miércoles, 22 de mayo de 2019

La armonía de la resurrección de Jesús según John Wenham

A sequential narrative of the 4 separate Gospel descriptions of what happened on the morning Jesus Christ rose from the dead
25 de junio de 2016 - Publicado en Amazon.com
Compra verificada
This book is a scholarly attempt to harmonize the 4 separate Gospel accounts of what happened on the morning Christ rose from the dead. Each account presents a partial, independent, and true account of the witnesses to Christ's resurrection. Using first details from Scripture, and then reasonable conjecture, Dr. Wenham constructs a sequential narrative of the events from the Last Supper on Thursday to the Resurrection on Sunday to Christ's Ascension 40 days later.

Jesus eats the Passover meal with His 12 apostles in the Upper Room of Mark's house. Acts 12:12 suggests that this was the house of the unnamed wealthy benefactor (Mark's father) who had put his private olive garden, with its high walls and strong gate, at Jesus' disposal where He "had often met there with His disciples' (John 18:2). Judas leaves to arrange Christ's arrest. Jesus, the Eleven and Mark leave the house and cross the Kidron Valley. Jesus warns them that the Shepherd will be struck down and the sheep scattered. He predicts His impending death, the disciples temporary desertion of Jesus, His resurrection, and then His going to Galilee. Peter declares he will not desert Him. Jesus tells Peter that he will deny Christ three times before the rooster crows (dawn). Peter again insists he would not deny Christ (Matthew 26:30-35; Mark 14:27-31). They enter the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prays.

Judas arrives with an arresting party of members of the Temple guard and soldiers from the Roman garrison, stationed at the Antonia Fort to the north of the Temple. The obviously line of escape for the Eleven is in the opposite direction of Jerusalem, up the Mount of Olives toward Bethany, possibly to the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Mark is nearly caught.

Jesus is taken back to the city; Peter and John think better of their cowardice, turn around, and join the returning company, which goes to the high priest's residence. Because John is known by the high priest and his servants, he gains access to the house of Caiaphas. There, Peter hears his Master's bold statement (Matthew 26:63,64). In response to Caiaphas' adjuration, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" Jesus replies, "I am." In the courtyard, Peter is confronted by a servant girl who says he is one of Christ's disciples. Peter denies Jesus three times. The Lord turns and looks at Peter, and Peter goes out and weeps bitterly. John, the son of Zebedee and Salome, then takes Peter in all his misery to John's (parents'?) home which is near the fish market in Jerusalem. It was also near the house of Caiaphas, the high priest. John is known by the high priest (John 18:15,16), possibly for supplying their fish.

Equating Matthew 27:56 "the mother of the sons of Zebedee" with Mark 15:40 "Salome" and John 19:25 "His mother's sister", Salome is the sister of Mary, the mother of Christ. Salome is therefore Jesus' aunt, and the apostles James and John are His cousins.

Also staying at John's home is Mary, the mother of Christ, and Clopas and his wife Mary. Again, equate Matthew 27:56, "Mary the mother of James and Joseph", with Mark 15:40 "Mary the mother of James the Less (little or younger) and Joses", and with John 19:25 "Mary the wife of Clopas". If these all describe the same person, then Mary and Clopas are the parents of the Apostle James the Younger. The church historian, Eusebius, says "Hegesippus asserts that Clopas was the brother of Joseph", the father of Jesus (Eusebius, Church History, Book 3, Chapter 11). So Clopas is Jesus' uncle, and Clopas' son is the Apostle James the Younger, Jesus' cousin.

Mary Magdalene comes to Jerusalem from Bethany. The Lord's mother, Mary Magdalene, Mary of Clopas, Salome, and Salome's son, the apostle John, come near to the cross. Other relatives and well-wishers (including Joanna and Susanna) stand further back. While on the cross, Jesus entrusts the care of His mother to the apostle John, His cousin (John 19:26,27). After the Lord's death, Joseph of Arimathea gets permission to bury Jesus, and the body is taken to his tomb. Joseph buys the great cloth (The Shroud of Turin) and Nicodemus buys the spices.

Joanna and Susanna follow Joseph of Arimathea and his servants and Nicodemus into the tomb to help lay out Christ's body. There was no time to wash and properly anoint the body before the onset of the Sabbath, around 6:00pm Friday. Joseph covers the back and front of Christ's body with the large linen, and Nicodemus brought 100 pounds of dry spices to pack around the body as a temporary anti-putrifacient until the women returned Sunday morning (after the Sabbath is over) to anoint the body properly.
Meanwhile, Mary Magdalene and Mary wife of Clopas watch from a distance.
The four women confer and agree to return at first light on Sunday to anoint Christ's body. Before they leave, they watch Joseph of Arimathea's servants roll the great gravestone against the entrance to the tomb (Matthew 27:60 and Mark 15:46).
Joanna and Susanna return to the Hasmonean Palace and prepare ointments.
Mary of Clopas takes Mary Magdalene to John's house (Because of the Sabbath, it is too late for them to return to Bethany).

Joanna was one of the well-to-do women who provided for Jesus and His disciples "out of their private means" (Luke 8:3). She also visited Christ's tomb (Luke 24:10). She was the wife of Chuza, steward to King Herod Antipas. Chuza and Joanna would have stayed at the royal residence, the Hasmonean Palace, in Jerusalem. Only Luke mentions Susanna in Luke 8:3 as one of those who helped support Jesus' ministry. It is possible that she also visited Christ's tomb with Joanna.

The grave is sealed and the Jewish Temple guard, backed by a contingent of Roman soldiers, sets up a watch. As the Sabbath draws towards its end (about 6:00pm Saturday), Clopas and his wife Mary leave John's house and go with Mary Magdalene to regain contact with the nine disciples at Bethany. Before leaving Jerusalem, they stop with Salome at the markets, which have re-opened at sundown on Saturday, and buy burial spices. Salome returns to John's house.

Preparing the Ointments
Luke 23:56 says that on Friday evening the women "returned [to their homes] and prepared spices and perfumes." Mark 16:1 says "When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James [the Less or Younger], and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him." There is no conflict here. Joanna and Susanna and Mary Magdalene, being women of "private means", began on Friday evening preparing the burial ointments from their own inventories, and then needed to purchase more as soon as the market re-opened, which would be sundown on Saturday. Matthew 28:1 says that on Sunday morning, "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (wife of Clopas) came to look at the grave." Matthew is presumably staying with the nine Apostles in Bethany, so it is a reasonable assumption that he is describing what he himself saw from Bethany, that Mary Magdalene and Mary wife of Clopas had spent Saturday evening in Bethany as well, before leaving for the grave early the next morning. They had left John's house in Jerusalem as soon as the Sabbath was over at sundown on Saturday evening. They purchased burial ointments with Salome, who returns to John's home, while Mary Magdalene and Mary wife of Clopas, accompanied by Clopas, travel to Bethany.

