He appeared first to Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene. By Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys. Ca. 1860
Mary Magdalene. By Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys. Ca. 1860

  1. Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. (Mark 16:9)
  2. After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. (Mark 16:12)
  3. Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. (Mark 16:14)

JP: Interesting article on the Resurrected Christ.


One of the interesting features of verses [Mark 16:] 9-20 is the repetition of the phrase ‘he appeared.’ You meet it in verse 9, “he appeared first to Mary Magdalene”, and then in verse 12, “he appeared in a different form to two of them,” and then verse 14, “Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven.” The appearances of Jesus were the grounds for believing in his resurrection. Now this ending was written a century or even two centuries after Mark had written the gospel but we can go back to testimonies much nearer the very resurrection itself. Turn to I Corinthians 15, and verse 3-8; “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” You notice how the word ‘appeared’ is there again on four occasions. Paul wrote these words twenty years or so after the resurrection. Many of those who met the risen Jesus Christ were still living. Paul gives us a list of the appearances of Christ and this list would go back to Paul’s conversations with Peter and James in Jerusalem . He spent a fortnight with them about three years after his conversion. Paul was converted in the year 33 and so within five years of Jesus’ resurrection Paul is talking to those other eye-witnesses who like himself had been given a sight of the risen Saviour. In order for these sightings to be legends rather than facts – a much longer time scale needs to have taken place. In other words, you need a core of stories about Jesus the rabbi and healer and then they must be given time to evolve over two generations. Story tellers around fires in the long evenings need to embellish them with the preternatural, and other hearers add to them and pass them on. You understand how legends develop? The historical core gets supplanted by fanciful materials and these finally wipe out the hard core of historical facts about a warrior, or a healer, or a teacher. I am saying that there is just no time for this sort of embellishment to have happened in the New Testament. Paul is talking to Peter and John five years after the resurrection of Christ. He is writing his letter to the Corinthians twenty years after the resurrection. Many men and women who saw the risen Christ are still around; only a few have died. Already a number have laid down their lives for a fact, not an ideology, for the conviction that Jesus rose from the dead.

The evidence for the resurrection is utterly overwhelming. The Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day. It is prejudice that makes men reject it. All the gospels tell us of his appearances. He was in the garden when Mary met him, but then he left her; he was no longer in the garden he had moved on and was on the road to Emmaus; then he was no longer in Emmaus he was in the Upper Room; then he was no longer there he was at the side of the lake; then he was no longer there he was in Galilee. Have you ever pondered that? He was in one place at one time; he was not everywhere at the same time; the God-man wasn’t existing ubiquitously in the hearts and minds of all his disciples. That is not resurrection. He existed objectively in a certain place at a certain time, and today it is exactly the same. The risen Jesus Christ exists this moment at the right hand of the majesty on high. We know where he is today, and he is as real as you or me, not existing as a disembodied spirit, but as a risen and embodied Saviour. He has a physical form and he is in a place where there are other people who have been brought there and they are seeing him, just as once long ago five hundred people on a mountain in Galilee saw him. From that place, in the world that is out there, he will one day physically and literally return to this universe. He will come back to this earth. The Christ of the resurrection appearances is a physical Christ.

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