Free Bible Study Magazine
On Easter Sunday we celebrate Christ’s rising from the dead. But that was not the end of the story. The Bible says that Jesus appeared again and again to his disciples in various ways over the 40 days following his resurrection, giving them many infallible proofs that he was alive. What was the purpose of these post resurrection appearances of Christ?
They Were Regenerating
When Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene, the women, the eleven disciples, and all the others in the upper room after his resurrection, his purpose was that by believing in him (as the Christ who had died and was risen) they might be born again to eternal life. This new birth is called regeneration. In the upper room, Jesus Christ breathed on his disciples and through the operation of the Holy Spirit they were born again—or born from above—with a new spiritual nature, the nature of God.
It is the same for every one of us today. Jesus died and rose again for you. He wants you to believe this even without seeing him. There is enough power in his resurrection to bring you from spiritual death to spiritual life.
That is why the Bible says “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom. 10:9 ESV)
One of the apostles, Thomas, was not with the others when Jesus appeared to them on the first Easter Sunday, and he refused to believe their story without seeing the risen Christ for himself. When the Lord appeared to Thomas one week later , he rebuked him for his unbelief, and said “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 ESV)
Today when you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ who died for you, and who rose again and is alive today, you will experience a spiritual regeneration—you will be born again and receive the gift of eternal life.
You may remember that before his crucifixion all of Jesus’ disciples failed him. Not only did they fall asleep in the garden of Gethsemane (when he had commanded them to watch and pray), but they all forsook him in his hour of need and fled for their lives.
Whilst all of them had failed the Lord, the one most keenly felt his failure was Simon Peter. He had followed Jesus to the High Priest’s house where he saw the Lord stand trial before the Sanhedrin—but when challenged by a young servant girl, Peter denied his Lord three times.
Peter wept bitterly over his failure, as Satan sifted him as wheat. But Christ had spoken of his restoration even before his failure. When Peter declared “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you and die with you.” Jesus answered, “The cock will not crow till you have denied me three times. But the Lord said this “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (see Luke 22:31–32, 61)
Peter watched his Lord’s crucifixion afar off. During the three says that Jesus body lay in the tomb, he no doubt thought that he had failed too miserably to be restored. But he had not taken into account the resurrection power of Jesus—its ability to renew and restore. After all, the power that brings life from death is able to transform any situation; it will restore the failing, revive the fainting, and renew the backslider’s faith.
So on the first day of the week, before he appeared to all the disciples together, but after he had been seen by the women, Christ appeared privately to Peter. We are not sure of the details of this encounter. After Peter had discovered the empty tomb, we are simply told that he left, wondering about what had happened (Luke 24:12). But by that night the apostles said “The Lord is risen indeed and has appeared to Simon!” (Luke 22:34) They were not prepared to accept the testimony of the women—but Simon, whom they held as their leader (after Christ), that was a different matter.
Peter had experienced regeneration, but there was more work to be done. He now had to experience restoration.
On another occasion when Jesus appeared to them, quite early on in those 40 days, Peter and some other disciples were fishing on the Sea of Galilee. The Lord stood on the shore and called out “Children, have you any fish” No they replied, for although they had fished all night they had caught nothing (see John 21:1–14). In their hearts they could remember the very first time they had encountered Jesus and were challenged to follow him. On that occasion too they had fished all night and caught nothing. Following his resurrection the Lord repeated the miracle that had first convinced them that he was the Son of God.
Christ had taken them right back to the same place and the same experience they had when they first met the Lord. He has to do the same for us sometimes. The trials of life, and the problems we encounter, can cause us to lose faith, and lose sight of Jesus. But how gracious our Lord is, the God of restoration brings us back to himself to restore our faith in God.
I notice the one great difference between this second miracle and the first miraculous catch of fish—on this second occasion the nets were not broken; a symbol of the power which had conquered death and of the person for whom nothing is impossible. If Christ wanted the nets to break they would have; but if Christ said they would not break, then they would break not even if a hundred Great White sharks swam into them.
When they got back to shore, Jesus invited the disciples to have breakfast with him, for he had a fire already burning with hot coals and the fish was already cooked. Now, I wager anything that Christ did not dirty his hands getting that meal ready—it was spoken into existence by the word of God—yet it was real fish (had he not spoken fish into existence on Day 5?) and it made a very good meal.
Having ministered to the stomachs of the disciples, refreshing them after a night of toil with food and friendship, Jesus turned his attention once again to Peter, whom he invited to walk with him in private conversation along the beach, a little out of earshot of the others. Jesus did not want to embarrass Peter in front of the others. In the past Jesus had rebuked Peter in front of them all, but here was a matter to be dealt with in private. It was between the two of them.
Peter had denied his Lord three times and the Lord knew how to restore him. Three times he looks into his soul and asks “Do you love me most of all?” (see John 21:17) Peter was hurt that the Lord demanded he say it three times. When a wound scabs over, if it is infected, it must first be reopened before the poison can be taken out. The Lord did not bring up Simon’s failure because it had not been forgiven. He was not telling Peter that he needed to repent all over again; he was simply healing the wound. He was restoring Peter so that he could start again. And Peter responded to the restoration.
