that we first prove and establish that this being was none other than Jesus Christ Himself. Only after doing so, can we safely explore how His resurrected body might be different than His pre-resurrection body.
To sum up my points so far, the identity of Jesus Christ was established by verbal testimony of: Christ, angelic beings, Mary Magdeline, other ladies, the two men on road to Emmaus. He was also recognizable in his person by physical characteristics, personality traits, and/or miracles by Mary Magdeline, the two men on the road to Emmaus, and the seven disciples on the sea of Tiberius.
The Physical Properties of the Body of the Risen Christ
Having, therefore, laid this ground work we are now going to more carefully examine the risen body of Jesus Christ. The characteristics of this body may be divided into physical properties and spiritual properties. Since it will be easier for us to grasp the physical characteristics of our risen Lord, let's look into these issues first. Therefore turning to Luke 24:39a:"Behold my hands and my feet." Note that this word "Behold" is that Greek word "eido" which we have discussed before. As a reminder, it is the Greek word that emphasizes seeing with the mind, that is, to consider, perceive, or understand. So Christ is given them a command: "Look and understand". Therefore, Christ wants them to use their eyesight to understand that it is His hands and His feet.
Continuing in the same verse, notice that He says, "that it is I myself: handle me," Now Christ is giving them another command, this time to use the sense of touch. The Greek word for "handle" is the word "pselaphao", which has the idea of manipulating. Often times it is used in a more figurative sense of verifying a fact by handling the object. The disciples were commanded to "handle" Christ in order to verify or, as it says in this verse "see" ("eido") the following truth: "a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have."
There are a number of aspects of Christ's resurrection body that we should discuss at this point. Notice first that He has hands and feet. I know that you might think why emphasize that point. Remember, we have absolutely no knowledge of what His resurrection body is to be like. Therefore, we are to assume nothing. Rather, we are to build truth upon truth as we glean them from the Scriptures. So the first truth we apprehend is that Christ's resurrection body had hands and feet. (As a reminder, note that they were His hands and feet). Notice that Christ not only had hands and feet, but had flesh and bones which could be handled by our human hands. These are all direct declarative statements that Christ made regarding His body. To deny these statements is to deny the veracity of Christ: Jesus Christ's resurrection body is a body of flesh and bones. Christ's resurrection body could be seen by human eyes and touched by human hands. I think this had quite an impact on the apostles.
As an aside, look with me at 1 John 1:1 "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life." Note that John, as a representative of the apostles was noting that they saw the Word of life and their hands had handled (same Greek word: "pselaphao") the Word of life. This was no apparition, this was no spirit. It was the risen being of Jesus Christ that the disciples handled that Easter evening. Now the Scriptures does not go into detail about the extent of how the disciples handled Christ at this point. However, put yourself in their position. You are deeply in sorrow over the death of your Lord. Others are telling you He is risen, but that is too wonderful to possibly be true (see verse 41)". Now, suddenly a being appears in the middle of your room: It must be a spirit (after all, humans just don't do this sort of thing). What relief you must have experienced as you see ("eido") that this is truly Christ. I bet all of us would have held on tight. The disciples could handle the resurrection body of Jesus Christ, because it had physical properties.
But not only these disciples, but others had met and handled the risen Christ. Please note Matt 28:9 "And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshiped him." This was in reference to the ladies (without Mary Magdeline) who were returning from the empty tomb. Along the way they met the risen Lord. Note that the held His feet. This is a different Greek word, krateo, which has the idea of seizing, grasping, clinging, or retaining. How could they have grasped Him and held Him had Christ not had a body with physical properties.
Backing up to our passage in Luke 24:41-43 "And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? 42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. 43 And he took it, and did eat before them." Note that in verse 41, the disciples were still struggling with disbelief, so Christ provided another piece of evidence that there were physical properties of His resurrection body. He took fish and honeycomb and ate it before them. To review this passage, note that the disciples had immediate impression that this was a spirit. But in these verses, Christ affirms His identity, but denies that He is a spirit. He denies this by direct declarative statements: "a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." He denies this by showing His hands, His feet. He denies this by telling others to handle Himself. He denies this by eating before Him (see also Acts 10:41). His disciples were wrong in concluding that a spirit was in the room that Easter night. It was the resurrected Lord, in a body (which spirits don't have) of flesh and bones, a body with physical properties. You have to assert these things to be true, otherwise you are in danger of denying the veracity of Scriptures.
