Post Resurrection Appearances of Jesus Series
“The Importance of the Post Resurrection Appearances of Christ”
Acts 1.1-3; I Corinthians 15.3-8, 13-14, 17-18, 20
Today we begin a new series of sermons on the post resurrection appearances of Jesus. The
Bible records that Jesus appeared off and on for a period of forty days before His ascension
to the Father. During this series we will be looking at four of these post resurrection
appearances to see how the how Jesus’ ministry continued after His death on the cross. In
the weeks to follow we will look at Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene, His appearance
to the eleven disciples and then to Thomas, His appearance when He declared the great
commission, and then His ascension to the right hand of the Father. But this morning I will
be looking topic of the importance of the post resurrection appearances of Christ. This
morning’s sermon will be topical instead expository and will seem more like a teaching
than preaching. I want to give you an overview of Jesus’ post resurrection appearances,
confront the theories that have been presented to discount Jesus’ resurrection, and give a
summary of the eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ resurrection. I hope to show you that the
proof of Jesus’ resurrection is essential to our salvation, our faith, and our preaching of the
gospel. The Bible tells us to be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an
account for the hope that is in you, and that is what I hope to do this morning. (IPt.3.15) Our
text this morning will be Acts chapter one verses one through three and selected verses
from First Corinthians chapter fifteen. Hear now the Word of God:
1 The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until
the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the
apostles whom He had chosen. 3 To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by
many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the
things concerning the kingdom of God. (Acts 1.1-3)
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our
sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third
day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After
that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until
now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and
last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. (ICor.15.1-8)
13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has
not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. (ICor.15.13-14)
17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then
those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. (ICor.15.17-18)
20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.
To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering
Luke was the author of the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. In both his Gospel and the
book of Acts Luke sets out to investigate everything carefully from eyewitnesses and
servants of the word so to write down an accurate account of Jesus’ earthly ministry and
the ministry of the early church. Verse three of Acts chapter one Luke writes, “To these He
also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them
over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.” (1.3)
Luke states that the Lord presented Himself alive for a period of forty days after His
resurrection. Luke doesn’t give us a list of those appearances, so I have put together a list of
the post resurrection appearances of Jesus recorded in the New Testament. I have divided
the list into four sections (Resurrection Sunday, Eight Days Later, Over the Course of the
Next Thirty Days, The Ascension, After the Ascension).
Early Sunday morning to Mary Magdalene at the tomb (Mark 16:9, John 20:11-18)
The third day after Jesus’ death, early Sunday morning Mary Magdalene and two other
women came to the tomb to put spices on Jesus’ body. When they arrived, they found
the tomb was empty! So, the women ran to tell the disciples. When Peter and John
heard the news, they ran to the tomb to see for themselves. Sure enough, the body of
Jesus was gone! They went home but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. Two white
robed men asked her what was wrong. “Someone has taken my Lord away,” she said,
“and I don’t know where He is.” Just then she glanced over her shoulder and saw
someone she thought was a gardener. Then she recognized that it was the Lord Jesus.
To the women returning from the tomb (Matthew 28:9-10)
As the three women ran to tell the disciples that the body of Jesus was missing and the
angelic announcement that Jesus was alive, apparently Mary Magdalene broke off from
the other two. Jesus suddenly appeared to the two women and greeted them. They fell
at His feet and worshiped Him!
To two disciples going to Emmaus that evening (Mark 16:12, Luke 24:13-31)
Jesus appeared to two followers of Christ as they journeyed to the small village of
Emmaus. At first, they didn’t recognize Him. Eventually they recognized it was Jesus and
ran back to Jerusalem to tell the others.
To Peter (Cephas) near Jerusalem later that day (Luke 24:34, I Corinthians 15:5)
We don’t know the details of this appearance, only that when the two on the road to
Emmaus came back to Jerusalem, they told the disciples that Jesus appeared to Peter.
To the apostles except Thomas (Mark 16:14, John 20:19-25)
While the two men from Emmaus where telling the apostles their story Jesus appeared
and said to them, “Peace be with you.” He said to them, “Look at my hands and feet and
side and touch me.” And He asked them to give Him something to eat, and He ate a piece
of fish in front of them. But Thomas was not with them.
Eight Days Later
To all the apostles especially Thomas (John 20.26-29)
Eight days later, Jesus appeared to them again and this time Thomas was present. Jesus
again greeted them with, “Peace be with you.” And He gave Thomas a great opportunity
to believe. He said to him, “Put your fingers here on the wounds in my hands and touch
the wound here in my side.” Then Thomas believed and said, “My Lord and my God!”
Over the Course of the Next Thirty Days
To seven disciples fishing on Sea of Galilee (John 21.1-13)
Seven disciples had been fishing all night not far from the shore on the Sea of Galilee. A
man standing on the shore shouts to them, “Have you caught any fish?” They said no.
