After Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, he was seen by many witnesses. Everyone who saw him could testify that he had been truly raised from the dead. The accounts in the NT of Christ’s many appearances give vital documentation to the reality of his resurrection.
When we studied the verses in chapter 27 of Matthew about the burial of Jesus
(vv. 57-66), we said that the burial after his death and the appearances after his resurrection were important facts apologetically.
•How do we know that Jesus actually died? We know it because he was buried!
• How do we know that Jesus was actually raised from the dead? We know it because he was seen by many witnesses!
At that time we also looked at 1 Corinthians 15 in order to see how significant our Lord’s burial and his appearances were according to the apostle Paul. In writing about the essential historical elements of the good news of Christ, He mentioned four important details. They are set forth in vv. 3-5.
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: 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 by Cephas, then by the twelve.”
Paul says that Christ died, was buried, that he rose, and that he was seen. Without any doubt the primary elements in the Gospel story are the first and the third of these facts, the death and the resurrection. However, we make a serious mistake if we fail to emphasis the significance of his burial and the fact that he was seen after his resurrection. The burial after his death and the appearances after his resurrection give testimony to the reality of his death and resurrection!
Concerning the appearances, four times Paul says, “He was seen” (5-8). There were eyewitnesses who could confirm that Jesus was raised from the dead because they saw him! Paul even says that most of them were still alive (6) so anyone who wanted to check the facts by interviewing a witness could do so. Also, by declaring that over 500 brethren saw him at one of the resurrection appearances sweeps away charges that the witnesses of his resurrection were hallucinating. He was actually raised from the dead. And there were many who could and would take the witness stand and affirm it.
Now let’s go back to Matthew. He tells us of two appearances of Christ—one to the women who had come to the tomb early on the first day of the week to anoint Jesus with more spices (9-10), and the other to the eleven disciples in Galilee (16-17).
These are not the only recorded appearances of Jesus after his resurrection. There were approximately 10 appearances of Christ (11 if we count the one to Paul after Christ’s ascension, 1 Cor 15:8). The first five of them came on the day of his resurrection and the rest during the 40 days before his ascension. John Wenham, in his helpful book, Easter Enigma: Are the Resurrection Accounts in Conflict?, gives the following order of the appearances (also MacArthur Study Bible, note at Luke 24).
Jesus appeared to:
1)Mary Magdalene at the tomb (Mk 16:9; Jn 20:11-18). 2)The women on the road (Mt 28:9-10). 3)The disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-32). 4)Peter (Lk 24:34; 1 Cor 15:5). 5)Ten of the eleven disciples, Thomas being absent
(Mk 16:14; Lk 24:36-43; Jn 20:19-25).
6)The eleven disciples, Thomas present this time (Jn 20:26-31). 7)The seven disciples by the shore of the Sea of Galilee (Jn 21:1-25). 8)More than 500 disciples (1 Cor 15:6). 9)James (1 Cor 15:7).
10) The apostles when he ascended to heaven (Acts 1:3-11).
According to John’s Gospel, the first appearance was to Mary Magdalene (Jn 20:11–18). The second was to “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary” as they were returning from the empty tomb, as Matthew tells us (we remember also that there were other women with them, Mk 16:1).
Mary Magdalene must have lingered at the tomb when the others went ahead. Christ then appeared to her, as John tells us, after which she would have rejoined the other women on their way home. Christ then came and appeared to them as a group. It is the second resurrection appearance of Christ which is the focus of our attention today—the appearance to the women on the road.
There are three things which stand out in their meeting with Jesus.
I. When Their Meeting With Jesus Occurred
Matthew says, “And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them.” They had been charged by the angel to “go quickly and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead . . .” (7). There was no hesitation on their part. “They went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring his disciples word” (8).
They were not slow to do as the angel had commanded them. They were eager to pass the word on that Christ had been raised from the dead! It was not just a matter of duty for them to go and tell the others that Christ had been raised; it was a great privilege and opportunity.
The women obeyed instantly. The angel said to “go quickly and tell” and the Scriptures tell us “they went out quickly,” and that they even “ran to bring his disciples word.”
All our obedience ought to be like that. There is no reason for us to mull over the commands of the Lord and decide which ones we want to keep and which ones we want to leave for others to carry out. Scriptural commands are not to be debated!
What the women were told to do was unique to them, however, an extension of the charge given to these women who visited the tomb is presented at the end of this chapter. We refer to it as the Great Commission. Jesus said to his followers, “All authority is given to me in heaven and on earth, go therefore . . .” (18-20).
The Great Commission is as applicable to us as it was to the disciples to whom it was first conferred. Luke’s Gospel tells us they were told to wait for a few days in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit upon them, but then when this happened, they were to carry out the commission of the Lord.
The book of Acts records the coming of the Holy Spirit upon them and their obedience to the Lord’s command. Jesus told his disciples, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (1:8). And they were witnesses to Christ! With joy and gladness they took the message that Christ had died and was risen to all men everywhere. They preached to Jews and Gentiles that all who put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ would be saved from sin and hell.
