Witnesses to the Resurrection

Witnesses to the Resurrection

And that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. (1 Corinthians 15:5-8)

No one saw the actual resurrection of Jesus. No one was present in the tomb with Him when His body transformed into a resurrection body. If someone were there, perhaps in a brilliant flash of light, they would have seen the dead body of Jesus transformed. We know that Jesus could miraculously appear in a room with all the doors locked and the windows shut (John 20:19, 26). Yet the resurrected Jesus was not a phantom; He had a real flesh and bone body.

Witnesses to the Resurrection

Though no one saw the actual resurrection of Jesus, many people did see the resurrected Jesus. Paul presented these witnesses to the resurrection, to establish beyond all controversy that Jesus was raised in a resurrection body.

The first witness presented was Cephas. Jesus made a special resurrection appearance to Peter (Cephas) in Luke 24:34. We can assume that Jesus spoke to some special need for comfort and restoration in Peter.

Paul presents the twelve as witnesses. This probably refers to the first meeting Jesus had with His assembled disciples, mentioned in Mark 16:14, Luke 24:36-43, and John 20:19-25. This was the meeting where Jesus appeared in the room with the doors and windows shut and breathed on the disciples, giving them the Holy Spirit.

The meeting of Jesus with over five hundred brethren at once is suggested by Matthew 28:10, 16-17. Paul is saying, “Go ask these people who saw the resurrected Jesus. These are not a handful of self-deluded souls; there are literally hundreds who saw the resurrected Jesus with their own eyes.”

The James mentioned here would be James, the brother of Jesus, who was a prominent leader in the early church (Acts 15:13-21). In the gospels, Jesus’ brothers were hostile to Him and His mission (John 7:3-5). But after His resurrection, Jesus’ brothers were among the followers of Jesus (Acts 1:14).

All the apostles refers to a few different meetings, such as in John 20:26-31, 21:1-25, Matthew 28:16-20, and Luke 24:44-49. Jesus ate with them, comforted them, commanded them to preach the gospel, and told them to wait in Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, Paul could add his testimony (last of all He was seen by me), and his encounter with the resurrected Savior was after Jesus ascended to heaven.

The changed character of the apostles and their willingness to die for the testimony of the resurrection, decisively eliminate fraud as an explanation of the empty tomb.

Understand and appreciate all these but add a final piece of evidence – your own experience of the resurrected Jesus.

Click here for David’s commentary on 1 Corinthians 15

Click Here for Daily Devotionals from David

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