Summary: Christ’s post resurrection appearances varied according to the needs of the individual would be believers.
Early on the morning of December 7, 1941, as depicted in the movie TORA,TORA, and other historical documents, two airmen who had just taken their post at a radar lookout station several miles north of Pearl Harbor, saw on the radar screen a large mass moving in from the sea toward the Hawaiian Islands.
The first airman was immediately startled by what he saw on the screen and prepared to follow procedures and phone in a warning to his superiors. He believed a very large force of what could be enemy planes was now headed their way. He believed the evidence on the radar screen was unmistakeable. And something bad was about to happen.
While the second airman remained skeptical, thinking that what he saw was an optical illusion of some kind, the first airman phoned in the alarm.
The officer who took the call at Pearl Harbor dismissed the report and chose not to believe what he had just heard, and abruptly hung up the phone and went back to other business.
That same morning, a Captain patrolling the waters on his ship outside the harbor spotted what he believed to be an enemy submarine. He had been alerted for some time about the possibility of enemy vessels breaching harbor security, and he too followed established procedures and wired a warning that the enemy had been sighted where it didn’t belong.
Again, the message was disbelieved, this time by a base Commander, suggesting that the submarine sighting needed "more confirmation" before any defensive action would be taken.
At this point we can say, the rest is history!
Many lives were unnecessarily lost, all because several people either refused to believe what they saw, just couldn’t believe what they heard, or weren’t about to be moved into action until more evidence was forthcoming.
The 20th chapter of John describes the very same responses to resurrection evidence, truly the most shocking event in history.
I. There was one who believed without seeing.
II. There was one who believed upon hearing.
III. There were those who believed upon seeing.
IV. There was one who would not believe unless seeing.
I. In the opening lines of John’s remembrances we read that "Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, two women found the tomb that Jesus had been buried in, empty, and ran to tell Peter and John what they had found."
Peter runs to the sight and is stunned by what he sees, an empty tomb with strips of linen and a burial cloth lying where Jesus had been placed.
Finally, the other disciple, John himself, "also went inside. He saw and believed." (John 20:8)
The empty tomb and linen cloths were enough for John to declare his belief in the risen Christ. No other evidence was required.
There are people who are able to take a stand without requiring more than what is presented. John then, is one of those who believes without having to see the risen Christ.
II. Second, there are those who believe upon hearing.
Mary of Magdela stands outside the tomb crying. As she weeps she notices angels in white seated where Jesus’s body had been. "They have taken my Lord away," she laments, and at this she turns around and saw Jesus standing there, "but she did not realize that it was Jesus," John notes.
When Jesus simply says "Mary," she turns toward him and cries out, "Rabboni!"
There are people who believe upon hearing.
Mary of Magdala had spent so much time with Jesus that she knew his voice. It was all the proof she needed.
In the movie titled "Phone Booth," you never see the main antagonist in the movie (until the very end), but you do hear his voice throughout the suspense thriller.
I leaned over to my wife very early in the film and said... "That voice, it’s Keifer Southerland!" My wife was not ready to accept my declaration, but I was ultimately proved right. Southerland appears as the film reaches it’s climax.
You see, I have this gift. If I have known you for any amount of time, you can call me on the phone and I will likely know who you are after only a few words are spoken to me. Truth is, for most of us, the more practised we are at listening to a particular voice, the more quickly we will recognize that voice upon hearing just a very few words.
Truth be told, I still struggle to hear God’s voice clearly. I’m often either too busy, or too stubborn to focus. But, Mary knows immediately and responds to the voice of her Lord, and seeks to embrace the risen Christ.
III. Then there were those who believed upon seeing.
On the evening of the first day, John writes that when the disciples were together with the doors locked (John 20:19) Jesus appears. When he shows them his hands and side, "The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord." They are those who believed, but only when confirmed the truth with their own eyes.