Then the man said, “Throw your nets on the other side of the boat and you will catch
plenty.” Well, I think you know the rest of the story. They immediately caught fish one
hundred fifty-three large fish. Peter was the first to recognize that the man was Jesus,
and he was so excited he jumped out of the boat and swam to shore to meet Him. There
on the shore they all had fish for breakfast. And Jesus was the cook!
To eleven disciples on a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28.16-18)
This appearance was not unexpected like the others. It was a pre-arranged meeting, and
a very important one. I think it was the meeting that was spoken about by the angels
and by Jesus on the very first day of His resurrection (Mt. 28.10); He also told them
about this meeting at the last supper (Mt. 26.32). There on the mountain, overlooking
miles of country, Jesus commissioned them to go out into all nations and make disciples.
Over 500 disciples at once –location uncertain (I Corinthians 15.6)
Paul tells us that Jesus was seen by over five hundred brethren at once.
To James –location uncertain (I Corinthians 15.7)
Again, Paul tells us that Jesus appeared to James but don’t know where this appearance
At the Mount of Olives near Bethany at His ascension (Luke 24.50-51, Acts 1.6-12)
Jesus gathers His disciples at the Mount of Olives and commands them to wait in
Jerusalem for the promise of the Holy Spirit. He then ascended into the sky to the right
hand of the Father.
Of course, Luke was not referring to the following appearance in his opening statement in
the book of Acts, but I thought I would add them for your overall knowledge.
After His Ascension
To Stephen the martyr (Acts 7.55-56)
As the crowd was about to stone Stephen to death he gazed intently into heaven and saw
the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
To Saul on road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-6, 1Corinthians 15.8-9)
Paul mentions that the Lord appeared to Him as one untimely born. He also mentions
twice in his epistles that the Lord had appeared to him. (ICor.9.1, Gal.1.16)
To John on the island of Patmos (Revelation 1.9-19)
And lastly the Apostle John the Lord appeared to him on the island of Patmos.
By Many Convincing Proofs
Luke writes, “To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing
proofs.” But what were the many convincing proofs? The Greek word used here for
“convincing proofs” (Greek: tekmēriois), a technical term that refers to something that is
known in a decisive manner. Something that is plain, obvious, and sure. No “smoking
mirrors.” No “well that really doesn’t make sense.” Luke is informing us that the evidence
proves that Jesus Christ had clearly rose from the dead. The evidence is clear, plain, and
decisive. Later in the book of Acts we see that Paul “furnished proof” to the philosophers in
Athens that Jesus rose from the dead. (Acts 17.31) Even though the evidence is decisive
there are some throughout the centuries who have proposed different theories to discount
these eyewitness testimonies. It is important to confront these theories head on with the
There is the “Conspiracy Theory” which claims that Jesus’ body was stolen from the tomb.
But the Gospel of Matthew clearly and decisively records that after Joseph put Jesus’s dead
body in the tomb and rolled a large stone in front of the entrance of the tomb that the chief
priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, and said, “Sir, we remember that
when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ Therefore, give
orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come
and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception
will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as
you know how.” And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set
a seal on the stone. (Mt.27.62-66) Therefore it would have been very difficult to steal Jesus’
body from the tomb.
Apparent Death Theory
Then you have the “Apparent Death Theory” which claims that Jesus didn’t die on the cross
and He was still alive when Joseph place Him in the tomb. But John’s Gospel tells us that the
Jews asked Pilate that the soldiers would break Jesus’ legs as well as the legs of the two
criminals who were crucified with Him to assure, they were all dead. The Bible records, “So,
the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with
Him; but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His
legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water
came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is
telling the truth, so that you also may believe.” (Jn.19.32-35) Also, Mark records that Pilate
summoned the centurion whom he himself had put in charge of Jesus on the cross to
question him as to whether Jesus was dead and after ascertaining from the centurion that
Jesus was certainly dead Pilate granted the body to Joseph. (Mk.15.44-45) John records that
Nicodemus, who no doubt Joseph’s friend and colleague, was the first to come to the tomb.
John records that they (Joseph and Nicodemus) took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen
wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. (Jn.19.39-40) Don’t you think
that they checked to see if Jesus was dead before they did all that work? Don’t you think
they would have heard grunts or moans if Jesus was alive during this intensive burial
Wrong Tomb Theory
Then you have the “Wrong Tomb Theory” which claims that the women and the disciples
went to the wrong tomb on Sunday morning. But the Gospel accounts clearly record that
Joseph was a rich man and the tomb where he laid Jesus’ dead body was a new tomb, which
he had hewn out of a rock. This tomb was undoubtedly well known in the area as Joseph’s
new tomb. (Mt.27.57-60) Otherwise how did Nicodemus where to meet Joseph for the
burial procedure. Also, Joseph had to get permission from Pilate to take Jesus’ body. After
all the checking and double checking do you think Pilate allowed Joseph to do whatever he
wanted with Jesus’ body? Or do you think Pilate knew exactly where Joseph was going to
take Jesus’ body. John records that the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and
in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. Therefore because of the Jewish
day of preparation, since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. (Jn.19.41-42) I
understand that John doesn’t give GPS coordinates but with everyone knowing about
Joseph’s new tomb it seems that John’s description of the tomb’s location is very decisive.
