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Words of the Resurrected Jesus: Confirming Words

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In addition to Jesus speaking words of comfort to his disciples, a key theme in the statements that the New Testament records of the resurrected Jesus is confirmation of his bodily resurrection. In these various statements, Jesus makes it clear that his body has truly risen from the grave since it was something that the disciples (and we) need to know and understand and also something that has tremendous significance for us.

The Need for Confirmation
On the first Easter morning, the women find Jesus’s tomb to be empty; Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:47, and Luke 23:55 all make the point that they they saw Jesus’s body placed in this tomb, showing that they did not go to the wrong tomb like some say. The empty tomb in and of itself does not necessarily mean that Jesus rose from the dead, as there are other possibilities that could explain why the body was missing. The most popular explanation is that someone went to the tomb and took Jesus’s body. This view was popular in the ancient world, in part because of the lie that the priests passed along that the disciples stole Jesus’s body (Matthew 28:11-15), and many continue to hold it today. It was also the first reaction of Mary Magdalene (see John 20:2 and 20:13). 

The resurrection appearances of Jesus found in the gospels, therefore, stand as the confirmation that he has been risen from the dead, the tomb was empty, and no one had stolen his body. However, one could still wonder whether these appearances were either hoaxes (e.g., someone looking like Jesus impersonating him) or hallucinations (e.g., just a figment of the disciples’ imagination). Another possibility would be that Jesus was some sort of “ghost” that was purely soul and had no body; this might sound odd, but it seems to be what the disciples initially thought (Luke 24:37). Thus, there is a need for Jesus to not simply appear to confirm that he is indeed the same Jesus who was on the cross and placed in the grave and that his resurrection was in body and soul. This is exactly what we see happen in the resurrection appearances.

The Manner of Confirmation
Jesus confirms his bodily resurrection in various ways. One potentially overlooked way that we see Jesus showing that it is indeed him is when he speaks to Mary Magdalene and calls her by name in John 20:16. He both knows her name, showing that he is not a look alike, and presumably says it in the exact same way that she was used to her teacher saying it before his death. However, I suppose someone could posit that this “Jesus impersonator” had done his research and thus knew the key role that Mary Magdalene would play (and to err on the side of guessing a woman’s name is Mary because it was quite popular) and had worked on his voice. Thankfully, this is not the only way that Jesus shows he is indeed the same crucified man who has come back to life.

When Jesus appears to the 10 disciples (without Thomas) in John 20:19-20, he points to his hands and his side, showing where he would be wounded from the cross. When Thomas says he needs to see it to believe it, Jesus appears again and invites him to touch him (John 20:24-29). While we never read if Thomas indeed did touch him (it seems that the fact that Jesus knew what Thomas said and thought was enough), it shows once again that this is Jesus in his bodily form – he could be touched. This confirms that he really rose bodily from the dead.

Luke also shows Jesus proving that he is indeed in the flesh. When the disciples see Jesus, they thought they saw a ghost rather than a body, so Jesus shows them his hands and feet and invites them to touch him as ghosts do not have “flesh and bones” (Luke 24:38-40). These words are similar to the account in John but may have a different focus; the words in John emphasize that it is the same Jesus who was crucified while the words here in Luke focused on the idea that Jesus indeed has a body. Since this action did not seem to offer complete confirmation to some of the disciples (Luke 24:41 notes that some were in disbelief…in part because of their joy), he asks them to give them some fish and then eats the fish (Luke 24:42-43) to display a human bodily function. Eating is actually a theme in other resurrection appearances, as John 21 implies that Jesus ate a meal and Luke 24:30-35 notes that Jesus broke bread with the disciples he found on the Emmaus Road.

Therefore, it is not a single appearance or even a single account that stresses the bodily nature of Jesus’s resurrection – we have multiple witnesses that point it out in different ways and thus independently of each other.

The Significance of Confirmation
Confirming that Jesus’s body had really risen from the dead was not just important for the disciples (and us) to prove that Jesus had kept His word (Matthew 28:6; Mark 16:7; Luke 24:7-8) in accordance with the Scripture (see Luke 24:44-46), it also impacts what we believe will happen to our bodies. Our hope is not to escape from this world and be a spirit in heaven, but rather to be like Jesus and be risen from the dead. His bodily resurrection is the first fruit of the resurrection at the end of time that we look forward to, and we will arise just as he arose (1 Corinthians 15:20-23; 1 John 3:2). 

One interesting note about Jesus’s resurrected body is that it seems he is able to appear in various places since he entered the locked room the disciples were gathered (John 20:19, 26). Does this mean this will be true of our resurrected bodies? Some say yes, I say maybe – as this could also be tied to the miracle working nature of Jesus (as he does things in his earthly life that we cannot do) or even tied to this particular occasion, similar to what we see happen to Philip in Acts 8:39-40. Even this intriguing note about Jesus’s appearance behind locked doors culminates in Jesus confirming that the body that died has now been risen. He is risen, he is risen indeed – which means that we too will arise in our bodies.

Questions about the Bible or theology? Email them to Pastor Brian at Theology@WeAreFaith.org. You can also request to receive weekly emails with our blog posts by filling out the information on the right side.

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