I find it sad that whilst so many Christians are convinced of their salvation – that their sins are forgiven – many do not seem to experience a living relationship with their Saviour. The resurrection appearances of Jesus are recorded in Scripture not simply to show that he rose from the dead but to illustrate the nature of the relationship we can all have with him and, because we are all different, that relationship will be unique for each one of us. Consider how diverse they are.
Mary was devoted to Jesus; by the way he had treated her he had given her a sense of self-worth, self-respect. When he died she was inconsolable. He revealed himself to her by speaking her name, ‘Mary’. No explanations, just her name; you cannot get more personal than that. Spontaneously, she went to hug him but he had to stop her and reveal that from now on the relationship would be different – but it was a relationship nonetheless.
The two on the road to Emmaus had a different need; theirs was a more rational approach. They were looking for a champion of their nation – the expected Messiah. They had hoped that Jesus was the one, but his suffering and defeat on the cross had ended that hope. So, for them, Jesus goes through the Jewish Scriptures to show that the Messiah was destined to be a suffering servant. Even so, it was more than an academic exercise, they found their hearts quickening as he spoke and begged him to stay the evening with them; they had entered into a relationship with him.
With regard to Peter, I have always thought he must have been near to suicide; what was the point of going on living now? Not only had the three most wonderful years of his life come to a brutal end, he had failed his greatest friend. Worse, he had actually boasted that that was a thing he would never do – even if all the others did, he wouldn’t. What is more, he could never tell Jesus he was sorry. He would have to live the rest of his days bearing that burden. I believe that the risen Jesus had such compassion for Peter that he could not leave him in such distress. We are told nothing of the content of that meeting, only “The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” We can only guess what must have passed between them and wonder at the relationship.
On the evening of the first Easter Day, Jesus appeared to all of his disciples with the exception of Thomas. Their reaction was the exact opposite of Mary’s; she assumed that everything would continue as before, they thought they were seeing a ghost! So he had to show them that he was real and he ate some food in front of them.
Perhaps the most remarkable appearance was to Thomas. He refused to accept the testimony of the other disciples and stipulated that unless he saw the nail marks in the hands of Jesus, put his fingers where the nails were and thrust his hand into his side, he wouldn’t believe. A week later, when Thomas was together with the others, Jesus appeared again and spoke directly to him, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side,” fulfilling exactly the conditions Thomas had laid down. Personally, I don’t believe Thomas took up the offer – he didn’t need to. What convinced him was that although Jesus was not physically present when he made his stipulations, he was aware of every word.
Each of us, like each of the resurrection appearances, is unique and Jesus desires to have a relationship which is just right for us individually.