So at the close of Saturday, in John's house were Peter and John and Jesus' mother, and Zebedee and Salome. In the Hasmonean Palace were Joanna and Susanna. In Bethany were the nine Apostles, Mary Magdalene, Clopas and his wife Mary.

While it is still dark, Mary Magdalene and Clopas and his wife Mary set off from Bethany to return to John's house.
Since anointing Christ's body was women's work, Clopas stays at John's house, while Salome joins the two Marys. Then the three proceed with their spices to the garden tomb via the Gennath Gate. They were wondering "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?" (Mark 16:3) They knew that Joseph of Arimathea had a gardener or night watchman (John 20:15).

A Great Earthquake
According to Matthew 28:1-15, there is a great earthquake and an angel of the Lord descends from heaven to roll back the stone, not to let Jesus out, but to let the women in when they arrive. Then he sits upon it, making it clear to the Jewish guard and the Roman soldiers that it is not going to be moved again. "His appearance was like lightening, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men." Both the Jewish and Roman guards run away.

When the Women Arrive at the Tomb
At what time did the women arrive at the tomb? Matthew 28:1 says "toward the dawn", Mark 16:2 says "very early...when the sun had risen", Luke 24:1 says "at early dawn", and John 20:1 says "while it was still dark." If John is thinking of Mary Magdalene setting off from Bethany, the translation "went to the tomb early, while it was still dark" would be precisely accurate. It was dark when the women left Bethany. By the time they had walked the 2 miles to Jerusalem and the tomb, dawn arrived. Matthews "toward the dawn" also fits a Bethany departure. The word "went" used by the first three Gospel writers and the word "came" used by John translate the same verb. Either translation is acceptable.

The women arrive at the tomb and see the great stone rolled away. Mary Magdalene concludes that someone has stolen Christ's body and runs to John's house to tell Peter and John. She leaves Mary of Clopas and Salome at the tomb. Mary Magdalene tells Peter and John, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him" (John 20:2). John 20:1 only mentions Mary Magdalene as having visited the tomb, but John knows other women were with her, because she says to them, "...and WE do not know where they have laid Him."

While Mary Magdalene is running to John's house to tell Peter and John that someone has stolen Christ's body, Joanna and Susanna, to help with the anointing, set out from the Hasmonean Palace and reach the garden via the Ephraim gate. Having already been inside the tomb on Friday evening, they don't hesitate to lead Salome and Mary of Clopas into the tomb, where the two angels make themselves visible and deliver their message.

Inside the Tomb
What happens when the women arrive at the tomb is told by Matthew 28:5-7, Mark 16:5-7, and Luke 24:3-8. Taken together, these accounts present independent and non-contradictory information. Luke mentions two angels PRESENT. Matthew and Mark mention one angel SPEAKING. At no time did Matthew or Mark say there was only one angel PRESENT. The angels are so "dazzling" in appearance that the angel in Matthew 28:5 tells them to not be afraid, Mark's speaking angel in 16:6 tells them to "not be amazed", and in Luke 24:4,5 the women are so terrified they bow their faces to the ground.

Luke 24:4 says the two angels "suddenly stood near" the women. This seems to contradict Mark's 16:5 speaking angel as "sitting at the right." But the word in Luke is "ephistemi" means "to appear to, often with the connotation of suddenness." It is entirely in keeping with the behavior of angels in Scripture to appear and disappear at will. For them to have stood and then sat down, in the same conversation, is not unreasonable. They may have been standing when they suddenly appeared to the women, and then sat down to put the women at ease.

So we can imagine the four women against the wall in the cave (Joanna, Susanna, Salome, Mary of Clopas). Suddenly, the darkness is lit up. They see two men in dazzling white, standing near them. The women, fearful, bow their faces to the ground. The angels then sit down on either side where Jesus had lain. The angel sitting on the right side says (putting together the 3 Gospel accounts above),

"Don't you be afraid. I know whom you are seeking -- Jesus the Nazarene, the crucified one. Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here -- He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where they laid Him. Remember how He talked to you when He was in Galilee (Matthew 17:22-23), saying that the Son of man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise. Go quickly, tell his disciples (and Peter) that He is raised from the dead and is going before you into Galilee. You will see Him there, as He said."


1st APPEARANCE (to Mary Magdalene)
According to John 20:1-10, Peter and John (followed shortly by Mary Magdalene) set off "running together" from John's house to the tomb by the Gennarth Gate. John gets to the tomb first, but doesn't go in. Instead, he stoops at the entrance and looks in. He sees the linen wrappings lying on the ground. Peter then arrives and goes right in. He also sees the linen wrappings lying on the ground, and the face-cloth which had been on Christ's head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then John enters the tomb, and "he saw and believed." The Scriptures don't explicitly say what made John believe that Christ had risen, but imply that it had something to do with the collapsed grave cloths. Who would first unwrap a body before taking it?

As they return home, Mary Magdalene lingers behind at the tomb (John 20:11-18). She has her first experience with the angels. Unlike the sudden appearance of the angels to the other women when they were inside the tomb, Mary stoops at the entrance to look into the tomb and sees the angels sitting on either side of where Jesus' body had been lying. The angels ask her why she is weeping. Mary still thinks someone took Jesus body away. Then Mary turns around and sees Jesus, but does not immediately recognize Him. She supposes Him to be the gardener. When Jesus says to her, "Mary," she calls Him Rabboni (which means Teacher) and grabs hold of Him. He tells her not to cling to Him, perhaps to reassure her that she will see Him again before He ascends to His Father. He tells her to "go to My brethren and say to them, 'I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'"
Although this is a passage that is not in the earliest manuscripts of the Bible, Mark 16:9 says that Jesus' first appearance was to Mary Magdalene.

Mary Magdalene returns to John's house to find the other women who have come back from the tomb, following the angel's instructions to go tell Christ's disciples that He is risen and He is going into Galilee. The other nine disciples staying in Bethany must be informed, so presumably two or more agree to go. The likeliest would be the two women who have sons there, Salome, mother of the Apostle James the Elder (Older), and Mary of Clopas, mother of the Apostle James the Younger.