The word of God tells us today that those how fall into sin are to be gently restored in this way—the word used for ‘restore’ is the same as that which is used for setting a bone after it has been fractured.
We have been forgiven so much; we ought to help others find forgiveness too. James writes that “whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:20)
Even the adulterer at Corinth was (after discipline) fully restored, which was the intention of the discipline all along—there was no other reason for it. Paul said “I wanted you to know the proof of my love for you…Now you ought rather to forgive him and comfort him.” (see 2 Cor. 2:4-8)
If you have failed the Lord, or failed in your faith, the risen Lord Jesus Christ is still able to restore your soul. As the scripture says, “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
God’s restoration is never partial, only complete. In the words of an ancient hymn “perverse and foolish oft I strayed, and yet in love he sought me, and on his shoulders gently laid, and home rejoicing brought me.”
Luke recounts how after his resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to them over 40 days, and spoke about the kingdom of God. Whatever did he teach them about? We have some of his post resurrection teaching recorded for us.
He instructed them in the fulfilment of scripture.
On the road to Emmaus, Jesus, beginning with Moses and all the prophets, explained all things that were written about him in the scriptures: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26) On appearing to his disciples again he “opened their understanding to the scriptures” (Luke 24:45).
The preaching of the gospel
His opening their minds to understand the scriptures meant that now they could preach the gospel. He instructed them in this. He said, in effect, “I am sending you just as my father sent me. I am giving you a message of forgiveness.” (see John 20:23) The apostles announced the grounds on which sins may be forgiven; being at the same time forewarned that their mission to preach the gospel would eventually reach every creature.
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49 ESV)
The Second Coming of Christ
As Jesus gathered his disciples at the top of Mount Olivet, the last time he appeared to them, with over 500 present at once, they asked him again “Lord, is this the time you will restore the kingdom the Israel.” To which Jesus replied, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons.” (see Acts 1:6–8)
It was at this time that “as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10–11)
In the midst of all this post-resurrection instruction, perhaps the most famous part of it, was the great commission.
Christ’s post-resurrection appearances were commissioning
Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptised shall be saved and he who believes not shall be damned. Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you. (Mark 16:15–16 and Matt. 28:19–20)
In the great commission Christ gave his disciples:
Go into all the world and preach the gospel… We have a message of salvation to proclaim and we must proclaim it fearlessly to all mankind, regardless of whether they accept it or not. Theirs is to accept or reject, but ours is to proclaim it without prejudice. God is not willing that any should perish. Pentecostal pioneer missionary and apostle William Burton said when he arrived in central Africa “We couldn’t got the wrong place—we had to preach it to them all.” For all our lives we have a purpose. Every little church across the countryside, and the big churches in the cities, all have an equal share in this purpose—to make the gospel message known to all people so that they might be saved. Let’s get on with the job. Through platform preaching, tract distribution, personal witness, and in many other ways, the gospel must be made known. Every church should have a prayer meeting and every prayer meeting, whatever else it may contain, must always contain fervent prayers for the lost, for it is God’s heart and God wants us to enter in and share his burden through prayer.
You will receive power after that the Holy Spirit has come on you and you will be my witnesses. Having instructed them to preach the gospel in all the world, Jesus then delayed them. Remain in Jerusalem until you have been clothed with power from on high. There is no point going to work without your tools. And the tools given by a supernatural Christ for a supernatural task are necessarily supernatural.
And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover. (Mark 16:17–18)
So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs. (Mark 16:19–20)
The tragedy of evangelism today is that many who go forth to preach who have not yet received this power from on high. They are like men going to dig the road with a tea spoons—they have not got the proper tools for the job. Far worse, it is disobedience to the Lord Jesus Christ and irreverence for God’s way of doing things.
When Paul preached he said my preaching was not with wise and persuasive words but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. When we preach the gospel today we must do so in the fullness and power of the Spirit of God; we must expect supernatural manifestation to confirm God’s word.
Go into all the world…And lo I am with you always to the end of the age,
Wherever we go with the gospel, whatever challenges we face, even the rejection and persecution of the people, God is still with us. The Lord Jesus Christ accompanies us.
It was because of that presence that the apostles could sing when locked in jail, bleeding from a beating. It was because of that same presence that the earth shook, the prison doors opened and a number of souls were added to the church.
We cannot stop the progress of God. He will build his church and no man can stop it. Let opponents of the cross atheists write as many books and produce as many films as they like—no one can stop the Lord from accomplishing his purposes.
Let us be humbly encouraged by this. We are weak but God is strong. On one occasion, Moses said to God “if your presence goes not with us let us not go up hence”, but God in reply assured him “My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.” (see Ex. 33:14-15)
To Joshua, the Lord said—as he says to us—“I will be with you, I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (see Joshua 1:5 and Hebrews 13:5)
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