After the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, What Was the Meaning of His Appearance to Man?
By Cheng Hang
In the Bible, it is recorded: “And as they thus spoke, Jesus Himself stood in the middle of them, and said to them, Peace be to you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, Why are you troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself: handle Me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones, as you see Me have. And when He had thus spoken, He showed them His hands and His feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, He said to them, Have you here any meat? And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And He took it, and did eat before them” (Luke 24:36–43). Whenever I read these verses, I feel envious of Peter, John and the others. While Jesus was performing His work in Judea, He was always with His disciples day and night and, after He was resurrected, He took care of them just as He had before, and He appeared to them, expounded on the scriptures to them and gave them teachings. Peter and the others were fortunate to have been chosen by the Lord to be His disciples and they were able to hear the teachings of the with their very own ears—they were so blessed! Afterward, I read , and I came to understand that the Lord Jesus’ will was actually behind His appearance to man after His resurrection, and that this deed encapsulated God’s almightiness and wisdom even more. I truly came to see that the Lord Jesus’ appearance to man after His resurrection really was so meaningful!
God’s words say, “[T]he first thing that the Lord Jesus did after His resurrection was to allow everyone to see Him, to confirm that He exists, and to confirm the fact of His resurrection. In addition, this action restored His relationship with the people back to the way it was when He was working in the flesh, when He was the Christ whom they could see and touch. One outcome of this is that the people had no doubt whatever that the Lord Jesus had been resurrected from death after being nailed to the cross, and they also had no doubt in the Lord Jesus’ work to redeem mankind. Another outcome is that the fact of the Lord Jesus appearing to people after His resurrection and allowing people to see and touch Him firmly secured mankind in the Age of Grace, ensuring that, from this time on, people would not return to the previous Age of Law on the supposed basis that the Lord Jesus had ‘disappeared’ or that He had ‘left without a word.’ He thus ensured that they would continue to move forward, following the Lord Jesus’ teachings and the work He had done. Thus, a new phase in the work in the Age of Grace was formally opened, and from that moment on, the people who had been living under the law formally emerged from the law and entered into a new era, a new beginning. These are the multi-faceted meanings of the Lord Jesus’ appearance to mankind after the resurrection” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself III).
After reading God’s words, I finally understood that there were two meanings behind the Lord Jesus’ appearance to man for 40 days after His resurrection. One was that He came to tell man that God had brought the Age of Law to a close, and that He had begun the Age of Grace and would lead mankind into the new era. The other meaning was that God did this in order to enable people to affirm that the Lord Jesus was the incarnated God Himself, and thereby strengthen their faith in God.
1. The Lord Jesus Was Resurrected and Appeared to Man to Lead Them Into the New Era and to Firmly Establish Them In the Age of Grace
The Lord Jesus ushered in the Age of Grace and ended the Age of Law. He expressed the way of “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17), and performed many miracles, such as healing the sick, casting out demons, making the lame walk and the blind see, and so on, so that people could enjoy the abundant grace that came from God. But the people of that time did not know God’s work, and they had no true understanding that Jesus was the incarnation of God. When the Lord Jesus was crucified, people were simply unaware that this signified that God had finished the work of redemption, and so they instead fell into negativity and weakness. People began to doubt the identity of the Lord Jesus, and some even returned to the temple and began to observe the law of the Old Testament. In this way, people were still in danger of being put to death by the law for their sins, and the work the Lord Jesus performed to redeem mankind was left half done. The Lord Jesus scrutinized the innermost heart of man and He understood perfectly their needs and their shortcomings. Therefore, after His resurrection, He appeared and spoke first to His disciples, made real contact with them and enabled them to see that He really had returned from the dead, and that He had accomplished His work to redeem mankind and had begun the new age. Thereafter, mankind left the law behind and entered into a new era—the Age of Grace. Under the guidance of the Lord Jesus’ work and words, people began to practice in accordance with His teachings, they bore the cross and followed the Lord and they followed His teaching of “Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Thus, they began to spread the gospel of the heavenly kingdom and they bore witness to the name of the Lord Jesus so that all people could accept it and attain His salvation. Today, the gospel of the Lord Jesus has extended throughout the entire world and this is entirely the result of Jesus’ appearance to man after He returned from the dead. From this, we can see how meaningful His appearance to man after His resurrection was!
2. The Lord Jesus’ Appearance to Man After His Resurrection Enabled Them to Affirm That He Was the Incarnation of God Himself, Thereby Strengthening Their Faith in Him
God’s words say, “During the time that the Lord Jesus worked in the flesh, most of His followers could not fully verify His identity and the things that He said. When He was approaching the cross, the attitude of His followers was one of observing. Then, from the time when He was nailed to the cross until He was put into the grave, people’s attitude toward Him was disappointment. During this time, people had already begun to move in their hearts from doubting the things the Lord Jesus had said during His time in the flesh to denying them altogether. Then, when He walked out from the grave and appeared to people one by one, the majority of those who saw Him with their own eyes or heard the news of His resurrection gradually shifted their attitude from denial to skepticism. Only when the Lord Jesus had Thomas put his hand into His side, and when He broke bread and ate it in front of the crowd after His resurrection and then proceeded to eat a broiled fish in front of them, did they truly accept the fact that the Lord Jesus was Christ in the flesh. You could say that it was as if this spiritual body of flesh and blood standing before those people was awakening every one of them from a dream: The Son of man standing in front of them was the One who had existed since time immemorial. He had a form, and flesh and bones, and He had already lived and eaten alongside mankind for a long time…. At this time, the people felt that His existence was so real, and so wonderful. At the same time, they were also so joyful and happy and filled with emotion. His reappearance allowed people to truly see His humility, to feel His closeness and attachment to mankind, and to feel how much He thought about them. This brief reunion made the people who saw the Lord Jesus feel as if a lifetime had passed. Their lost, confused, afraid, anxious, yearning and numb hearts found comfort. They were no longer doubtful or disappointed, because they felt that now there was hope and something to rely on. The Son of man then standing before them would be their rear guard for all time; He would be their strong tower, their refuge for all eternity” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself III).
