Hey everyone, Josh Hawkins here, welcome to Episode 152 of Opening Up the Gospels. In Episode 151, I talked about the resurrection of Jesus. Before we looked at the record of the event in the Gospels, I noted two reasons why the resurrection was important - first, I said that the writings of the New Testament use Jesus’ resurrection as the “interpretive lens” to understand and confirm that God would accomplish everything that He said, as He said it, in the Law and the Prophets. And second, the resurrection tells us that Jesus’ pattern of living is the standard of submission and devotion to God. We saw how the Gospels narrate some of the details of the resurrection, from the appearance of angels to the neatly folded face cloth as well as John beating Peter in their run to the tomb. As I said last time, the resurrection of Jesus is the point on which the faith rises and falls. If Jesus was not raised, everything the apostles believed and preached was in vain. But He was raised, and the hundreds of eyewitnesses and other historical evidence provide us with certainty that the Scriptures are reliable and God will bring to pass everything that He’s promised. In today’s episode, I want to look at a few of the times where Jesus appeared to people after His resurrection. These passages are just incredible and reveal Jesus’ merciful, tender heart so much. Let’s start today in John 20:
"But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.”
(John 20:11–14 ESV)
As I mentioned in the last episode, it’s a bit difficult to place the timing of what John records here, because the other Gospels indicate that the other women had also come to the tomb, and seemingly it was after the stone was rolled away. And here, it seems like Mary Magdalene had gone into the tomb or at least looked inside, such that she saw two angels in white where Jesus was laying. Whatever the case, Mary stood weeping and having a conversation with the two angels. It seems so casual, doesn’t it? I mean, by the way John records this dialogue, it doesn’t seem like Mary is all that surprised or shocked at the appearance of the angels. Rightly so, her greatest concern is Jesus and what’s happened to him. Then, John tells us that she turns around and saw Jesus, but didn’t know it was Him. Let’s keep reading:
"Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her."
(John 20:15–18 ESV)
What a moment. Mary assumes Jesus is just the gardener, but it’s with just one word that her eyes are opened and she recognizes Jesus. He’s alive! He’s alive! Just imagine what must have flooded her heart and mind in that moment. She responds with the word “rabboni”, which is an Aramaic word that essentially means “my dear teacher”. Jesus’ face must have had a smile in this moment. And at this, Mary goes and tells the apostles. Now as Mary and the other women were on their way to them, Matthew 28 records something else significant:
"While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day."
(Matthew 28:11–15 ESV)
Just picture this - the guards at the tomb went into Jerusalem to tell the chief priests everything that had happened - the angels, the stone being rolled away, the earthquake, the women… Surely this must have set off a firestorm of rage and fear in the hearts of the Jewish authorities. They even thought they could bribe the soldiers to circulate rumors about what had happened to Jesus. This was their last-ditch attempt to squash the “Jesus problem”, but soon there would be too many people who would have seen and too much boldness from the apostles for them to deal with. As the Pharisee Gamaliel would soon say in Acts chapter 5, "but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”. Jesus was alive, and I am sure they knew it. His words were trustworthy and true, and they were left with an even bigger problem than they began with. Oh, look at what an evil heart does… It’s astounding. Well, let’s look at the second resurrection appearance that the Gospels record for us from Luke chapter 24:
"That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?”
(Luke 24:13-19 ESV)
So according to Luke, it’s still Sunday, the day following the High Sabbath of the Passover feast, and it’s later on in the day, as we’ll see in the final part of the passage. And two men, likely pilgrims who had attended the Passover, are walking on the road to a village called Emmaus. The historian Josephus mentions an “Emmaus” in his work, and we do know it was in close proximity to Jerusalem, but we’re not exactly sure where this village was. The two men were discussing, or perhaps better translated, debating or disputing with one another, all that had recently happened in Jerusalem. And it’s in this moment that Jesus comes near them and just casually asks them about what they were having a heated discussion over. So they stop walking and have a remorseful appearance. Luke records the name of one of them - Cleopas - and it’s pretty amazing to think about why Luke probably mentions him by name. As I’ve said before, many of the named people in the Gospels in instances like this are seen by historians and scholars as a reliable source of eyewitness testimony. Just imagine being able to go up to Cleopas as someone known in the early days of the church after Jesus’ ascension, and asking him about his conversation with Jesus. Wow. Well, let’s read a bit more in Luke 24:
"And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
(Luke 24:19–24 ESV)
So Cleopas essentially tells the story of Jesus’ last few days here, but there’s one thing in particular I want to highlight. He says “we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel”. They had heard about and perhaps even witnessed themselves some of the words and deeds of Jesus during His two year ministry. And because of that, they had hoped that, after over four hundred years of silence from Israel’s prophets, that Jesus was that prophet like Moses that was spoken about back in Deuteronomy 18 whom Israel would listen to and who would speak the very words of God. They had hoped that Jesus was the promised king from David’s line who would fulfill God’s promises to the nation, defeating their enemies and reigning on David’s throne forever. They had hoped that Jerusalem would be restored and all the nations would flow to Mount Zion to learn the ways of God and be discipled. This is what Moses and the Prophets spoke about, and this is what Israel was expecting from Jesus. Now, as I’ve said many times throughout this series, Jesus didn’t redefine or reimagine these expectations through His ministry or His parables or His miracles. The rest of the New Testament makes clear that Jesus confirmed that these things would come to pass as they had been spoken, and that He would be the One to do them. That’s made clear in the next part of the passage, so let’s keep reading:
"And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread."
(Luke 24:25–35 ESV)
Oh what must this have been like? The living word of God Himself was explaining all that was written of Him in Moses and the Prophets. Was it not necessary that the king of Israel should first suffer before establishing His glorious kingdom in Jerusalem? And now that they heard He was alive, it was the confirmation of their hopes that caused their hearts to burn within them, as Jesus opened up the Law and the Prophets and the Writings to them. I don’t think they would have been so excited from a relatively short conversation on the road If Jesus was completely changing all of their understanding and expectation of what God had spoken in the Scriptures and what had defined them as a people and a nation. So this is why they returned to Jerusalem that same hour and found the eleven apostles and those gathered with them, eager to tell them everything Jesus had said.
Well in the next episode I’ll look at several more of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances. In the meantime, you can find all the past episodes in this series on my website - www.joshuahawkins.com/gospels. God bless, and come back next time.