Key Verse: “Brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand.”
—I Corinthians 15:1
I Corinthians 15:3-8
A MOST CRITICAL ELEMENT of “the gospel” which Paul declares in our Key Verse is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. In the subsequent verses of our lesson the apostle speaks of this as a fulfilment of Scripture. He says, “I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; … After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also.”—I Cor. 15:3-8
These appearances of the risen Lord show another important truth—his change of nature from human to spiritual. Although on one occasion he was seen with the prints of nails in his hands and the wound in his side, in all his other appearances Jesus was not known by any physical features. He appeared as a gardener, as an unknown traveler on the road to Emmaus, and as a stranger on the shore of Galilee. On these and other occasions Jesus was recognized by his tone of voice, the manner in which he prayed and broke bread, and other familiar aspects of his conduct. His words and mannerisms were still fresh in the disciples’ minds and precious to them.
Jesus could also enter a room while the doors were shut and disappear just as mysteriously. This was in accordance with his description of the powers of a spirit being, who can come and go like the wind while being unseen. (John 3:8) It also harmonizes with Scriptural accounts of the appearance of angels among men. They came in sudden and unknown ways, and vanished out of sight as mysteriously as they came. They could also assume any appearance or have features as they chose. These things Jesus never did prior to his resurrection. They are all in accord, however, with one of his final statements to the disciples prior to his ascension, when he stated, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”—Matt. 28:18
The purpose of Jesus’ appearances subsequent to his resurrection was to provide proof to his followers that he had indeed risen from the dead. The bodies which they saw were not his glorious spirit body, which no human eye could look upon. The Apostle John speaks of the faithful “sons of God” seeing Christ’s divine body only when they themselves are raised from the dead. He says, “It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”—I John 3:2
Jesus’ appearances after the miraculous removal of his crucified human body from the tomb testified to the fulfillment of the prophecies that he would not experience corruption. (Ps. 16:10) Had his body remained visible in the tomb, it would likely have been an insurmountable barrier to the faith of the disciples in his resurrection change. How thankful we are that the Lord was raised to the divine nature and is now “the express image” of his Father. (Heb. 1:3) The ransom price for Adam has been provided, and the hope of mankind’s future resurrection has been assured. Praise the Lord!