2nd APPEARANCE (The other women, Salome and Mary of Clopas)

According to Matthew 28:8-10, some women set off for (presumably) Bethany to tell the good news to the nine disciples there. Jesus appears to them somewhere on the track between Jerusalem and Bethany, namely the Mount of Olives. They take hold of His feet and worship Him. He tells them to not be afraid, but to tell His brethren to meet Him in Galilee. The Apostles wait 8 days before doing so. John makes it clear that it took the disciples about one week to set off for Galilee (John 20:26). As devout Jews, they remained in Jerusalem to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread. For the six days following Passover, Jews ate unleavened bread and did no servile work.

After Jesus had appeared to these women, they hurried on to Bethany and told the other nine Apostles about having just seen Jesus. Matthew is there, and he later reports in his Gospel (1) how Mary Magdalene and Mary of Clopas left early Sunday morning to go to the tomb, (2) the first encounter the women had with the angels in the tomb, and (3) then Christ appearing to them while they were on their way to Bethany (Matthew 28:1-11). For all 3 situations, Matthew could have obtained eyewitness details from Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Mary of Clopas.

3rd APPEARANCE (To His uncle Clopas and another disciple)
According to Luke 24:13-31, Jesus appeared to two disciples while they were walking to Emmaus, "Cleopas" and an unnamed disciple. There is good evidence to equate Cleopas with Clopas, Jesus' uncle. Cleopas, a shortened form of Cleopatros, is the nearest Greek name to Clopas. Neither Emmaus road disciple recognized Christ at first. However, Cleopas and the other disciple's "eyes were opened and they recognized Him" when Christ "took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them (Luke 24:31,21).

4th APPEARANCE (To the Apostle Peter)
After Jesus had appeared to the women, presumably Salome and Mary of Clopas, they went to tell the nine Apostles in Bethany. Understandably, they were met with unbelief (Mark 16:11). But the nine Apostles, though doubting what these women saw, could not entirely ignore it. Perhaps John's brother, James the Elder, and Peter's brother, Andrew, lead the nine to John's house in Jerusalem to consult with Peter and John about the supposed appearance of Christ to the women. This means that James the Elder would be going to the house of his father and brother, Zebedee and John the Apostle.

According to Luke 24:33, Cleopas and the other disciple then return from Emmaus to Jerusalem to find the eleven Apostles behind locked doors in John Mark's house (John 20:19). They are greeted with the remarkable news that Christ had appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34). Later in I Corinthians 15:5, Paul confirms that Jesus did appear to "Cephas", using Peter's Aramaic name. As to where this meeting occurred, the Gospels are silent.

What is the significance of Christ appearing to Peter alone? In Mark 16:7, the angel tells the women to go tell Christ's disciples "and Peter" about the risen Christ. This private meeting could very well be Jesus showing tender forgiveness to Peter because of his terrible misery for having denied his Lord 3 times on Maundy Thursday evening. Matthew 26:75 says Peter had "wept bitterly." Later, in John 21:15-17, Jesus restores Peter, in the presence of seven of the Apostles, to the position of leader of the eleven with a thrice-repeated charge to feed Jesus' flock.

5th APPEARANCE (To ten of the Apostles, without Judas, who had committed suicide, and without Thomas)
Luke 24:36-43 and John 20:19-24 report Jesus' 1st appearance to the Apostles on Resurrection Sunday, "when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week" (John 20:19). When Luke 24:33 uses the phrase "the eleven" and John 20:24 says "the twelve", these are ways of simply referring to the Apostles as a whole, rather than exact numbers. It seems that before Cleopas finished telling his story, Jesus suddenly appeared to them inside the locked room. He greets them, "Peace be with you." They are startled and frightened, thinking they have seen a ghost. He gently reproaches them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." Jesus then draws aside His garment and shows them His spear wound (John 20:20). But "they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement." (Luke 24:41) So Jesus, to break the tension, asks for something to eat. "They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and He took it and ate it before them." Both Luke and John confirm it was the same Jesus who was crucified that is now risen. He has the same wounds as when He died, and can eat food like before, but He can now pass through walls with a transformed body. Jesus then "opened their minds to understand the Scriptures" that "the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day" and that "repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations." Then Jesus again says to them, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." (John 20:21) He said He would send forth "the promise of My Father upon you (the Holy Spirit)," but they had to wait in the city until (50 days later) they were "clothed with power from on high."

6th APPEARANCE (To eleven Apostles, including Thomas)
John 20:24-29 records Jesus' 2nd appearance to the Apostles, this time including Thomas, who was not with them when Jesus first appeared to them on the evening of Resurrection Sunday. It is now 8 days later, the next Sunday, the Apostles apparently staying in Jerusalem to observe Passover Week. The Apostle Thomas had told the other Apostles "unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." When Jesus appears, He seems to use Thomas' very words as an invitation, "Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing." Thomas answers Him, "My Lord and My God!"Jesus' words seems to mildly rebuke Thomas for not having believed what the witnesses had told him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed."

7th APPEARANCE (To seven of the Apostles: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathaniel of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee James and John, and two others of His disciples)
The Apostles leave Jerusalem, perhaps on the day after (Monday) Jesus appeared to them with Thomas present. They go to Galilee. Jesus had told them on Maundy Thursday He would go to Galilee after He had risen (Matthew 26:32). In Luke 24:7, the angels in the tomb reminded the women that when Jesus was in Galilee, He had foretold His arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection to the Apostles (Matthew 17:22-23). The angels also told the women to go and tell His disciples, "He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you." (Matthew 28:7 and Mark 16:7). And when Jesus appeared to "the other women" (possibly Salome and Mary of Clopas), He told them to "take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me." (Matthew 28:10)

John Chapter 21 tells this story. Peter decided to go fishing on the Sea of Galilee (Tiberias), and six of the other Apostles decided to go with him. They fished all night and caught nothing. When daylight was approaching, they saw a man on the shore, not knowing it was Jesus. He told them to cast their net on the right side of their boat. They did, and the net was so full they couldn't haul it into the boat. Just then Peter said, "It is the Lord" and he jumped into the water. What made Peter recognize Jesus at this point? At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus had told Peter to let down his net "for a catch" (Luke 5:1-11) after Peter had fished all night and caught nothing. Afterwards, Peter, James, and John "left everything" to follow Christ, who told them, "from now on you will be catching men."

Now, after Peter jumps into the water, the other disciples, who are 100 yards from shore, bring their boat in, and the net loaded with 153 fish. Jesus tells them to bring some of their fish, place them on a charcoal fire, and have breakfast. By this time, the other six Apostles recognized Jesus.