We are under obligation to preach that same message. It is our responsibility to tell the world that the sinners only hope is in Jesus Christ. The Great Commission is the responsibility of every new generation of Christians.
Are we engaged in carrying out the Great Commission? Are we as excited as these women were in being chosen to be messengers of the good news?
•How are we doing personally in carrying out the Great Commission? Are we witnessing? Are we spreading the gospel? Are we proclaiming the gospel individually and personally? •And how are we doing as a church? Are we giving our money to support missionaries who are in the far corners of the earth preaching Christ? Are we praying for them? Are we a Great Commission church?
What an example we have of obedience to tell the message that Christ is risen in the women who went to the tomb!
And what a lesson we have! We learn that blessing often comes to us in the path of duty. It was while they were on their way to do as they had been commanded that “Jesus met them.”
Do you ever wonder why you don’t know more of the presence of Christ in your life? It may be because of your disobedience! Jesus meets with and has sweet fellowship with those who love him and keep his commandments.
“For the Lord is righteous, he loves righteousness; his countenance beholds the upright” (Ps 11:7). Because God hates sin and loves righteousness, he looks with favor upon those who are upright. His countenance is upon them. That means they know the reality of his blessed presence. They know precious communion with the Lord for the Lord is pleased to dwell among those who delight to do his will.
The child of God who harbors sin in his heart can’t even get God to hear him. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Ps 66:18). So it is not the slothful and disobedient that experiences sweet communion and fellowship with the Lord, it is the diligent and dutiful. God’s countenance is turned towards him.
Jesus met them “as they went to tell his disciples.”
Do you think for a moment that Jesus would have met them had they been disobedient to the angel sent from heaven? Oh, Jesus may have met them, but it would have been to rebuke them and exhort them in the path of duty, but as it was, Jesus met them with a joyous greeting. When Jesus met them on the road he said, “Rejoice!”
The word Jesus used is the Greek term for joy and gladness (cai,rw). It means to rejoice, be glad, be delighted (Jn 3.29) It came to be used as a formula of greeting or address (cai/re( cai,rete), implying a wish for well-being welcome, good morning, hail (to you), hello. It is translated “greetings” in Mt 26.49 (Friberg).
The women who met Jesus who had been raised from the dead surely had great reason to rejoice! The Lord whom they cherished and loved was no longer dead and in the tomb. He was alive! And he was standing before them that very moment and out of his mouth came a blessed word—“rejoice.”
“It is the will of Christ that his people should be a cheerful joyful people, and his resurrection furnishes them with abundant matter for joy” (M. Henry).
II. Their Response To Meeting With Jesus
Matthew says “they came and held him by the feet and worshiped him.” There are several things worthy of note here.
1. First, we see that the women recognized him. Jesus did not have to identify himself to them. They knew that it was him. This tells us that “while his resurrected body is a transformed body, it is Jesus who is raised—the very one they had known before” (Chamberlin).
It was the same Jesus. When Jesus ascended to heaven, the angels told the gazing disciples, “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). There wasn’t a switch at the tomb and there won’t be a switch as the Second Advent!
2. Second, we see that the women didn’t want him to go away. They “held him by the feet.” Apparently this action indicated that they didn’t want to lose him as they had before. They took hold of him in a way that declared they were glad to have him back but also signified that they didn’t want him to go away again. What love and affection they had for Christ!
The clasping of Jesus’ feet also confirms that his risen body is real (cf. John 20:17). He had a tangible, material, touchable body. France says this “forms an interesting incidental confirmation of the physical reality of the risen Jesus.”
Leon Morris says that taking hold of someone’s feet was a sign of homage. There are historical records of people showing homage to a king by taking hold of his feet and even kissing them. Morris says, “In thus taking hold of his feet the women symbolically recognized Jesus’ kingship; indeed, it may indicate that they had come to realize that he was more than mortal.”
3. Third, the women worshiped him. Taking hold of his feet put them in a prostrate position, one suitable for worship. They showed reverence and honor to him. He was their Lord and worthy of worship. CHS said, “These holy women were not Unitarians; knowing that Jesus was the Son of God, they had no hesitation in worshipping him.”
The word translated “worship” (prosekynesan) “can mean simply ‘knelt before’ (see on 8:2). The same verb occurs in the only other resurrection appearance in Matthew
(v. 17) and encourages the view that the ‘kneeling’ has instinctively become worship” (Carson). Worship of Christ is a witness to his deity.
In humility and godly fear they bow in his presence and adore him. And Jesus accepts their worship. If he were not God in the flesh, as the Jehovah Witnesses say, then Jesus should have rebuked the women and told them to stand up. But since he is truly a Divine Person, then prostration at his feet and worship is rightly due to him!
III. The Directions Jesus Gave Them At The Meeting
Jesus gave them the same directions as did the angel (7). He said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (10). But this is Jesus himself reiterating the command and confirming the promise.
Jesus “perceived the palpitation of these poor women’s hearts” (CHS). But he did not want them to be afraid in his presence. He wanted them to have joy, as is evidenced by his greeting to them. So he said, “Do not be afraid.” This is a word of reassurance.
