Our Lord’s Resurrection Appearances

March / April 2016

Ten is the Sum of Seven and Three

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of Life” (1 John 1:1 NIV).

Richard Doctor

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The Bible records ten post-resurrection appearances that occurred following Jesus’ resurrection. (1) This is significant because in Biblical numerology ten is associated with completeness, perfection and fullness, in human affairs. Hence, there are ten fingers, ten toes, Ten Commandments, ten virgins, and ten horns on the fearsome beast. Ten is the sacred number of the tabernacle.(2) While this lesson of completeness holds here, at the same time the scriptures speak of two additional appearances following Jesus’ ascension. Saul of Tarsus witnessed an eleventh appearance —an imperfect number — “as of one born out of due time” (1 Corinthians 15:8). This left Paul with impaired vision. Mankind shall witness a yet future twelfth “appearance” of our Lord — a perfect number associated with the Lord’s special blessing — to “every eye” of understanding when mankind shall discern him through the clouds of trouble in the last days (Revelation 1:7).(3)

At each of the ten appearances only disciples were privileged witnesses. “Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; not to all people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us” (Acts 10:40-41). The total elapsed time of these 10 appearances was around 1% of the forty days.(4)

In the course of these ten appearances, there is a structure of 7:3 that emerges (see the accompanying chart). Ten as the sum of seven and three is a lesson we first find in the record of Job’s children. While the natural attention of a patriarchal society is towards the seven sons as Job’s natural strength and legacy (Job 42:13-15), it is the beauty (and we trust, character) of his three daughters that created special demands on his, and our, attention.

Like their brothers, Job’s daughters received a full portion of the ten-fold inheritance. Unlike their brothers, the names of Jemima, Kezia, and Keren-hapuch (the counter-balancing three-fold) are the only ones scriptures identify. If we regard the “seven-ness” as the major lesson, and the “three-ness” as the counterbalancing lesson with a special purpose and beauty, what might our Lord intend for us to learn from the structure of 7:3 with regard to his resurrection appearances?

Apostles — the Privileged Witnesses

The apostles, or “sent forth ones,” were specially privileged witnesses, being present at seven occasions where Jesus appeared. They are indeed the foundations of the New Jerusalem.  On the other hand, three times the Lord showed that he also is pleased to use as witnesses other believers who were not these specially “sent forth” ones. As Jesus showed on these occasions, each of our lives may be touched with his fellowship in a personal and intimate way.

(1) Robertson, A.T., A Harmony of the Gospels, Harper & Rowe, New York, 1950. Robertson gives the ten appearances. However, it is noticed that R2809 separates Matthew 28:16-20 and 1 Corinthians 15:6 into an 8th and 9th appearance which would give 11 appearances if this line of reasoning is followed.
(2) Frey, A., The Tabernacle of God, Chicago Bible Students Book Republishing (1966) page 266.
(3) Russell, C.T., The Time is at Hand, Studies in the Scriptures, Volume 2 (1916) page 138
(4) 40 days x 24 hours/day = 960 hours. 10 resurrection appearances at 1 hour each would be just over 1%. The appearances at the tomb were just minutes, judging from the accounts. The walk with the two disciples for about 7 miles would have been the longest. The picnic on the beach with the disciple was also longer if not the longest.

Ministry to the Church and the “Great Commission”

On seven occasions the purpose of Jesus’ appearing was to strengthen his disciples.  This stands as the great work of the Gospel Age which will see Christ-likeness developed in the sons of God. By way of counterbalance, on three occasions the Lord gave a “Great Commission” empowering his brethren to direct their energies outward in ministering and witnessing to the world. “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:45-49).

Christ in Communion with the Church

 On seven occasions, the Lord was pleased to manifest himself amongst a company of his people: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). At the same time, on three occasions single witnesses — Mary Magdalene, and the apostles Peter and James — could combine their witness to testify that the Lord will indeed also manifest himself one-on-one to his disciples, both female and male (John 8:17).(5)

Peter and James were unusually close to the Lord. At first it might seem surprising that beloved John was omitted. It may be that he was not the recipient of a one-on-one appearance because it was important to show that Sisters were also capable of receiving this special privilege.  Had Mary Magdalene and all three of the closest apostles received a solo visit, the 7:3 structure of the ten appearances would have been lost. In later years while on Patmos, John did have a personal vision of Jesus in a far more powerful way.