8th APPEARANCE (To more than 500 brethren at one time)
In I Corinthians 15:6, the Apostle Paul says that Jesus appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time. This is the meeting described by Matthew 28:16-20 in which "the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshipped Him, but some were doubtful." The phrase "but some were doubtful" does not refer to the eleven Apostles, but to others present. We know this because Matthew is one of the eleven Apostles, and he was present the first two times Jesus appeared to the Apostles in the Upper Room. He therefore knows that all of the other Apostles came to believe that Jesus had risen, so he would not be saying now that some of the Apostles were doubtful.

This meeting on the mountain in Galilee would have been arranged quietly so as not to arouse suspicion of the neighbors or King Herod's agents. Putting Paul's words in I Corinthians 15:6 together with Matthew 28:17, Jesus appears on the mountain in Galilee to the eleven Apostles, more than 500 believers, and some who were doubtful. The importance of this mission was for Jesus to commission the witnesses to the risen Christ to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations."

9th APPEARANCE (To James, the Lord's brother)
The Apostle Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15:7 that Jesus appeared to James, His brother. This meeting took place after Jesus' meeting with the 500 brethren and before Ascension Day. James was probably the oldest of Jesus' four half-brothers, being the first one named in Matthew 13:55 (James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas). Why did Jesus appear privately to James? We know that before Christ's resurrection, James, like his other three brothers, did not believe in Him (John 7:5; Mark 3:21). But after Christ's Ascension, James and his three brothers did believe (Acts 1:14). In fact, ten years after Jesus appeared to James, James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem, tradition says, appointed by the Lord Himself and the Apostles (according to the first church historian, Eusebius, in 7:19). So Jesus' appearance to James must have been a very personal affair. After the resurrection, James must have grieved growing up with Jesus and not believing in Him. Jesus forgave him, and restored him for eventual leadership in the Jerusalem church. The change brought about in him was so complete that James referred to himself as "a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" (James 1:1).

10th APPEARANCE -- CHRIST'S ASCENSION (To the eleven Apostles)
Christ's final appearance occurs to His eleven Apostles, as recorded by Paul in I Corinthians 15:7, Mark 16:15-20, Luke 24:44-53, and Acts 1:1-14. The Apostles were gathered in the Upper Room in Mark's house (Luke 24:33 and 49). Jesus appears to them there. He reminds them that His suffering, death, and resurrection had been predicted. "All things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Now, "repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47). Christ commands them to stay in the city until they are "clothed with power from on high (the Holy Spirit)" (Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:4). He then leads them out of the city on the same route they took on Maundy Thursday, the night of the Last Supper. To escape notice by the authorities, it was probably very early morning. Jesus had therefore talked with them all night. They walked through the city gate, down into the Kidron valley, past the Garden of Gethsemane, and up to the Mount of Olives. Acts 1:12 says that the Ascension occurred on Mount Olivet, the eastern slope between Jerusalem and Bethany, about "a Sabbath day's journey away" from Jerusalem, or 3/5 to 3/4 of a mile.

In Jesus' final words to His eleven Apostles, He tells them not to be preoccupied with when future events would happen, but to wait and receive the Holy Spirit, Who would empower them to be Christ's witnesses "in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." (Act 1:8). "Jesus lifted up His hands and blessed them (Luke 24:50). After He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight" (Acts 1:9). "And they, after worshipping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God" (Luke 24: 52,53).

Forty days had passed since Christ rose from the dead (Acts 1:3). During that time, Christ appeared to Peter (6 times); John, James, Nathaniel/Bartholomew (5 times); Thomas and the other Apostles (4 times); the inner circle of women (twice); Cleopas, Jesus' uncle (twice); the companion of Cleopas (twice); James, the Lord's brother (once or twice); and more than 500 brethren (once).

October 18, 2010

John Wenham is the highly-respected scholar of New Testament (Koiné) Greek who authored the second edition of "The Elements of New Testament Greek", which was published in 1965 and was used for at least the next forty years as the principal teaching book in many countries around the world for students of NT Greek. His familiarity with the original texts and his authority in interpreting linguistic questions is therefore unchallengeable.

Wenham is reported to have lived in Jerusalem in 1945, and he demonstrates a clear understanding of the locations (and alleged locations) of the main sites of relevance to the passion, crucifixion, burial and resurrection appearances of Christ both within Jerusalem and in the surrounding area.

These two facts placed him in an excellent position to analyse the accounts and present a harmonisation of them. Wenham argues cogently for the reliability of the texts that we now have. In bringing all the accounts together into one time-line, his point of departure is that each author principally told only those parts of the story that he had personally experienced or that were relevant to his audience.

Wenham's writing is authoritative yet easy to read. Where supporting arguments are based on conjecture, he says so and indicates the importance or otherwise of such conjecture with regard to the chronology at that point.

I believe that he is in error ( in chapter 2) in identifying Luke's "sinful woman" (8:36-50) with Mary of Bethany (the sister of Martha and Lazarus), and Mary of Bethany with Mary of Magdala, but to his credit he also presents the evidence that undermines his assumption, and he admits that "this identification is in no way essential to the harmonization of the narratives".

The book contains a series of maps or plans that illustrate the locations and help to clarify the movements of the people involved.

In spite of my reservations on the one point indicated above, I consider this to be an extremely helpful guide to the sequence of events covered by the New Testament texts. The chronology presented is probably at very least extremely close to the original sequence of events. This fascinating book has increased my understanding of what happened when, and I recommend it to anyone one interested in this topic.

Mar artículos de la armonía de John Wenham en pdf:

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viernes, 17 de mayo de 2019

La armonía de las apariciones de Jesús después de resucitar según Gleason Archer

Do not the many discrepancies in the four Resurrection narratives cast doubt on the historicity of the Resurrection itself?

Each of the four Evangelists contributes valuable details concerning the events of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Not all these distinctive items of information are contained in all four Gospels; some are contained only in one or two. But nothing could be clearer than that all four were testifying to the same epoch-making event, that the same Jesus who was crucified on Good Friday rose again in His crucified body on Easter Sunday morning. The very fact that each of the four writers contributed individual details from his own perspective and emphasis furnishes the most compelling type of evidence possible for the historicity of Christ's conquest over death and the grave. A careful examination of these four records in comparison with one another demonstrates that they are not in any way contradictory, despite the charges leveled by some critics. It is helpful to synthesize all four accounts in order to arrive at a full picture of what took place on Easter itself and during the weeks that intervened until the ascension of Christ.

