We Declare What We Have Seen and Heard

Image by Treharris from Pixabay 

Acts 4:32-35
Psalm 133
1 John 1:1-2:2
John 20:19-31

Remember last week that Matthew records Mary and Mary seeing and speaking with Jesus on the morning of the resurrection.

Mark records Mary, Mary, and Salome seeing angels, but not telling anyone else about it. (Twelve verses were added to Mark decades later which contradicts what was recorded earlier about the three women.)

Luke records more women seeing the tomb and reporting to the eleven. Only Peter goes to see the tomb. Luke further records two men walking to Emmaus who talk with and finally recognize Jesus and closes his account with Jesus appearing among the eleven to convince them he was alive before ascending into heaven.

John’s account is somewhat longer. He describes Peter and John going to the tomb that morning, and then jumps to the evening.

In the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples had met together with the doors locked for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood right in the middle of them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he showed them his hands and his side, and when they saw the Lord the disciples were overjoyed.Jesus said to them again, “Yes, peace be with you! Just as the Father sent me, so I am now going to send you.”And then he breathed upon them and said, “Receive holy spirit. If you forgive any men’s sins, they are forgiven, and if you hold them unforgiven, they are unforgiven.” Phillips

When Christians talk about Jesus appearing after the resurrection, John’s account plus Luke’s Emmaus story are what we talk about. But think about the other accounts. Why are they so brief? And why to they disagree on so many points? Where is the truth?

We must always remember that the first three were written within a decade of one another and John was written as much as 30 years later. It is likely that in the decade of the sixties Christians accepted the resurrection without question. Since it was a non-issue, the three authors cut it short.

By the end of the First Century heresies and Gnosticism were gaining traction among the believers. Many were now saying that Jesus was only God, was never human. Some even said that Jesus was some dupe taken over by the Spirit of God and made to do His bidding and then sent to the cross. To counter this threat, John wrote a more detailed description of the aftermath, so to speak. When we read his account, we can sense that he personally witnessed what he describes.

Peter and John ran to the grave in the morning, but by evening all eleven were a locked in—as if that would stop Roman soldiers. In an instant, Jesus stood among them. He did not walk through doors or walls. He just was.

Two important details appear next. Jesus gives them a commission and he gives them the Holy Spirit of God. You may be asking yourself, “didn’t that happen at Pentecost?” Yes, but it also happened here, according to John.

Read the comments of Gregory of Nazianzus (end 4th Century). Christ’s disciples were able to receive the Spirit on three occasions: before he was glorified by the passion, after he was glorified by the resurrection and after his ascensionACCS

It is especially important to recognize the importance of the Apostles seeing and touching Jesus’ hands and side. Thomas was not there that night but received the same experience later. He acknowledged Jesus to which Jesus said; Is it because you have seen me that you believe?” Jesus said to him. “Happy are those who have never seen me and yet have believed!” Phillips

To bolster his argument, John appears to have written the letter we know as 1 John shortly after he wrote the Gospel. His opening is powerful.

Something which has existed since the beginning,

which we have heard,

which we have seen with our own eyes,

which we have watched

and touched with our own hands,

the Word of life—

this is our theme.

That life was made visible;

we saw it and are giving our testimony,

declaring to you the eternal life,

which was present to the Father

and had been revealed to us.

We are declaring to you

what we have seen and heard,

so that you too may share our life.

Our life is shared with the Father

and with his Son Jesus ChristNJB

As the Second Century began, all the men and women who walked and talked with Jesus were gone, replaced with good people who learned the Truth directly from those first saints and who courageously stood toe to toe with the heretics and let them know the real Jesus, both before and after death.  Saints over the centuries since have carried on the struggle. Jesus was born of Mary; became a teacher and preacher, healer and miracle worker; died and conquered death so that anyone who believes in him can also conquer death.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

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