Flesh and Blood Cannot Inherit the Kingdom

For seven appearances Jesus manifested himself in a manner that was not alarming to the senses. Yet, at the same time, he had the power to materialize or dematerialize, as he showed on three occasions.(6) Clearly, Jesus was no longer confined to a body of flesh.

The Familiar Jesus Not Reincarnated

 Seven times Jesus was recognized on sight when he appeared with his familiar facial features and body of flesh. It was crucial that Jesus be recognized with his familiar features so that there would be a certain witness to his resurrection.  However, for three appearances he showed that he was no longer constrained to that form, for “flesh and blood can not inherit the kingdom of God, neither can corruption inherit incorruption” (1 Corinthians 15:50).

Why is this so? What if Jesus would have shown the power of the divine nature by appearing in a different form on each occasion?

Among the Greeks, reincarnation was one of the speculative ideas of metaphysics that formed part of the standard curriculum in the academies.(7) No doubt appearances in a different form on each occasion would have led the believers to accept some murky and confused doctrine of reincarnation and transmigration of the soul.

Furthermore, believers would have expected manifestations of the reincarnated Jesus’ spirit in different forms, leading to even more mischief.  Hence, it was crucial that the familiar Jesus manifest himself, yet at the same time show evidence of no longer being constrained to that body.

Our Lord’s Resurrection Appearances

“The Word of Life … Our Hands Have Handled” (1 John 1:1)

On seven occasions there is no specific testimony of Jesus being touched. The intimacy of fellowship between Jesus and the disciples would no longer be the same until that day when these witnesses would also undergo their resurrection change. Yet on three occasions Jesus specifically invited multiple witnesses to touch him, both female and male.(8)

(5) In Luke 24:33-35 we learn that when Cleopas and the second disciple returned from Emmaus, they found “the eleven” and other disciples (actually, only ten apostles since Thomas was missing; John 20:24) already engaged (verse 34) in an excited ongoing discussion (legontas) about the appearance of Jesus to Simon Peter. Then both the disciples hastily expounded on (exeegouoiunto, “related,” in the aorist to indicate the haste) what had happened on the road (verse 35).

(6) The final departure of Jesus, where “a cloud received him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9), was not necessarily a dematerialization. Being enshrouded with the clouds surrounding Jesus seems distinctly unlike a dematerialization where he vanished before their eyes.

(7) Plato, The Republic, Chapter 11.  “The immortality of the Soul and the rewards of goodness,” Section 3, “The Myth of Er.”

(8) Our Lord’s command to Mary Magdalene; “Touch me not.” (John 20:17), has always seemed puzzling. It seemed satisfactory that this was to direct Mary to rapidly spread the news to the other disciples.  But in fact, the explanation Jesus gave was neither the need for haste, nor that touching him was improper, but rather a third explanation — that he was not yet ascended to the father. Could it be that if Mary had touched Jesus it would have confused the 7:3 structure of these appearances — and as we can see, with the touching only in the presence of multiple witnesses?

Promise of a Return — A Resurrected Christ Who Eats

A divine being has no need of drink or food to sustain life. Still, there is a witness that Jesus was manifested “Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead” (Acts 10:41).

However, in all ten appearances there is no mention of Jesus drinking wine, thus fulfilling the promise that Jesus would not drink wine thenceforth with his beloved saints until their deliverance (Matthew 26:29, Mark 14:25, Luke 22:18). There is a joy in sharing food and drink that makes supping a satisfying picture of communion with our Lord, both individually and as a joyful company of reunited saints. Supping is an important element of the celebration of the Lamb’s wedding where a blessing is promised even to those who are not a part of the bride class (Revelation 19:9).

On three occasions we find (again, by multiple witnesses), a direct testimony to Jesus eating.  The disciples needed to be able to testify that Jesus was not merely a visibly manifested spirit, or in technical terms, a “phantom.”