The Women's First Visit to the Tomb

On Saturday evening three of the women decided to go back to the tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea, where they had seen Christ's body laid away on Friday at sundown. They wanted to rewrap His corpse with additional spices, beyond those which Nicodemus and Joseph had already used on Friday. There were three women involved (Mark 16:1): Mary Magdalene, Mary the wife (or mother) of James, and Salome (Luke does not give their names; Matthew refers only to the two Marys); and they had bought the additional spices with their own means (Mark 16:1). They apparently started their journey from the house in Jerusalem while it was still dark (skotias eti ouses), even though it was already early morning (proi) (John 20:1). But by the time they arrived, dawn was glimmering in the east (te epiphoskouse) that Sunday morning (eis mian sabbaton) (Matt. 28:1). (Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1, John 20:1 all use the dative: te mia ton sabbaton.) Mark 16:2 adds that the tip of the sun had actually appeared above the horizon (anateilantos tou heliou--aorist participle; the Beza codex uses the present participle, anatellontos, implying "while the sun was rising").
It may have been while they were on their way to the tomb outside the city wall that the earthquake took place, by means of which the angel of the Lord rolled away the great circular stone that had sealed the entrance of the tomb. So blinding was his glorious appearance that the guards specially assigned to the tomb were completely terrified and swooned away, losing all consciousness (Matt. 28:2-4). The earthquake could hardly have been very extensive; the women seemed to be unaware of its occurrence, whether it happened before they left Jerusalem or while they were walking toward their destination. There is no evidence that it damaged anything it the city itself. But it was sufficient to break the seal placed over the circular stone at the time of interment and roll the stone itself away from its settled position in the downward slanting groove along which it rolled.
The three women were delightfully surprised to find their problem of access to the tomb solved; the stone had already been rolled away (Mark 16:3-4)! They then entered the tomb, side-stepping the unconscious soldiers. In the tomb they made out the form of the leading angel, appearing as a young man with blazing white garments (Mark 16:5), who, however, may not have shown himself to them until they first discovered that the corpse was gone (Luke 24:2-3). But then it became apparent that this angel had a companion, for there were two of them in the tomb. The leading angel spoke to them with words of encouragement, "Don't be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified" (Matt. 28:5). Nevertheless they were quite terrified at the splendor of these heavenly visitors and by the amazing disappearance of the body they had expected to find in the tomb.

The angel went on: "Why do you seek the living among [lit., `with'-- meta with the genitive] those who are dead? He is not here, but He has risen [Luke 24:5-6], just as He said [Matt. 28:6]. Look at the place where they laid Him [Mark 16:6], the place where He was lying [Matt. 28:6]. Remember how He told you when He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man had to be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, crucified, and rise again on the third day" (Luke 24:6-7).
After the angel had said this, the women in fact did remember Christ's prediction (especially at Caesarea Philippi); and they were greatly encouraged. Then the angel concluded with this command: "Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead!" Then he added: "Behold, He goes before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Lo, I have told you" (Matt. 28:7). Upon receiving these wonderful tidings, the three delighted messengers set out in haste to rejoin the group of sorrowing believers back in the city (possibly in the home of John Mark) and pass on to them the electrifying news. They did not pause to inform anyone else as they hurried back (Mark 16:8), partly because they were fearful and shaken by their encounter at the empty tomb. But in their eagerness to deliver their tidings, they actually ran back to the house (Matt. 28:8) and made their happy announcement to the disciples who were gathered there.
Mary Magdalene took pains to seek out Peter and John first of all; and she breathlessly blurted out to them, "They have taken the Lord away from the tomb, and we don't know where they have laid Him!" (John 20:2). She apparently had not yet taken in the full import of what the angel meant when he told her that the Lord had risen again and that He was alive. In her confusion and amazement, all she could think of was that the body was not there; and she did not know what had become of it. Where could that body now be? It was for this reason that she wanted Peter and John to go back there and see what they could find out.

Peter and John at the Tomb

The synoptic Gospels do not mention this episode, but it was extremely important to John, who therefore took pains to record it in detail. As the two men got closer to Joseph's tomb, they began to run in their eagerness to get there and see what had happened (John 20:3-4). John arrived there first, being no doubt younger and faster than Peter. Yet it turned out that he was not as perceptive as Peter, for all John did when he got to the entrance was stoop down and look into the tomb, where he saw the shroud, or winding sheet, of Jesus lying on the floor (v.5). But Peter was a bit bolder and more curious; he went inside the chamber and found it indeed empty. Then he looked intently at the winding sheet, because it way lying in a very unusual position. Instead of being spread out in a long, jumbled strip, it was still all wrapped together in one spot (entetyligmenon eis hena topon). Moreover, the soudarion ("long kerchief") that had been wound around the head of Jesus was unwound and tossed on the shroud but was still wrapped together and lying right above it (vv. 6-7).
In other words, no one had removed the graveclothes from the corpse in the usual way; it was as if the body had simply passed right out of the headcloth and shroud and left them empty! This was such a remarkable feature that Peter called John back and pointed out to him. All of a sudden it dawned on the younger man that no one had removed the body from that tomb. The body had simply left the tomb and left the graveclothes on its own power, passing through all those layers of cloth without unwrapping them at all! Then John was utterly convinced: Jesus had not been removed by other hands; He had raised Himself from the dead. That could only mean He was alive again. John and Peter decided to hurry back and report to the others this astounding evidence that Jesus had indeed conquered death and was alive once more.

