did you see what i saw?

April 3, 2015

shout

APPEARANCES (continuing on in our series, this is probably my favorite part)

 

In the Acts of the Apostles, Dr. Luke writes that Jesus gave the disciples “many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Likewise, Peter in his powerful Pentecost proclamation declared that many credible eyewitnesses could confirm the fact of Christ’s physical postresurrection appearances:

Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. (Acts 2:29–32; emphasis added).

Like the apostle Peter, the apostle Paul exudes confidence in the appearances of Christ. In his first letter to the Corinthian Christians he provides details and descriptions: For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally

born. (1 Cor. 15:3–8; emphasis added)

One thing is sure. The apostles did not merely propagate Christ’s teachings; they were absolutely certain that he had appeared to them in the flesh. Although two thousand years removed from the actual event, we too can be absolutely confident in Christ’s

postresurrection appearances.

First, in the passage cited above, Paul is reiterating a Christian creed that can be traced all the way back to the formative stages of the early Christian church. Incredibly, scholars of all stripes agree that this creed can be dated to within three to eight years of the Crucifixion itself.

The eminent scholar Joachim Jeremias calls this creed “the earliest tradition of all,” and Ulrich Wilckens says it “indubitably goes back to the oldest phase of all in the history of primitive Christianity.” Greco-Roman classical historian A. N. Sherwin White argues that it would be unprecedented historically for legend to have grown up that fast.

Dr. Gary Habermas concludes that the creed is not only early but “that it’s free from legendary contamination, that it’s unambiguous and specific, and that it’s ultimately rooted in eyewitness accounts.”

Furthermore, Peter, Paul, and the rest of the apostles claimed that Christ appeared to hundreds of people who were still alive and available for cross-examination (1 Cor. 15:6).

It would have been one thing to attribute these supernatural experiences to people who had already died. It was quite another to attribute them to multitudes who were still alive. Suppose I announced publicly that I played a private round of golf with Arnold Palmer at Bay Hill County Club in Orlando. During the round I hit the longest drive Palmer had ever seen, made a hole-in-one, and set a new course record. As long as Palmer was living, my credibility could easily be called into question. Likewise, Paul’s assertions regarding the eyewitnesses who had seen the resurrected Christ could have easily been refuted if in fact they were not true.

Finally, no one has ever come up with a credible means to explain away the postresurrection appearances of Christ. As previously noted, the references to Christ’s appearances are early and free from legendary corruption. Thus, skeptics are often reduced to pawning them off as mere hallucinations.

In reality, hallucinations are subjective and scarce. Yet Christ appeared to many people over a long period of time. In addition, hallucinations are typically relegated to people with certain personality disorders, are stimulated by expectations, and do not stop abruptly. In the case of Christ, he appeared to all kinds of personality types with no expectations, and then the appearances stopped abruptly.

Perhaps Professor Perrin, the late New Testament scholar at the University of Chicago said it best. In summing up the consensus of both liberal and conservative scholarship he wrote, “The more we study the tradition with regard to the appearance s, the firmer the rock begins to appear upon which they are based.”

At this point, there should be no doubt that Christ suffered fatal torment; that the empty tomb is a factual reality; and that Christ’s postresurrection appearances cannot be explained away as legends or hallucinations. We now move on to the final letter in the acronym F-E-A-T, which represents the word Transformation.

 

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

 

 

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