Jesus’ Appearances to the Apostles
According to the Bible, Mary Magdalene, the women, and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus were not the only people to whom the risen Jesus appeared after the resurrection. He also appeared to several of the apostles at various different times.
To Ten of the Apostles
On Sunday evening, all of the apostles except for Judas (who had killed himself) and Thomas were hiding because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Jesus suddenly appeared among them, saying, “Peace be with you” (Luke 24:36; John 20:19). Naturally, this scared them, too, but Jesus reassured them and showed them the wounds and scars in his wrists, feet, and side. He invited them to touch him and he ate fish with them. The apostles were overjoyed (John 20:20).
The sudden appearance didn't mean that Jesus had his resurrection body like Christians believe they will receive at the second coming, only that Jesus miraculously appeared behind closed doors. He received his physical resurrection body at his ascension. Appearing behind locked doors is in the category of the miraculous, like feeding the 5,000, walking on water, etc. Jesus appeared in the very same physical body in order to give proof that he had indeed physically risen from the dead.
Jesus repeated his greeting, “Peace be with you” to his apostles (John 20:21). This peace strengthened the disciples when they, who no longer belonged to this world, would willingly go out into the world to share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.
When the ten apostles later told Thomas, also called Didymus, or Twin, that Jesus had appeared to them, he refused to believe them. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands,” he said, “and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it” (John 20:25).
To Eleven of the Apostles
A week later, the Bible says, Jesus appeared in the same locked room and greeted the apostles once more with “Peace be with you” (John 20:26). This time, Thomas was with the others and Jesus invited him to touch his wounds, to “stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27). Thomas didn't need to take Jesus up on his offer, though. Seeing Jesus alive was enough for him to believe (John 20:28). Jesus pronounced a blessing on Thomas for believing and also on those who believe in Jesus without seeing him (John 20:29; 1 Peter 1:8–9).
Look in the Book
Some critics state that no one ever called Jesus “God.” But the Gospel of John says that the apostle “Thomas said to him [Jesus], ‘My Lord and my God’“ (John 20:38). Others beside Thomas also referred to Jesus as God. Even Jesus called himself God and the titles that were only reserved for God.
Jesus summarized his instructions to the eleven apostles, saying, “This is what I told you while I was still with you; Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44). Jesus “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45). The eleven apostles were told to stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came (Luke 24:49).
To Seven of the Apostles
The third time Jesus appeared to the disciples, they were by the Sea of Tiberius (John 21:1–25). The Bible says the apostle John was there, along with his brother James, Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, and two of the other apostles. They fished all night but didn't catch anything. When they were still about 100 yards out to sea the next morning, a stranger on the shore called to them and asked them if they had caught anything (John 21:1–5). In the Greek, the question's structure expects the answer to be no. He told them to lower their net on the right side of the boat and when they did, they caught so many fish that they were unable to get the net back into the boat (John 21:6).
John realized the stranger was Jesus and hearing this, Peter jumped into the sea and swam to shore (John 21:7–8). By the time the boat landed, Jesus had a fire going and was cooking fish. Peter helped the men with their catch—153 fish (John 21:11). The disciples and Jesus ate a breakfast of fish and bread together (John 21:12).
When Peter came up out of the water to meet Jesus on the shore, the first thing he saw was the fire that Jesus had built. It's probable that Peter remembered how he denied knowing Jesus the night he was arrested (Mark 14:54; Luke 22:55–56; John 18:18, 25). Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him (John 21:15–17). Most likely Jesus deliberately made that fire because he knew the impetuous Peter would swim to shore. This gave him the opportunity to speak to Peter alone before the other apostles brought the boat to shore.
After the meal, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you truly love me more than these?” (John 21:15). Peter had boasted at the Last Supper that he would stand by Jesus no matter what happened, but then he denied knowing who Jesus was after his arrest (Mark 14:29; John 13:37). Peter quickly answered, “You know that I love you” (John 21:15). When Jesus asked his question, he used the Greek word for self-less love, but when Peter replied, he used the word for friendship. Jesus told Peter, “Feed my lambs” (John 21:15).
Jesus again asked Peter the same question, using the same word for self-less love. Peter replied, once again using his word for friendship. Jesus told him, “Take care of my sheep” (John 21:16). Jesus addressed the question a third time, but this time he used the word for love that Peter had used (John 21:17). Though Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the same question again, he answered, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you” (John 21:17). Peter denied knowing Jesus three times during the night of the trials and beatings. Jesus now asked him to confess his love three times. Once again, Jesus responded, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17).
Look in the Book
Jesus talked to Peter about the sufferings his commitment would bring to him (John 21:18–19). Peter's ministry would last a long time, until his old age, but then he would be crucified. Peter wanted to know what would happen to John, but Jesus wouldn't tell him (John 21:20–21).
To the Eleven Apostles in Galilee
The seven apostles who saw Jesus on the shore and the four other apostles met with Jesus in the mountains and “worshiped him” (Matthew 28:17). He commissioned them to be his witnesses on earth and to “go, make disciples, baptize believers, and teach all nations” and promised them that he would be with them always, “to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20).
These disciples were to make other disciples by preaching the word that Jesus had delivered to them, persuading people to accept Jesus as God. The disciples were then to baptize those who put their faith in Jesus “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). The believer's baptism would identify them with the Trinity (or Godhead) God. Those baptized were taught to obey everything Jesus commanded them (Matthew 28:20).
To the Eleven Apostles in Jerusalem
The Gospel of Mark records this appearance where Jesus told the eleven, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). The person who refuses to believe in Jesus cannot be saved. Now that Jesus was authorizing the eleven to go as his witnesses, he conferred the same power on them (2 Corinthians 12:12).