The Private Interviews With the Women and With Peter

For some reason, Peter and John did not tell Mary Magdalene about what they had deduced before they left. Perhaps they did not even realize that she had followed along behind them at her slower pace. In fact, she may not have gotten back to the tomb until they had already left. She arrived all alone, but she did not immediately reenter until she had paused to weep for a little while. Then she stooped down once more to look through her tear-stained eyes into the tomb (John 20:11). To her astonishment it was ablaze with light; and there she beheld two angels in splendid white robes, sitting at each end of the place where Jesus had lain (v.12). Immediately they--the very same pair that had spoken to the three women at their earlier visit--asked her wonderingly, "Why are you crying?" Had she not understood the glorious news they had told her the first time? But all Mary could think about was the disappearance of Christ's body. "They have taken my Lord away, and I don't know where they have laid Him," she lamented. To this the angels did not need to give any answer, for they could see the figure of Jesus standing behind her; and they knew His response would be better than anything they could say.
Mary could sense that someone else had joined her, and so she quickly turned around and tried to make out through her tear-blurred eyes who this stranger might be. It wasn't one of her own group, she decided; so it had to be the gardener who cared for this burial ground of Joseph of Arimathea. Even when He spoke to her, Mary did not at first recognize Jesus' voice, as He kindly asked her, "Woman, why are you crying? Whom are you looking for?" (v.15). All she could do was wail at Him accusingly, "Sir, if it is you who have taken Him away, tell me where you have laid Him; and I will carry Him off"--as if somehow her womanly strength would be equal to such a task.
It was at this point that the kindly stranger revealed Himself to Mary by reverting to His familiar voice as He addressed her by name, "Mariam!" Immediately she realized that the body she was looking for stood right before her, no longer a corpse but now a living, breathing human being--and yet more than that, the incarnate God. "Rabbouni!" she exclaimed (that is to say, "Master!") and cast herself at His feet. It was only for a brief moment that she touched Him; for He gently withdrew Himself from her, saying, "Don't keep touching Me [the negative imperative me mou haptou implies discontinuance of an action already begun], for I have not yet ascended to My Father." Whether He did so later that afternoon and then returned afterward to speak to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and the rest of the group back in Jerusalem that evening is not altogether clear. But if Mary was asked not to touch Him at this point in the day and the disciples were freely permitted to touch Him that evening, it must be inferred that He did report briefly back to God the Father in heaven before returning to earth once more for His postresurrection forty-day ministry.
This private interview with the risen Lord did not continue much longer, so far as Mary was concerned; for He commissioned her to hurry back to the group in the city and prepare them for His coming to join them in His resurrection body. "Go to My brethren" He said, "and tell them I am going up to My Father and your Father, My God and your God" (John 20:17). This definitely confirms the deduction that Christ did in fact make a brief visit to heaven during the middle of Easter Sunday before reappearing to Cleopas and his companion on the Emmaus road.
Nevertheless Jesus did not make His ascent to heaven at this precise moment, for He waited around long enough to meet with the other two women who had earlier accompanied Magdalene to the tomb at daybreak. Apparently Mary the mother (or wife) of James, and Salome with her, had decided to go back once more to visit the empty tomb. Presumably they noticed that Mary Magdalene had slipped away again after conferring with Peter and John, and they must have guessed where she had gone. Very soon after Magdalene had left Jesus and headed back toward the city (but not so soon that they actually met one another on the way), the two women drew near to the same spot where they had encountered the two angels on their first visit (Luke 24:4).
We are not told whether the women actually entered the tomb once again, or whether they met Jesus just outside; but at any rate He apparently accosted them after they had arrived, and He greeted them (Matt. 28:9). (The Greek chairete here probably represents either the Hebrew salom or the Aramaic se lama'. Literally the Greek means "Rejoice!" Whereas the Hebrew means "Peace!") Their reaction at seeing their risen Lord was similar to Magdalene's; they cast themselves at His feet and kissed them as they clung to Him. Jesus reassured them as they were adjusting to the shock of seeing Him alive again, "Don't be afraid." Then He continued with a mandate similar to the one He had given to Magdalene: "Go and pass on the word [apangeilate] to My brethren that they are to depart for Galilee, and there they will see Me."
It is highly significant that our Lord first revealed Himself in His resurrection body, not to the men, the eleven disciples themselves, but rather to three of the women among the group of believers. Apparently He found that they were even readier in their spiritual perception than the eleven men of His inner circle, on whom He had spent so much of His time during the three years of His teaching ministry. Be that as it may, it seems quite clear that Jesus chose to honor the women with His very first postresurrection appearances before He revealed Himself to any of the men--even to Peter himself.
Yet we must gather that Peter was the first of the male disciples to see his Lord alive after the Resurrection; for at some time after Mary Magdalene came back from her second visit to the tomb and her confrontation with Jesus there, Simon Peter must have had a personal reunion with Jesus. This we learn from Luke 24:34, where we are told that the disciples in the house of John Mark in Jerusalem had learned from Peter that he had already seen Jesus and had talked with Him, even before the two travelers returned from their journey toward Emmaus and reported back that they had broken bread with Jesus at the inn. They found as they came back with their exciting news and expected everyone there to be surprised at their account of talking with the risen Lord that the rest of the group were already aware of the stupendous event. The two travelers were delighted to meet with ready acceptance by all who heard them, for they were assured by all their friends, "Yes, yes, we know that Jesus is alive and has returned to us; for He has appeared to Simon Peter as well" (Luke 24:34). Presumably they were already aware (cf. v.22) of the earlier interviews reported to them by Mary Magdalene (who told them, "I have seen the Lord," and then relayed His announcement about ascending to the Father in heaven; cf. John 20:18) and by the other Mary and her companion, Salome, who had passed on His instructions about the important rendezvous to be held up in Galilee.
As for this personal interview between Christ and Peter, we have no further information; so we cannot be certain as to whether it was before or after His ascension to the Father and His subsequent return in the afternoon of Easter Sunday. All we can be sure of (and even this is perhaps arguable) is that He talked with Peter before He met with Cleopas and the other disciple on the road to Emmaus. It is interesting to note that Paul confirms that Christ did in fact appear to Peter before He revealed Himself to the rest of the Eleven (1 Cor. 15:5).

The Interview With the Disciples on the Way to Emmaus

The next major development on that first Easter Sunday involved two disciples who were not of the Eleven (the number to which they were reduced after the defection of Judas Iscariot). Cleopas was relatively undistinguished among the outer circle of Jesus' following; at least he is hardly mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament record. As for his companion, we are never even told what his name was, even though he shared in the distinction of being the first to walk with Christ after His resurrection. Jesus apparently chose these two disciples outside the circle of the Eleven in order to make it clear to all of His church that He was equally available or accessible to all believers who would put their trust in Him as Lord and Savior, whether or not they belonged to any special circle or had come to know Him at an earlier or a later date. Perhaps He also felt that for their future testimony to the world--that they had become convinced of His bodily resurrection even in the face of their initial assumption that He was already dead and gone--such a manifestation would be of special helpfulness to future generations.
One thing is certain: a true believer does not have to belong to the original band of chosen apostles in order to experience a complete transformation of life and the embracing of a new understanding that life with Jesus endures forever, in spite of all the adversities of this life and the malignity of Satan and the terrors of the grave. The Emmaus travelers replied, "Did not our hearts glow within us on the way and as He opened the Scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32). They thus became the first example of what it means to walk with Jesus in living fellowship and hear Him speak from every part of the Hebrew Scriptures.