Before leaving this topic, three other observations are in order. First, when the Lord does come to us to sup (Revelation 3:20), these appearances suggest that the symbolic equivalent of bread and grilled fish should be on the menu (Luke 24:30,42, John 21:9). These examples of our Lord supping with the disciples suggest that our Lord wishes for an intimacy of communion, where he (his mind and his words) are in us, and we (through faith in his blood) are in him (John 6:55, 15:4-7).

Next, in view of the careful choreography of our resurrected Lord’s visits, the wife of Cleopas is a possible candidate for the unnamed second disciple on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32). This would give the Sisters in the church the privilege of participating in bearing testimony to a Jesus who eats, and a Jesus who dematerializes. If this were not the case, the sisters representatively have not received the privilege of this witness, although they still enjoy the spiritual promise of Revelation 3:20.

Third, for gentile converts familiar with classical mythology, as all were, this supping would provide a powerful testimony that Jesus would return to earth. There was a belief going back to the Age of the Patriarchs that the moral code of the cosmos bound you to hospitality and to a return to your host if food was shared.(9)

Sunday — The Resurrected Lord’s Day

Observance of the Sabbath day is the fourth commandment, and so as not to let one jot or tittle of the law fail, the church is enjoined to observe the greater antitype of this Sabbath each and every day of their lives.(10) However, the final lesson to draw from the Lord’s appearances is that it establishes Sunday, by our common Roman reckoning of midnight to midnight, as the Resurrected Lord’s day.

(9) To the Greeks and Romans, the dying of the fields in fall and winter, followed by their rebirth in spring,
were considered to be the consequence of maiden goddess Persephone returning to the underworld of Hades six months out of the year during the fall and winter. There was a belief going back to the Age of the Patriarchs that the moral code of the cosmos bound you to hospitality and to a return to your host if food was shared. Persephone, the lovely daughter of Demeter (goddess of grain) and Zeus was abducted by Pluto (god of death), taken to the underworld, and forced to be his wife and queen. She was not permitted a full release from this forced marriage because, “The girl shall rise to heaven on one condition — that is if no food touched her lips in Hades, for this is the law … but [Persephone] guileless … plucked a dark pomegranate … and swallowed seven of its blood-purpled seeds … [hence] for half the year [she is] on earth, and the other half a queen with her husband.” Ovid, The Metamorphoses, Book V, (translated by Horace Gregory), Mentor Books, New York (1958), pages 155-156.

Five, or fully half of these appearances, took place within the first eighteen hours of discovering the empty tomb on the Resurrection Sunday.  For the seven times we can establish the day of the week on which an appearance occurred, six of those times are on Sunday. The ascension took place on a Thursday, completing another scripturally significant period of “forty,” as well as serving as a counterbalance to the disgrace of our Lord’s betrayal and arrest on a Thursday.(11)  It is likely that in the case of the other three appearances for which we are unable to establish the weekday, some or all may have been Sundays by our common reckoning. Irrespective of this, the combined result of these six Sunday appearances, closely followed by the experience of Pentecost Sunday, fixed this day permanently in the collective consciousness of the church. Henceforth, the church looked beyond the rest at the end of the week (Saturday, by Jewish reckoning), to the beginning of the new week on Sunday as the Resurrected Lord’s day. These appearances helped guide the Lord’s people into gathering on Sunday as their day of worship.

(10) Russell, CT., “I Will Have Mercy, Not Sacrifice” (original in Zion’s Watchtower, April 15, 1910), R4599.
(11) Starting from the Sunday of the resurrection, 5 weeks (Sunday to Saturday) of 7 days equals 35 days, plus 5 days (Sunday-Thursday) equals 40. This brings us to Thursday for the ascension.

Concluding Thoughts

For the ten resurrection appearances of Jesus, the primary lessons are the importance of apostleship, nurturing the church, ecclesia communion, and witness to the resurrection of the Jesus whom the disciples knew in the flesh.
These are counterbalanced by lessons of care for the individual members of the body, commissions to preach to the world, and our Lord’s new nature in a resurrected body capable of dematerializing and taking other forms, while still being capable of taste and touch. In these, as in all his workings, the Lord’s hand shows purpose, structure, and balance.


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