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The Galilee Resurrection Appearances

April 29th, 2017

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee… (John 21:1 NIV)

It appears that there were at least three appearances recorded that occurred in Galilee, perhaps four.

  • The appearance by the Sea of Galilee, John 21:1-23
  • The appearance to the disciples, Matthew 28:16-20
  • The appearance to the 500, 1 Corinthians 15:6
  • The appearance to James, 1 Corinthians 15:7

Some combine the appearances of Matthew 28:16-20 and 1 Corinthians 15:6, and this is a possibility. And, frankly, like the appearance to Peter there is no record of Christ’ appearance to James, His half-brother, so it is only supposed that it occurred in Galilee where they grew up.

In these appearances there were again many convincing proofs given that He was alive, but there was also the official re-instatement of Peter after his denial of Christ during His arrest, and the Matthew copy of the Great Commission. Christ commanded the women who were the first witnesses of the resurrection to tell His disciples that He would appear to them in Galilee, and the texts are very specific that it was to the twelve - whether they are called the “Eleven” after Judas’ death or the “Twelve” as Paul did.

Seven disciples going fishing: The story begins with Peter and six other disciples going fishing at night (John 21:2-4). Some have tried to read some back sliding into this statement, but the biblical text does not condemn them. That Christ called them to be fishers of men does not mean that He forbade them from fishing for fish. In fact, as the story unfolds we see that He helped them catch a great number of fish.

Why did they go fishing? Probably simply for revenue, because Judas had been the treasurer of the disciples and who knows what happened to the money, if there was any at all, after he died. It is clear that the disciples did not have a large reserve of cash during the earthly ministry of Jesus. Yet they had fished all night and not caught anything.

Christ appears: Christ told them to cast their net on the right side of the boat and they will have find fish. There is an important picture in this, that for those who are serving the Lord and seeking to make ends meet in the process, Christ Himself will guide them to find the means to exist. I believe it is wrong to read into this that Christ will make all believers wealthy, for certainly this catch did not mean that they could retire from ever working again. It does, however, give us encouragement in facing our financial needs for living we do not do so alone.

The disciples here resemble so many I know in ministry who work for Christ all day and then work for food and clothing and shelter all night. I have spent years of my life doing this, as did Paul:

For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” (2 Thes. 3:7-10 NIV)

So this merciful act of Christ encourages us. He notices what we do and will lead us to be not only fruitful in ministry but also to make enough to survive.

Come and eat: Jesus was already cooking fish and bread on coals along the beach, as was common. He invited them to come and eat, or to come and have breakfast. That Jesus was in His resurrected body and was able to eat and function as He had in His earthly ministry teaches us that our resurrected body will be able to function much as our current body functions. But we also see the encouragement that Christ gives us in this appearance. He provides direction and food and graciously invites the disciples to share with Him.

What do we have here other than a picture of a compassionate and engaged Lord. Christ cares about our lives, our everyday struggles and challenges. He is predisposed to help us and enable us. Whn we are unsure which way to turn He guides us. God said:

And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16 ESV)

And when we are hungry, lonely, discouraged, and afraid He comes and meets all of these needs.

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139:1-6 ESV)

Christ's Post-Resurrection Appearances

The Appearance of Christ to Thomas

April 27th, 2017

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28 NIV)

The weight of Thomas’ words have echoed through the centuries. Though we call him “doubting Thomas” his true legacy is one of faith and profession, not one of doubt. According to tradition, Thomas became a missionary to India and remains the patron saint of the nation. He was said to have been martyred there in about A.D. 72, and though there are many other legends and stories about Thomas, the true impact of his life and ministry is only known to God.

His initial doubt about the resurrection: This was Christ’s sixth appearance. Thomas was already a disciple of Jesus. He had followed him faithfully for three years. He also expressed his commitment to Christ when Christ began His final journey to Jerusalem, according to John 11:16, he said, “Let us also go that we may die with him.”  Though there is a definite hint of pessimism in these words, it is only a hint and not enough for a full character assessment. For some reason he was not with the disciples when Jesus appeared to them a week earlier.

We might simply say that Thomas was a realist, and when the disciples were excited about the resurrection, he thought they were overcome with some sort of mania. He told them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25 NIV). This reveals a plain-spoken-ness about him. He was not one to be carried away with emotion, certainly not enthusiasm, rather he wanted the facts. He told them exactly where he stood on the matter.

The appearance of Christ: The next Sunday evening, one week after the resurrection Sunday, Christ appeared to the disciples, this time including Thomas. Christ knew what he had said earlier and spoke to him directly inviting him to “put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27). The word “faithless” is also translated “doubting.” Literally it means to have no faith - apistos in Greek - or to be unbelieving. Jesus description was not one of over-contemplation or over-thinking the resurrection, rather it was one of unbelief. What some people call doubting God calls unbelief. In everyone’s life there comes a time when we must believe. Though these matters are left in the hands of God, from the record of God’s dealing with people we can say that a time does eventually come when, if faith is not exercised, the door is shut by God and the inner witness of the Spirit is silent.

Thomas’ faith: The change took place immediately. He saw and believed and professed. Christ was both Lord and God. These titles were said “to him” or to Christ. Some false cults that deny the Trinity try to explain away this verse by saying that Thomas said, “My Lord” to Jesus and then looked up in the heavens and said, “My God.” This is utter nonsense and an irresponsible handling of the Word of God. The passage is clear. He called Jesus both Lord and God.

Thomas’ strong confession of the deity of Christ has held through the ages. Jesus said that Thomas was blessed because he had seen and believed, but then He added, “Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believed” (John 20:29). Again we see the nature of Jesus’ communication was one of encouragement and promise. He chided Thomas for his lack of faith only briefly and then when faith was present He affirmed him and spoke of the blessing he had received through his faith.

Faith always goes one step further than sight, and Thomas said that Christ was not only resurrected but that He was Lord and God - a profession that came only on the inner conviction of the soul as the Spirit of God bore witness (1 Cor. 12:3 and Matt. 16:17). At Peter’s confession of Christ, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” Christ said that His Father had revealed that truth to Peter.

Salvation must always come from an inner witness, from a personal visitation by the Spirit of God. We call this special revelation. General revelation is the witness of creation to the existence of God, or even the proclamation of the gospel that all may hear. But special revelation is the personal voice of the Spirit in each person’s heart that leads them to faith.

This story of Thomas speaks to us because we, too, have had our questions, our doubts, our moments or years of unbelief. Faith embraces the truth and lives by it and dispels doubts and fears. Faith liberates us to live in the power and life of God. We should heed these words of Christ to Thomas and hear His Spirit say them to us, “Be not faithless, but believing.”

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