This account is contained only in the Gospel of Luke, that Evangelist who took such special interest in the warm and tender personal relationships that Jesus cultivated with individual believers, both male and female. We may be very grateful to him (and the Holy Spirit who guided him) that this heart-stirring record was included in the testimonies of Jesus' resurrection; for this encounter more fully than the others shows how life may be transformed from discouragement and disappointed hope into a richly satisfying and fruitful walk of faith with a wonderful Savior who has conquered sin and death for all who put their trust in Him.
One interesting feature about this interview deserves comment. As in the case of Mary Magdalene, Jesus did not appear to the Emmaus travelers at the first with His customary form, features, or voice; and they failed to recognize His identity. They took Him for a stranger who was new to Jerusalem (Luke 24:18). It was not until after He had taught them how the Old Testament had clearly foretold how Messiah would first have to suffer before entering into His glory--and indeed not until after they had sat down for a bite to eat at some roadside cafe and heard Him give thanks to God for the food--that they realized who He was. And then, at the moment of recognition, He suddenly left them, vanishing from their sight. This sudden disappearance showed them that this new friend of theirs, who had flesh and bones and could use His hands to break bread with them, was a supernatural Being. He was the God-man who had triumphed over death and had risen from the grave to resume His bodily form, a marvelous new body with power to appear and disappear according to His will and purpose, as He saw fit.
As soon as Jesus had left them, the two wayfarers sped back to Jerusalem as fast as their legs could carry them. They lost no time in making their way to the assembled believers and sharing with them the electrifying news of their lengthy encounter with the risen Lord. "And they began to relate their experiences on the road, and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread."

The Interviews With the Assembled Disciples

Luke tells us that while the Emmaus travelers were finishing their report the assembled believers, the Lord Himself entered through the locked doors and appeared in their midst (Luke 24:36), much to the amazement of all those who had not previously seen Him risen from the dead. Graciously He greeted them with His customary "Peace be with you" (the Greek eirene hymin doubtless represents the Aramaic selama' `ammekon [John 20:19]). Then He hastened to allay their fears by showing them physical evidence of His bodily resurrection and restoration to life. "Why are you troubled and why do doubts arise in your heart?" He asked (Luke 24:38), as He held out His pierced hands for them to see and removed His sandals to show the nail holes through His feet (vv. 39-40). He even uncovered the scar of the gash that the Roman spear had made in His side as He hung lifeless on the cross (John 20:20). "Look at My hands and feet," He said to them, "for it is really I. Feel Me and see, for a mere spirit does not have flesh and bones such as you behold Me to have" (Luke 24:39).

How many took advantage of Christ's offer to touch Him, we cannot be sure. But numbers of those in the room found even this evidence too amazing to be believed; so He offered a yet more dramatic proof. "Do you have anything to eat?" He asked them. They gave Him a piece of broiled fish, and He proceeded to eat it as they looked on with wonder and delight (Luke 24:42-43).
Having thus demonstrated that He was none other than their beloved Master risen from the dead, Jesus proceeded to explain to them, as He had explained to the two on the road to Emmaus, that all the amazing occurrences of Passion Week were fully predicted in the Hebrew Scriptures--all the way from Genesis to Malachi. The portions referred to were threefold: Moses (i.e., the Pentateuch), the Prophets, and the Psalms. (Notice that by this period all the Old Testament books other than the Pentateuch and the Psalms were included under the classification of "Prophets"--including all the books of history, Daniel, and probably the wisdom books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes as well, unless "Psalms" is intended to represent all five books of Poetry.) The entire Hebrew Bible is about the Son of God. But His particular focus was on those predictions of His ministry, sufferings, and death found in the Pentateuch (Gen. 3:15; 49:10; Deut. 18:15-18, and all the types of priesthood and sacrifice contained in the Torah), the Prophets (e.g., Isa. 7:14-9:6; 52:13-53:12), and the Psalms (esp. Ps. 16:10 and Ps. 22), which foretold all the events that found their culmination on this Easter Day (Luke 24:44-46). Thus He assured them that all the apparently tragic events of the last few days were in exact fulfillment of the great plan of human redemption that God had decreed from before the beginning of all time. Instead of feeling intimidated and disappointed by the shame of the Cross, they were to see in it the greatest victory of all time; and they were to trumpet abroad the good news of salvation, which by His atonement He had purchased for repentant sinners everywhere.
This led Jesus quite naturally to the earliest pronouncement of the Great Commission. He told the disciples that repentance was to be preached in His name to all nations for the forgiveness of sins, beginning from Jerusalem, and that they as eyewitnesses were under special obligation to carry out the proclamation of this message. But He recognized that in order to accomplish this mission effectively, they would need divine empowerment, the special dynamic that God had promised in His Work (cf. Joel 2:28-29). Then He concluded His exhortation with this formula of evangelistic commission: "As the Father has sent Me, so do I send you." Having said this, He breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22). Even in advance of the general bestowal of the Holy Spirit on the entire church at Pentecost, these apostles received Him as their permanently indwelling, sanctifying power. As temples for His residence, the apostles were entrusted with the awesome responsibility of conveying to the human race the knowledge of the Lord Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, without whom no one can come to God for salvation (John 14:6).
As prophets of God, therefore, preachers and missionaries of the gospel, empowered and used by the Holy Spirit, were to make available to lost sinners everywhere the benefits of Calvary. But since man cannot believe the gospel until it has been presented to him, the availability of God's forgiveness through Christ is practically limited to those evangelized by the faithful witness of His servants. In this sense, then, "if you forgive the sins [aphete tas hamartias] of any"--that is, by presenting them with Christ-- "they have been forgiven them" (John 20:23, NASB). That is to say, they have been numbered among God's elect according to His foreknowledge and elective grace (the Greek perfect passive apheontai so implies); and through the agency of God's messengers of the gospel, they enter the ranks of the forgiven and redeemed. By the same token, however, those who remain unevangelized have no access to this forgiveness and salvation; and failure to get out the message to them seals their eternal doom. "If you retain the sins of any, they have been retained" (by God Himself, in His predestinative will), NASB. Christ had spoken of this solemn responsibility earlier, at the time of Peter's confession of His messiahship; and there Jesus had symbolized it as the "power of the keys" (Matt. 16:19). It was at Pentecost, by his heart-stirring and conscience-piercing message, that Peter first used the power of the keys. With them he opened up the gateway to heaven to all the three thousand who believed.
John records that of the Eleven, there was just one who was not present. Thomas (whose Greek name was Didymus-- "Twin"). Perhaps it was providential that he had been absent during the initial meeting of the church with the resurrected Christ, for he might later have wondered whether he had not been unduly swayed in his critical judgment by the contagion of the enthusiasm of the others. Thomas was one who insisted on concrete, objective proof before he could be intellectually convinced. He had to be convinced almost against his will, for he firmly believed that once a man was dead, that was the end. How could a buried corpse ever come to life again? An impossible, absurd notion if he had ever heard one! Therefore he would not lend credence to the most solemn protestations of his trusted fellow disciples, that they had actually seen and talked with their resurrected Lord (John 20:25). Surely they must have fallen victim to mere hallucination!
No one could ever expect Thomas to believe in anything so contrary to nature. Yet it was exactly one week later, on the Sunday following Easter, that Jesus appeared to the group for the second time (cf. John 21:14). This time Thomas was present, that stubborn skeptic who had declared, "Unless I see the print of the nails in His hands and put my finger into the place of the nails and put my hand into His side [i.e., where the spear had entered His chest], I will not believe" (John 20:25). As Jesus entered the room, again passing through the closed doors, He gave them the same general greeting as before: "Peace be unto you." Then He went up to Thomas and stood before him, saying, "Reach here your finger and look at My hands, and reach your hand here and put it into My side; and be not faithless but believing."
The very type of proof Thomas had demanded was now presented to him in a way that could admit of no other explanation: the same body that had been crucified on the cross now stood alive before him. All of sudden, as Thomas touched the scar and nail prints with his hands, all of his hard-headed skepticism seemed foolish and unworthy. All he could do was fall to his knees in repentance and adoration as he exclaimed, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28).