God’s words make clear another meaning to the Lord Jesus’ appearance to man after His resurrection. The Lord Jesus incarnated amongst man and performed His work for three and a half years, and many accepted His salvation and followed the Lord. Most people, however, had no true understanding that the Lord Jesus was Christ and that He was God Himself. Therefore, when the Lord Jesus was about to be crucified, they watched events unfold and they began to doubt in their hearts, and they asked themselves: Is the Lord Jesus truly God? If He is Christ and is God Himself, then how could He be captured by the Roman authorities, be flogged and mocked by the soldiers and then be crucified? In particular, when the Lord Jesus was being crucified upon the cross, they felt utterly disappointed in Him and they denied that He was the incarnation of God Himself and denied the words He had expressed, believing instead that Jesus would die just like an ordinary man and that He could not possibly survive. The Lord Jesus knew that people had such little faith, that they did not know the Lord, and that even more people would become weak and downcast because He had been crucified. Therefore, after the Lord Jesus had returned from the dead, He made contact with His disciples and spoke to them, He expounded the scriptures and communed with them, He ate with them, and He allowed Thomas to touch His hands and His side, and so on. From the words the Lord Jesus spoke and the deeds He performed after His resurrection, His disciples affirmed that Jesus truly had been resurrected, and they knew that He was the same Lord who had eaten, abided and shared life with them before, that He was the same Lord who had preached to them, provided for and guided them, who loved them in the same way as He had before, that He cared for them and had not left them, and that He was right there with them. The Lord Jesus was the incarnation of God Himself, the ever-lasting One, man’s eternal support, man’s strong tower and refuge. Although the Lord Jesus had been crucified, He was the keeper of the keys to the afterlife and He had the power to return to life, for He was the unique God Himself … Thereafter, people no longer felt lost or bewildered and they no longer doubted the Lord Jesus, but instead were able to believe in and rely on Jesus from the bottom of their hearts. This was entirely the result of the Lord Jesus appearing to His disciples and speaking with them after He returned from the dead.
From these two meanings attributed to the Lord Jesus’ appearance to man after His resurrection, I finally saw that He had awakened people’s hearts through the way He had appeared to them and He also enabled us to experience God’s care and love for us. This kind of care and love are not just some kind of legend—they are fact. From this we can also perceive that God regards us as His kin; He has always been with man and has never left us, for God created man in order to gain us, and He hopes that we will hear His words, obey Him and worship Him absolutely, and become of one mind with Him. Therefore, whether the Lord Jesus was performing His works and speaking His words in the flesh or whether He was appearing to man in the spiritual body after His resurrection, He always cared for mankind, and He was especially concerned for those who followed Him. This was because man does not have the ability to overcome sin, and without the guidance of God and without the provision of truth, man has no way to cast off their corruption and attain God’s true salvation. In our misconceptions, we believe that God left us after He had finished the work of redemption and that God no longer paid us any attention after that. But the truth is not as we imagine it to be. The Lord Jesus accomplished His work to redeem mankind, but He did not leave man. He is still with man, just as He was before, caring for us, providing for us and guiding us; the Lord Jesus is our help and our support at need, and no matter in what way He appears to us, He will always be with us! It is just as God’s words say, “Although the Lord Jesus was resurrected, His heart and His work had not left mankind. By appearing to people, He told them that no matter what form He existed in, He would accompany people, walk with them, and be with them at all times and in all places. He told them that at all times and in all places He would provide for mankind and shepherd them, allow them to see and touch Him, and ensure they never again felt helpless. The Lord Jesus also wanted people to know that they do not live alone in this world. Mankind has God’s care; God is with them. They can always lean on God, and He is family to every one of His followers. With God to lean on, mankind will no longer be lonely or helpless, and those who accept Him as their sin offering will no longer be bound in sin” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself III).
In fact, each and every one of us who believes in the Lord Jesus can see that, on the path of belief in God, whenever we encounter temptations such as money, fame or fortune, the Lord protects us and enables us to shun and overcome them; whenever we encounter setbacks and failures, the Lord guides us with His words, He gives us faith and strength, enabling us to be strong; when we encounter difficulties in our lives, the Lord is ever our help at need, opening ways out for us; when trials befall us and we experience suffering, the Lord’s words duly illuminate and guide us, enabling us to understand God’s will and for us to feel peace and joy in our spirits … We can truly feel that God is by our side, guiding and accompanying us through each and every day, enabling us to understand the truth and understand His will …
I am so moved by the Lord’s love, and I understand better now why the Lord Jesus appeared to man for 40 days after His resurrection, eating in the presence of His disciples, expounding the scriptures and communing with them, laying many requirements upon them, and so on. Every single thing the Lord Jesus said or did brimmed with great care and thought, and all His deeds and words were extraordinarily meaningful. Through reading God’s words, I now have a deeper understanding of Jesus’ appearance to man after His resurrection. Thanks be to God!