THE appearances of our Lord as given in the different accounts have been arranged in many ways. First, the women came to the tomb and saw the angel (Matt. 28:1-2). They announced the resurrection to the disciples. Peter and John came to the tomb and saw the linen clothes there. Our Lord appeared to Mary in the garden (John 20:11-18) and then to the other women (Matt. 28:9-10).
Precious is the story of the walk to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). These disciples were half-believing and half-doubting, for “their eyes were holden” in more ways than one. Is Christ a veiled figure with you? Must He say, “Have I been so long time with you, yet hast thou not known Me?” They were “slow of heart to believe all the prophets have spoken.” Better slow of head to understand than slow of heart to believe! They did not understand about His first coming; today men do not believe concerning His return.
In this chapter, Jesus opens the Scriptures, opens their eyes, opens their understanding. Always it must begin with the Word, for “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” When the Scriptures truly are opened, the Spirit will produce holy heartburn as He did here. And nothing is more needed today than a heartburn that all the dopes of sin and sedatives of Satan cannot relieve.
These disciples asked the Lord to abide with them—and He made Himself known in the breaking of bread. Often we look for some spectacular revelation, but He chooses to manifest Himself in a simple and humble way. They rushed back the seven miles to Jerusalem to tell of their experience. Our feet are not tired when we have seen the Lord! And as they testified He appeared again! Even today, Jesus reappears in testimony.
Our Lord appeared also to Peter (Luke 24:34). Peter had collapsed miserably, and our Lord doubtless was preparing him for the great meeting at Tiberias. Meanwhile, He appeared to the ten disciples (Luke 24:36), then to the eleven (Mark 16:14), and ultimately to the disciples with Thomas present (John 20:26-29). Here is a precious lesson for us: We often wish we might see the Lord as did Thomas, but to ask that would be asking a smaller blessing than to believe without seeing!
In John 21 our Lord appears to the disciples at Tiberias. Their own fishing expedition was futile until Christ appeared and gave orders. He then deals with Peter, who has been reduced to his right size. Notice that our Lord does not call him Cephas or Peter but only “Simon, son of Jonas.” There is nothing of the rock about him now. He is broken in self, and now he is commissioned to feed others. It is only when we have been recentered that we can strengthen the brethren (Luke 22:32).
Then the Lord appears to the eleven on the mountain with the great commission (Matt. 28:16-20). We are not only to teach the things commanded but to teach others to observe the things commanded. The “go” carries the “lo” of His presence.
Mark, Luke and Acts all record the ascension. He who went away is to return in like manner. It is tragic that this clear promise (Acts 1:11) has been ignored or so mistaught that few today are moved with the eager expectation of His personal return. If this fired us instead of the impossible dream of “world conversion,” things would be different.
Meanwhile, we are to occupy till He comes. He is not a mere memory but is living still, and the Spirit within makes Him real to the believer as He is allowed to have His way.