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Can I Get a Witness: 40 Days to a New Body

Updated: Feb 17

April 23, 2023— We recently celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Where we know and believe 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.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5) After His resurrection, Jesus Christ remained with His disciples and the apostles for forty days. Paul’s account in 1 Corinthians says that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once (1 Corinthians 6) and that Paul lastly saw him.

While Paul’s account discusses Jesus Christ seeing Cephas (Simon Peter), he was not the first disciple to have seen Him.

The First Witness

Walking to the tomb where Jesus Christ was buried, a group of women carried spices. He had been buried for three days at this point, and the spices would allow them to anoint Jesus’s body. It was early in the morning and the first day of the week. When they arrived at the tomb, there was an earthquake. A large boulder sealed the tomb’s entrance, but an angel of the Lord rolled the stone from the door and sat on it (Matthew 28:2). The guards standing at the entrance were frightened.

Speaking to the women, the angel says:

Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.

Matthew 28:4-7

The women went ahead to Galilee as the angel instructed them. Regarding the identity of these women, the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John differ over their identity. The only consistency seems to be Mary Magdalene. Table 1 below is a matrix identifying which gospels speak to the identity of the group of women. “X” indicates that the gospel speaks to the woman being present. A dash “-“means that it does not talk about that woman being present.

A table comparing the women mentioned in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Joh

In all the disciple’s gospels, Jesus Christ appears to Mary Magdalene. Mark and John’s gospels say that Mary Magdalene saw Him first on the day He was resurrected. Here are the verses that discuss Mary Magdalene being present:

And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.

Matthew 28:9

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

And they remembered His words. Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles.

Luke 24: 8-10

Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.

John 20:14

Through the gospel of John, it was Mary Magdalene that went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’s body, where she met an angel that instructed her to tell the disciples that He would be in Galilee. She then told John and Peter that she had seen the Lord, but they did not believe her. John and Peter ran to the tomb. According to John’s gospel, he arrived first, and when he saw the opened tomb and the linen clothes lying there, he believed (John 20:8).

The Road to Emmaus

Mark 16:12 says that after His appearance to Mary Magdalene, Jesus Christ “appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either.” If you open your Holy Bible to Luke 24, you will read that two disciples traveled from Jerusalem to Emmaus. The village of Emmaus was seven miles away. We learn that one of the disciples was named Cleopas, and the other is not identified.

On their way there, they were discussing the things that had happened, and Jesus was near them, though they did not recognize Him. Jesus asks, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad? (Luke 24: 17).

Cleopas answers Jesus Christ, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?” (Luke 24:18)

Jesus could have answered, “In fact, I am the only One that knows exactly what has been happening here,” but He doesn’t. Instead, He asks, “What things?” ((Luke 24:19)

The disciples summarize the events:

The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.

Luke 24:19-24

Jesus Christ tells them:

O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

Luke 24: 25-26

The Holy Bible tells us that Jesus Christ began explaining the Scriptures concerning Himself from the beginning with Moses and all the Prophets. (Luke 24:27). The disciples still do not recognize Him despite this.

The disciples asked Him to stay with them as they drew near the village because the evening was drawing near. He did so and sat at a table with them. Their eyes were only opened after Jesus Christ took bread, blessed it, broke it for them, and gave it to them. Once their eyes were opened, Jesus Christ vanished from their sight. (Luke 30-31).

They realized, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).

At that very hour, they rose from Emmaus and went to Jerusalem, where they found the eleven disciples. (Remember, Judas Iscariot hung himself before Jesus Christ was resurrected (Matthew 27:5)). The two disciples told the eleven that they saw the risen Lord, Jesus Christ. They told them about the encounter on the road and their conversation with Him. To explain how they knew that it was Jesus Christ with them, they explained how He broke the bread, blessed it, and gave it to them. Luke 24:34-35).

In Jerusalem

That night, Jesus appeared to them in Jerusalem saying, “Peace to you.” (Luke 24: 26).

Frightened, the disciples remained silent.

Showing His hands and His feet, Jesus Christ told them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” (Luke 24:38-39).

The disciples still did not believe, and they marveled. Jesus asked them if they had any food to eat. The disciples gave Him fish and some honeycomb, and He ate it. (Luke 24:42).

Similarly, to the conversation with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus Christ opens their understanding of the Scriptures concerning Him (Luke 24:45). Jesus Christ asserts that His crucifixion was necessary:

Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.

Luke 24:46-29

While this is the gospel of Luke, note that the gospel of John speaks to three different appearances to the disciples.

The Appearances to the Disciples

The disciples were inside with the door shut that night, for they feared the Jews. Thomas (also called “the Twin) was not among them. Jesus appeared to them and commissioned them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” This fulfilled Jesus’s promise that they would receive a helper, the Holy Spirit specifically (John 14:26).

When they told Thomas of their interaction with the risen Lord, he did not believe them and said, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25).

Eight days later, Thomas would get his chance to do this and to believe. The Holy Bible states that Jesus Christ appeared to the disciples again but when Thomas was present. Jesus Christ even says, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29).

Breakfast By the Sea

John discussed a third appearance in Galilee when a few disciples went fishing. The disciples mentioned are listed below:

  • Peter (also called Simon)

  • Thomas

  • Nathanael

  • Two others

  • Zebedee’s sons:

o James

o John

That night, they caught nothing. Jesus Christ stood on the shore when the morning came, but they did not know it was Him. He asks them, “Children, have you any food?” (John 21:5). When they answer “No,” Jesus instructs them to Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” They catch so many fish that they are unable to draw them in.

This is when John recognizes that it is Jesus Christ, and he tells Peter, “It is the Lord!” (John 21:7). Peter puts on his garment and swims to the shore while the rest come in “the little boat…dragging the net with fish.” (John 21:8).

The disciples see fish on a fire of coals and some bread. Jesus tells them to “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” (John 21:10). Peter drags the net, full of 153 large fish, to the land. They were about to eat breakfast with the Lord, where Jesus Christ restored Peter. According to Matthew 26:69-75, Peter denied Jesus Christ three times before He was handed over to Pontius Pilate.

A net full of fish
A net full of fish. The Holy Bible says that so many fish were caught that morning that the disciples could not draw them in. Photo by Brie Odom-Mabey on Unsplash.

The Gospels of Matthew and Mark

While the gospels of Luke and John are more detailed about the 40 days after the resurrection, Matthew and Mark are less so. Regardless of their level of detail, a few events are mentioned during the 40 days after the resurrection: the great commission and the ascension. These events are discussed in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Table 2 outlines which gospels within the New Testament speak to these events. The numbers identify the chapter and the verse within that gospel.

A table comparing where the gospel mentions the Great Commission and the Ascension of Jesus Christ.

Accepting Jesus Christ

The information outlined in this article briefly explains what Jesus Christ did during the 40 days after His resurrection and before His ascension to the right hand of God. The events outlined in this article are mentioned in two or more of the gospels of Jesus’s disciples for the same reasons that John states in his gospel:

And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

John 20:30-31

Beloved, if you are not a believer but are ready to accept Jesus Christ as your savior, pray this prayer aloud:

God, I confess that Jesus came in the flesh and blood, paid the price for my sins, died on the cross, rose on the third day, ascended to the heavens, and sent the Holy Spirit to help me understand Your ways. For that, I accept Jesus Christ as my savior and Lord, and I welcome the Holy Spirit in my life. In Jesus’s name I pray, amen!

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