Summary: Part 4 in resurrection series - to whom did Jesus appear after He rose, and the overwhelming proof contained therein.
Acts 1:1-3 – Appearances
In 1963 the body of 14-yr-old Addie Mae Collins, one of 4 black girls tragically murdered in a church bombing by white racists, was buried in Birmingham, AL. For years family members kept returning to the grave to pray and leave flowers. In 1998 they made the decision to exhume the grave and move the little girl’s body to another cemetery.
When workers were sent to dig up the body, though, they found that the grave was empty. Understandably, family members were terribly upset. The records for the cemetery weren’t kept up well, and that slowed down progress on the case. The best explanation was that the tombstone had been erected in the wrong place.
Yet, in the middle of figuring this out, one explanation was never proposed: nobody suggested that young Addie Mae had been resurrected to walk earth again. Why? Just because there is an empty grave does not mean there has been a resurrection.
Today we continue to look at good evidence to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. We looked at the letter F – Fatal Torment – He really did die. Last week we looked at the letter E – The Empty Tomb. His body was nowhere to be found. And today we look at the letter A – Appearances of Christ. Jesus appeared after His death, which gives weight to the fact of the resurrection. Let’s read Acts 1:1-3.
This passage, written by a medical doctor named Luke, is the introduction to the continuing story of Jesus’ life and legacy. This scientist is quite aware of the medical impossibility of dead people rising again. But yet he affirms that there are “many convincing proofs” that Jesus really was raised from the dead. So what is impossible with science or medicine is possible with God.
Yet the modern rational mind is skeptical of all things supernatural. So modern people have come up with logical explanations for the appearances of Christ. Even if He existed and died, and the tomb was empty, surely there must be some logical explanation for His post-resurrection appearances. Here are some of modern thoughts.
1) It was all hallucinations. People only imagined seeing Jesus. This idea is loaded with flaws. A) Hallucinations are individual occurrences. More than one person cannot see the same thing. Yet many people reported seeing Jesus. B) Hallucinations need a fertile mind, a believing mind, an expectant mind. Yet it’s clear the disciples did not count on seeing Jesus again. Their minds were certainly not fertile, believing and expectant. C) Hallucinations are comparably rare. Chances are, you don’t know anybody who has had hallucinations not caused by drugs or bodily depravation, like starving or lack of sleep. D) Hallucinations do not contain new ideas or thoughts. They are just projections of the mind. Therefore, as Jews, the disciples would have imagined Jesus in heaven or taken up like Elijah in a chariot or something. They would have imagined Jesus still walking around. E) All this still doesn’t explain the empty tomb – the fact that Jesus’ body couldn’t be found. No, hallucinations do not explain the appearances of Christ.
Well, what about hypnosis? The disciples were in some altered state of consciousness, losing touch with reality? That the disciples just saw what they wanted to see? Well, again I point out, the disciples may have wanted to see Jesus alive again but they weren’t counting on it. They weren’t holding out hope for the possibility. That in itself makes them unlikely candidates for hypnosis.
As well, the research that Luke claims he did in writing Jesus’ life shows he is committed to the truth. He didn’t care about images or performances or legends. He wanted the truth. And the disciples went on in their lives and in their writings to tell us to study – to use the brain. To love God with our minds. To examine the scriptures. To test everything. These are not likely words from victims of hypnosis.
Even further, someone has suggested what is called “groupthink” or hypersuggestibility. That is, everyone talked each other into thinking Jesus was alive again. After all, as one atheist named Michael Martin observed, “A person full of religious zeal may see what he or she wants to see, not what is really there.” Well, that certainly cuts both ways: Christians believe because they want to, but atheists don’t believe because they don’t want to.
There are several reasons why the disciples couldn’t have talked each other into believing in Christ’s resurrection. A) There was too much at stake. You would think that later on in their lives, they would have looked back and changed their minds? Recanted and quietly fell away? But they didn’t. Even to their deathbeds, they were convinced they had seen Jesus. B) What about James, Jesus’ brother? He wasn’t a follower until after the resurrection. Or Paul, who was a persecutor of Christians? Did either of them get talked into seeing something? C) The creed in 1 Corinthians 15, which we will look at in a second, talks about seeing Jesus. Groupthink doesn’t explain that very well. D) And there is still the empty tomb, which would have proven everyone wrong if there had been a body. No, there is no evidence to believe they all convinced each other of the resurrection.