Also, the meeting he had arranged in Galilee was of great importance. It was crucial for the women to tell the disciples that Jesus was risen and that they were to meet him in Galilee, that our Lord repeated the angels instructions.
However, there is an interesting difference in the words of the angel and the words of Jesus. The angel told the women to “go quickly and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead, and indeed his is going before you into Galilee” (7). But Jesus does not refer to them as disciples, but rather, as brothers. He said, “Go tell my brethren to go to Galilee” (10).
This underscores his desire to restore broken fellowship with the men who had shamelessly deserted him during his time of suffering. They are not cast out and regarded as worthless, as we might have thought. Rather, with love and compassion, he is forgives them and graciously refers to them as “brethren.”
All who are rightly related to the Lord Jesus are regarded as “brethren.” He does not speak here according to the flesh, but spiritual brethren. We have this same emphasis earlier in Matthew. See 12:48-50 . . . “Jesus contrasted his brothers and his mother, who were bound to him by physical ties, with his disciples, who in virtue of their obedience to the will of his Father were regarded by him as his spiritual ‘brothers’ and ‘mother’” (NBD).
What amazing compassion Jesus had shown these men during his ministry and now after his resurrection it is the same. In his book entitled Holiness, J. C. Ryle said:
“But what do you see in our Lord’s behavior towards these disciples all through His ministry? You see nothing but unchanging pity, compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, long suffering and love. He does not cast them off for their stupidity. He does not reject them for their unbelief. He does not dismiss them forever for cowardice. He teaches them as they are able to bear. He leads them on step by step, as a nurse does an infant when it first begins to walk.”
So in keeping with his affection for them he sends this kind message about meeting him in Galilee as soon as He is risen from the dead. And in his instructions to the women he refers to them as “my brethren.” And his brethren indeed they are. He has atoned for their sins and risen from the grave so they could be part of the family of God!
So he will gather them around himself once more. He will restore those who have fallen (Peter). He will send them forth as His messengers to preach the Gospel throughout the world.
The writer to the Hebrews said, “He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (2:11). That is how great the love of Christ is for his own! We do many things that bring shame and reproach upon his name, yet he is not ashamed to call us brethren!
•He was not ashamed to identify with us in becoming a Man. He endured this ignominy in order to save us from our sins. There was no other way for God to redeem man (9-10; 5:8-9). Robert Rayburn said, “The incarnation was not a pageant but a tragic necessity, for a salvation which would meet the exigencies [crisis] of sinful humans and a just God required such suffering as only a divine-human Savior could endure.” •Jesus Christ established a oneness with humanity when he took on human flesh. But the beneficiaries of redemption are the ones who are called his brethren. They are referred to as “those who are being sanctified” in this verse. So the expression, “‘is not ashamed,’ is an affirmation of the compassionate identification of Christ with his unworthy people which led him to empty himself” (Rayburn).
As glorious as Christ was now in his resurrection and as weak and frail as the erring disciples were, Jesus still calls them his brethren. “Our Savior is one who never forgets His people. He pities their infirmities. He does not despise them. He knows their weakness, and yet does not cast them away. Our great High Priest is also our elder brother” (Ryle).
What a blessed meeting this was. The resurrected Christ appearing to a group of believing women as they were on their way to tell the good news that the Savior of the world was alive.
What application does this have to us? Familiar acquaintance with Christ is still possible. We may not have the opportunity as they did to meet with him physically, but there is no limit to spiritual meetings we can have with him. And these meetings spring out of the fact that he is alive forever more!
Christ’s presence in our midst is real though it is spiritual and invisible. He is no longer in the grave. He is risen. And that is the basis for the life that we have. The life of God in the soul, what we call regeneration, is derived from his resurrected life. Our ears have been opened to hear his voice; our eyes have been opened to see his glory; and our hearts have been opened to enjoy his fellowship.
Meeting with the Lord Christ! Communion with the Son of God! Do you know such sweet fellowship with him?
Do you meet with him at appointed times of worship? Christ is present among his people when they assemble!
Jesus! Stand among us
In Thy risen power,
Let this time of worship
Be a hallowed hour.
Do you meet with him in prayer every day? “Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and he shall hear my voice” (Ps. 55:17). Our blessed Lord meets with those who pray. Phillip Doddridge penned these precious words to a hymn:
Our heavenly Father calls,
And Christ invites us near;
With both, our friendship shall be sweet,
And our communion dear.
Do you meet with him in the word? CHS once said, “We do not often hear God’s voice, unless we are accustomed to give ourselves a little quiet and holy stillness, and sit in our chamber alone, and say, ‘Now Lord, commune with me. I wish to hear thy voice. I open my Bible. I am about to read a few verses. Oh, speak to me.’”
And we have the tremendous privilege of meeting with Christ today as we eat the Lord’s Supper. We may wish that we could hold him by the feet but we have an outward emblem that represents his dying for us in the bread and the cup, that when taken through faith, brings the Savior so very near to us. That is why the supper is called Communion. It is a time for us to intimately commune with the One who poured out his life’s blood for our redemption and who was raised for our justification.