The apostles witness what defies explanation

An astounding experience awaited Jesus' apostles after his death and resurrection. They saw him! They spent time with the risen Lord.

Jul 16, 2015

By David Gibson
An astounding experience awaited Jesus' apostles after his death and resurrection. They saw him! They spent time with the risen Lord.

The apostles "thought that they were seeing a ghost" when they encountered him in Jerusalem. Luke's Gospel says "they were startled and terrified." But Jesus said:

"Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have" (Lk 24:39).

Later in Caesarea, at the baptism of the Roman centurion Cornelius, St. Peter recalled encountering the risen Lord.

Jesus was put to death, Peter reminded everyone. However, he continued, Jesus rose on "the third day." God then "granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance."

The apostles "ate and drank with" the risen Lord, Peter said (Acts 10:39-41).

Luke's Gospel also tells of this. Jesus asked the apostles, "Have you anything here to eat?" So "they gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it" (24:41-43).

It is easy to imagine these startled apostles, witnessing Jesus firsthand. The visible appearance of someone who died and was buried might alarm anyone at first.

I suppose no one can tell precisely what they saw, what Jesus' risen body is like. Christian faith insists his risen body is a real body. Yet, its reality remains a mystery.

Thus, the apostles' encounter with a risen Lord falls outside the range of ordinary human understanding. Had 21st-century scientists somehow been present, I don't believe they could have explained his resurrected body in terms their peers would accept.

Passionist Father Donald Senior, a well-known U.S. biblical scholar, talked about bodily resurrection in a 2008 speech. "Christian resurrection faith affirms the belief that Jesus, who truly died, who lost his life, was transformed by the power of God and given renewed life, new corporeal, bodily life," Father Senior said.

In telling of the risen Lord, he observed, biblical stories accent the continuity "between Jesus of Nazareth and the risen Christ," but "emphatically note the apparent difference that comes from profound transformation."

He said, "The Christ who appears to the disciples in the upper room passes through their midst in a mysterious manner."

Moreover, our own bodily resurrection after death "is not to be confused with resuscitation," Father Senior explained. Bodily resurrection in the New Testament "is a thorough transformation of the body-spirit of the human person."

Encountering the risen Lord amazed Christ's apostles. But was such an encounter an end in itself?

In Cornelius' home, when Peter mentions spending time with Jesus after the resurrection, he adds immediately that the Lord "commissioned us to preach to the people," to testify that "everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name."

As commonly is true in Christianity, a blessing becomes a mandate. Jesus' presence commissions his apostles to continue his work in this world.

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