Displaced Body Theory
The last theory is the “Displaced Body Theory” which claims that Joseph moved Jesus’ body
after going to Pilate and receiving permission, placing Jesus’ dead body in his new tomb,
embalming Jesus’ body with linen wrappings and spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews,
that Joseph was able to dodge the guards, break the seal, and make the seal look like it had
never been broken. Well, let me say 007 couldn’t have pull this off!
Allow me to offer some more convincing proof from eyewitnesses that Jesus certainly did
rise from the dead.
Eyewitnesses of an Empty Tomb
All four Gospels report that the women witnessed an empty tomb. Luke and John’s Gospel
report that Peter and John witnessed an empty tomb. (Lk.24.12; Jn.20.6-8) And Matthew’s
Gospel reports that the guards assigned to guard the tomb not only witnessed an empty
tomb, but they reported the chief priests and the elders all that had happened, and the chief
priests and elders believed them. (Mt.28.3, 11)
Eyewitnesses of Angels Declaring Jesus’ Resurrection at the Tomb
All four Gospels record angels declaring Jesus’ resurrection at the tomb.
More Than Five Hundred People Eyewitnesses at One Time
It wasn’t just the inner circle that witnessed the resurrected Christ but more than five
hundred people at one time bore witness to the resurrected Christ. The Bible tells us that
the evidence of two or three witnesses is required for a matter to be confirmed. (Dt.19.15;
Jn.8.17) Well, what about five hundred? Is that enough? And Paul adds that at the time he
wrote First Corinthians twenty-five years later that most of these eyewitnesses were still
alive. So, you could go and ask them yourself!
Eyewitnesses that Jesus Ate Solid Food
There were eyewitnesses that Jesus ate solid food, to prove that this wasn’t a hallucination.
Eyewitnesses that Jesus Bore the Wounds of the Crucifixion
There were eyewitnesses that Jesus bore the wounds of the crucifixion authenticating that
it was His body and not an imposter or impersonator. (Jn.20.26-29)
Eyewitnesses that Jesus Defied Laws of Nature
There were eyewitnesses that Jesus would vanish and walk-through walls and doors to
show that He had not just recovered but that He had died and received a resurrected body.
Eyewitnesses to These Things
The Apostle John at the end of his Gospel writes, “This is the disciple (referring to himself)
who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is
And at the beginning of his first epistle John writes, “What was from the beginning, what we
have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our
hands, concerning the Word of Life—and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify
and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to
us—what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have
fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus
And the Apostle Peter writes in his second epistle, “For we did not follow cleverly
devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but
we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” (2Pt.1.16)
Speaking of the Things Concerning the Kingdom of God
But why did Jesus appear to these eyewitnesses for a period of forty days? Why didn’t He
ascend to the Father earlier? Well, Luke tells us. To these He also presented Himself alive
after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days
and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. (Acts 1.3)
Jesus had to finish the work that the Father had sent Him to do by teaching His disciples the
things concerning the kingdom of God moving forward. We see a glimpse of these teachings
on the road to Emmaus when beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained
to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. (Lk.24.27) And again He said to
them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things
which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be
fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. (Lk.24.44-45) During
these forty days Jesus taught His disciples that the gospel and the kingdom of God was not
about an earthly Messiah reigning over a revitalized Israel but about a Messiah who died
and rose again so that to gospel would be proclaimed, and disciples would be made of all
nations. (Acts 1.8; Mt.28.19; Lk.24.47)
Brothers and sisters, God’s Word goes to great lengths to record the post resurrection
appearances of Christ because Jesus’ resurrection is essential for the assurance of our
salvation. God’s Word tells us that if you confess with mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your
heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Rom.10.9) You see, believing in
the resurrection of Christ is essential for the assurance of our salvation.
Paul writes, if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.
(ICor.15.14) If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.
(ICor.15.17) If Christ has not been raised then those also who have passed away in Christ
have perished. (ICor.15.17-18)
But the evidence is clear, decisive, and sure that Christ has been raised from the dead and He
is the first fruits. (ICor.15.20) What happen to Jesus will happen to all those who have faith
in Jesus Christ. Brothers and sisters, Christ has been raised from the dead therefore our
preaching is not in vain, our faith is not worthless, our sins have been forgiven, and we
have an eternal home waiting for us in heaven. Thanks be to God!