Notice also, that there was a relationship between Christ's resurrection body and His body that was laid in the tomb. This relationship is established upon several lines of evidence. First, there were characteristic marks that were present in the body laid in the tomb that were retained in the resurrection body of Jesus Christ. Look with me at John 20:24-28: "But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God." In this event, Christ uses characteristic, identifying marks to prove to Thomas His identity. These characteristic marks were present on His pre-resurrection body that carried over to His resurrection body. We can safely conclude that there is some relationship between His pre-resurrection body and His resurrection body. Somehow the marks on His pre-resurrection body appeared on His resurrection body.
The second line of evidence that establishes relationship between His pre-resurrection body and His resurrection body is the empty tomb. There are numerous verses that raise the principle of the empty tomb: Mt 28:6-8; Mk 16:5-6; Lk 24:3-12; John 20:1-12. In these passages the angelic beings tell the disciples to come, look, see: Behold, He is not here." The body of Jesus Christ had disappeared. The absence of the body does not mean that Christ rose, but since we know that Christ rose, the absence of his pre-resurrection body suggest that that body was used to fashion His resurrection body.
Let's turn to the passage in John to examine his account of the empty tomb reading in John 20:3-7 "Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulcher. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulcher. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulcher, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself." These two disciples are trying to process data as to what has happened. Just as a detective would collect evidence at a crime scene, so Peter and John are collecting evidence in hopes of trying to make sense as to what has happened. Although not stated here, Peter and John clearly identify the absence of Christ's body. John then enters first and notes that the linen clothes were lying there. The Greek word for "lying" is "keimai" means to lie outstretched. This word was used to describe, in Luke 23:52 how the linen was wrapped/outstretched around the body of Christ after His death. It is also used here (and Luke 24:12) to describe the position of the linens after Christ rose from the dead. The wrapping of the linens and the lying of the linens are the same Greek word. Could it be that the linens were positioned in such a fashion to suggest that the body of Christ "vanished" leaving just the shell of the wrappings? Now Peter enters the tomb. He notices not only the linens, but the napkin wrapped together in a place by itself. Peter is still wondering, how could this have happened. How could the body of Christ been able to pass through these wrappings leaving them undisturbed, but also taking the napkin and lying it in another place. How did the napkin get moved? Who moved the napkin? Recall that when Lazarus was revived, Christ ordered him to be unwrapped (John 11:44). Both Peter and John had seen Lazarus' return from the dead, but what was happening her? Could it be that the resurrection body of Christ did not need to be loosed from the wrappings? Could it possibly be that the body of Christ simply passed through them without disturbing them? Then after passing through the wrappings, the napkin is then moved (by Christ?) to another place? John enters into the tomb, considers all the evidence and believes.
So how do we explain the apparent "disappearance" of Christ's body? I believe that the resurrection body of Jesus Christ was transformed from his pre-resurrection body. In the Psalm 16:10, David prophesied that the "Holy One would not see corruption." So therefore, based upon this prophecy, we know that the body of Jesus Christ was not to deteriorate in a grave (that is, see corruption). Rather, it was to be used to form resurrection body. However, this was not merely a renewal of life to previously dead body. This body had some unique properties never before seen in a Man. Therefore, a transformation must have occurred. The old body no longer exists, it has been completely and totally transformed into the resurrection body with many new properties.