We now pass to the third interview between Christ and His apostles subsequent to the Resurrection. By this time the disciples had left Jerusalem and had gone up to Galilee to keep their rendezvous with Him as He had bidden them (Matt. 28:10; Mark 16:7). This was a much less formal occasion, and only five of them were present--on the fishing expedition at least (Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, and John). It was Peter's idea to go fishing, for might help to relieve some of the tension of waiting for the Lord to appear to them. There is no good reason to infer, as some have done, that Peter was intending to leave his apostolic calling and go back to his old job as a fisherman. Even in our own day many a full-time pastor occasionally relaxes by following Peter's example. From Peter's scanty attire (John 21:7), we gather that it was a hot summer night; and may have been hard to sleep. At any rate, they all went out with Peter and caught absolutely nothing.
Finally, as the dawn mist came on them, they made out the form of a bystander greeting them from the shore. "Children," He called out to them, "You don't have anything to eat, have you?" "No", they answered Him. "Well then," the stranger shouted, "throw your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you will have catch!" This seemed very unlikely, but they complied nevertheless. Immediately the net ropes began to jerk and pull about this way and that, and it seemed as if they had run into a whole school of unwary fish. John immediately recognized that this was a special work of God; only Jesus could turn such dismal failure into thrilling success. "It is the Lord," he exclaimed.
The rest of the story is so well known, it is unnecessary to repeat it all here. But the important feature about the incident so far as John was concerned--and he makes it the final item in his gospel--was the correlation between love and service. "Simon, if you love Me, feed My sheep." Love for Jesus was absolutely foundational. Jesus compelled Peter to reaffirm his love for Him three times--corresponding to the number of times he had denied Him in the palace of the high priest. Nothing Peter might do for the Lord would satisfy or please Him unless it was based on an all-consuming personal affection and commitment to Him, in sincere fulfillment of the first and great commandment. But if that love was real, it had to express itself in loving outreach to all of God's people: Christ's lambs and sheep (both children and adults). In Peter's case, at least, Peter's faithfulness to Jesus would some day mean his death on the scaffold or cross (John 21:18-19). As a lover of Christ, Peter also would have to be willing to lay down his life for his "friends."
There may have been numerous other times of fellowship between Christ and His apostles during the remainder of the forty-day period between the Easter resurrection and the ascension of our Lord to heaven recorded in Acts 1:9 Luke simply indicates that Jesus was repeatedly seen (optanomenos) by His disciples over a period of forty days, and He taught them "concerning the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3). But the record of the Galilean retreat closes with a large assembly of Christ's followers--quite possibly the gathering included more than five hundred at that time (cf. 1 Cor. 15:6)--on some mountain in Galilee (Matt. 28:16), which though unnamed may have been Tabor, the highest and most impressive hill in Galilee. There Jesus issued a stirring appeal for lives devoted to evangelism. He assured His disciples that the Father had committed to Him as the risen Messiah all authority (pasa exousia) in heaven and on earth; and even after His ascension to Glory, He would be with them always, to the very consummation of the age (Matt. 28:20). Their responsibility would be to go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Triune God, and teaching them to observe all of His commandments. Matthew 28:19-20 gives us the fullest form of the Great Commission.
The final day of Christ's postresurrection ministry did not take place in Galilee. That may have been the site of the largest assembly of His followers, as we have just seen; but His actual departure was from the crest of the Mount of Olives, not far from Bethany. There was something especially fitting that this should be the point of His departure, since from the prophecy in Zechariah 14:4 we know that the Mount of Olives will be the place of His return in the day of Armageddon. As He sets His foot down there, a mighty earthquake will split the hill of Olivet into a broad valley running from west to east.
We have no way of knowing how many of Jesus' disciples gathered on the summit of Olivet for that last memorable interview with their Lord, on His final day of earthy ministry. Perhaps there were about 120 there, judging from the statement in Acts 1:15. It is conceivable that the "over five hundred brethren at once" (1 Cor. 15:6) were there rather than up in Galilee. Matthew 28:16 only mentions the Eleven as being certainly of that number; yet the Eleven may have simply been a core group, and a great many more may have gathered around them. On the other hand, if there were over 500 assembled at Olivet on Ascension Day, it is unlikely that 380 of them would have disregarded Christ' solemn instructions and would have failed to tarry for the specified ten days until Pentecost (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4), when the Spirit would descend from heaven on them.
As the disciples gathered about Jesus to take their leave of Him before His departure to heaven, they asked Him one question of pressing importance: Will the kingdom of God very soon be established on earth? They were anxious to know what their Lord's plan was for the triumph of His cause and establishment of His sovereignty over all the earth. In response to this question, Jesus does not correct their underlying premise--that He some day will establish the kingdom of God on earth--but indicates that there will be intervening times and seasons in phraseology reminiscent of the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:5-14), with its clear indication that much would have to happen before the present age would draw to its close. It was unnecessary and inappropriate for them to know about the exact date of the Second Advent; their task was simply to carry out the Great Commission and spread the gospel to the very ends of the earth (Acts 1:7-8).
As His final gesture there on the hilltop near Bethany, our Lord lifted His hands to bless His disciples (Luke 24:50); and in that attitude He was suddenly lifted up from the ground, to disappear from their sight beyond the clouds. As they stood there looking up, transfixed with wonder, two angels suddenly appeared beside them (perhaps the same angels who had greeted the visitors to the empty tomb) and assured them that Jesus would some day return to earth in bodily form--in the same form as they had seen Him ascend to heaven. With this glad assurance ringing in their ears, they made their way down from Olivet in order to spend the next ten days in communion and prayer, until the outpouring of Christ's Holy Spirit came on them all at Pentecost.


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