"Spiritual" properties of Christ's Resurrection Body
This is a natural transition to my third and final major concept of today. Christ's resurrected body had "spiritual" properties, that are not present in our mortal human bodies. We would like to examine some of these properties by first turning to Luke 24:36-37 "And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit." I want to focus on the reaction of the disciples upon the sudden appearance of Jesus Christ into the upper room. First they were terrified. This is a translation of the Greek word "ptoeo". This word is only used one other time (Luke 21:9) and caries with it the idea of being startled. (A good example of this would be if someone sneaks up behind you in a quiet room and shouts your name: ptoeo). The disciples were not only terrified/startled, but affrighted. This word is "emphobos" which is a compound word which literally means "fear - in". This word is also rarely used. However in the six times it appears, in every instance it seems to be a paralyzing fear. The type of fear that stops you dead in your tracks. Note that in a direct, declarative, inspired statement, the Scriptures describe that the disciples supposed that they saw a spirit. Why do you think that disciples were so afraid and thought that they saw a spirit? Could it have been the general appearance of Christ? I don't think so. At this point, Christ had been seen by Mary Magdeline, two other ladies, two men (Emmaus) and Peter. Some of them had held Him. Mary tried to cling to Him. None of them supposed Him to be a spirit, but rather a gardener, a man, the God-man.". So if Christ looked like a man, why did the disciples think that they saw a spirit and were deathly afraid? Look back at the passage: "as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them." It was the sudden unannounced appearance of Jesus in a locked room (see John 20:19) that led the disciples to suppose that they had seen a spirit. Wouldn't you? If a being suddenly "materialized" in this room, wouldn't we think we saw a spirit? Physical bodies just don't suddenly appear. So based upon this passage, I conclude that the resurrection body of Jesus Christ had a "spiritual" property: It could suddenly appear in a room. I want you to remember all that we have discussed so far. Remember that Christ's body had physical characteristics, yet it could suddenly "materialize" in a room. How is this possible? We have to affirm both truths to be true. Any conjecture that affirms both truths without violence to the other is a plausible explanation. Possibilities include that this material body was made of unique material that could be held, seen, grasped, but yet could suddenly appear/disappear. Another option is that the body is organized in such a fashion as to allow its molecules to pass through solid materials or to suddenly appear visible and invisible. What is the exact answer, we can only guess, but only within the boundaries of the stated Scripture.
So lets continue to look at other verses that emphasize the "spiritual" properties of Christ's resurrection body. In Acts 1:3 To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." The word "showed" is a translation of the word, "paristemi", which is formed from two words: para (next to or beside), histemi (to stand). This very common word means literally to stand next to. In its broad usage it might mean to present, show, stand, exhibit, assist, provide. In the context it is translated showing, with the meaning that Christ is "displaying" or "exhibiting" His resurrection body. Continuing on in that verse, we note that the words "being seen" are a translation for "optanomai", which again emphasizes the physical function of sight. But interestingly, in this verse, it is in the middle voice which means that both the active agent and object acted upon are one and the same. Christ made Christ to be seen. So Christ was making himself visible to them. In one sense, this could mean that Christ was naturally visible and came to situations in order to be seen by His disciples. The other option is to conjecture that Christ was naturally invisible to His disciples, but that Christ did something to make himself visible to them. Either option is possibly correct. Let's use the analogy of faith to examine these possibilities.
Other verses we might turn to include: Acts 10:40-41 Him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. Again, the idea is God "showed" him openly. However, this time the word "showed" is translation of a different Greek word, "didomi", which is another very general word, but has the idea of a gift. Therefore, God "gave" Christ to be shown openly. The word "openly" is a translation of a rare Greek word "emphanes" which means to make manifest. Putting the words didomiand emphanes together, we get the idea that God gave Him to be manifested to His disciples. How could God give Him to be manifested? Again, we are left with a number of possibilities suggesting either making Christ visible selectively or having Christ to be present in places where He only His disciples would be and, therefore, see Him. We need to look for further clues.
If we look to Mark 16. There is a listing of his "appearances" in verses 9, 12, 14. The word for "appeared" in these verses is the Greek word, "phaino", which again has the idea of showing or appearing. Now think with me for a second. If we were to meet someone along the road, what type of words would we choose. We might say He came to us, passed by us, met us, etc. However, we would not typically use the word appeared. The implication, therefore, is that by "appearing" we imply a natural invisible state that then changes to a visible one, that is appears. However, this is still all inferential and we still don't have proof, so let's look on.
Now let's go to Mark 16: 12: After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. In this verse, I would like you to focus on the fact that Christ "appeared in another form". Again, this is another word for appeared "phaneroo", which has idea of showing/manifesting. But look at what is unique about this verse. Christ showed Himself in "another form". Well, this is rather curious. Although we can possibly use the word "appear" when we surprisingly see someone, it would be highly unusual to for us to note that someone we passed by, "appeared in another form". Furthermore, we must recall that Christ's resurrection body has physical properties: hands, feet, scars. It can be seen. It can be held, handled and touched. But it can also "appear in another form". Remember, it is Christ's one and only resurrection body. It has identity with Christ. It is His body. It is He, Himself. Yet, somehow, this body has the ability to change its appearance. This may be part of the explanation as to why there was such a delay for these two men to eventually recognize Him to be Christ.
Let us further develop the idea of Christ's appearings. To do that, I want to go to a post-Ascension appearance of Christ. Now some of you might suggest that I am going to use verses that are not applicable. However, as you recall from I Corinthians 15, that Paul lists some of the post Resurrection appearances of Christ. In that list, Paul notes that he too was a witness to the resurrected Christ. When did Paul see Christ? Before Christ's ascension...no. Clearly it was afterward. Paul's only distinction between his seeing the Lord contrasted with was that he (Paul) was one born out of time. He makes no distinction otherwise between pre- or post-Ascension appearances of Christ. This lack of distinction is especially notable, since that chapter is the normative passage concerning the resurrection.
With that being established, let's review one of the post-ascension appearances of Christ to see if we can glean additional information. In Acts 9:3-7 "And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man." Think about this for a second. We have a sudden appearance of the resurrected Lord. Paul speaks to Him, but others hear some sounds/a voice, but cannot discern a man. How is this possible? The Lord must have been manifested to Paul, but not to the others. He was speaking to Paul in an intelligent manner, but others did not. The parallel passages in Acts 22:6-9 and 26:12-15 further bring out the distinction between Paul's experience and those others who were along the road with him. Unlike our prior discussions, which merely suggested the possibility of Christ making himself visible, these verses bring out an unusual characteristic of Christ's resurrection body. It could be seen by some (those to whom Christ was manifesting Himself), but not to others who are there at the same place and the same time. Similarly, Paul could hear the voice, but others could not. A possible explanation for this is that Christ came in a cloud of glory. Upon His arrival, everyone was knocked to the ground. But with some time, the cloud of glory enveloped the risen Christ and Paul standing there with Him. Paul sees Christ, he hears and understands His voice. To others, outside, there are voices, noise, bright lights, but no discernible speech or man. No matter what your explanation of this passage happens to be, it is apparent that Christ's resurrection body have properties that our current physical bodies do not.
Well, if your not yet convinced, let me take you to one other verse discussing this issue of Christ manifesting himself. It is a familiar passage to us. In Luke 24:31 we read: "And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight." Breaking down the words again, we find that the word vanished is made of two separate Greek words: "ginomai", which means to become and "aphantos" which is the opposite of phantos (to be manifested, see above). Therefore, putting this all together we find that Christ "became non-manifested". There is no other way to interpret this verse. Christ became non-manifested to their sense of sight. We would say He became invisible. Clearly the ability to appear, appear in another form, appear to some, but not others, and to dis-appear are all properties of a resurrection body which has spiritual characteristics. (But don't forget that it also has physical properties!!)
As our last verses for today, I ask you to look at John 20: 19 and 20:26: "Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you." Note that in both of these verses, John describes that the doors were shut, but yet Christ stood in the midst. How could this have happened? One possibility is that Christ walked through shut doors (similar to how is body "escaped" the linen wrappings), or He might of went in the room in an invisible form and then made himself visible suddenly. In either case, Christ's resurrection body had properties that go beyond any typical physical body, but yet clearly is a body with physical characteristics.
How can this be? we can only conjecture. As long as we hold to the truths that are evident here, we can surmise what we wish, knowing the absolute answers are not revealed in the Scriptures. However, here's my best guess. Our human bodies are bodies made of "clay"/ "dust" that are of materials that are common to this existence, this sphere of life, this earth. These physical bodies obey the Natural laws, set forth by God that govern materials in this universe. However, a resurrection body is not made for the earth, but for the heavens. What are the properties of "matter" or "material" in the heavens? I don't know. What laws do they obey? I don't know. I can at least describe the properties of this resurrection body as it is viewed from a material earth with the physicalsenses of those who were witnesses to His resurrection. Yet I must also note that this resurrection body did not obey the laws that govern materials of this realm. For lack of a better term, I state that Chist's body had spiritual propertis. Joining the two, I believe that Christ's body was made of substances foreign to our knowledge and to our universe that are designed by God to dwell in the heavenly realm. Yet, in our earthly realm it can take on characteristics which I have described as physical and spiritual. However, without too much contemplation, we can only surmise that on this side of glory, we are unable to fully describe all the characteristics of Christ's resurrection body (see II Cor 12:4).
As such, I can safely affirm the following points:
1.) It was Jesus the Christ, who was crucified who rose from the grave.
2.) Jesus Christ's dead body was transformed into an immortal resurrection body.
3.) Jesus Christ's body had physical properties
4.) Jesus Christ's body had unique spiritual properties.
5.) Any further conjecturing about the Lord's resurrection body needs to hold to all these truths without denying the veracity of any.