Appearances of the Resurrected Lord
“After these things [Jesus] appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.”- Mark 16:12–13
God shows grace to His people in many ways, one of those being His refusal to give up when those whom He wants to save do not believe. In the Reformed tradition, we frequently speak of irresistible grace as that by which the Lord sovereignly persuades His elect of His truth. It would be more accurate, however, to call it finally irresistible grace, for even the elect can and do resist God’s call. But the elect cannot ultimately resist the Lord. He will not fail to save those whom He wants to save. The elect may put up a fight against the Holy Spirit for a time, but He will finally overcome their resistance, for all whom the Father has given to the Son will come to the Son (John 6:37). As an example, consider Saul, who kicked “against the goads” as he fought the Lord before finally being converted by Christ (Acts 26:12–18).
Regarding our Lord’s resurrection, we see that although the disciples initially rejected the news of Christ’s being raised from the dead, their resistance finally yielded to the work of God. Why? Certainly, we must note the work of the Holy Spirit. But another factor was Christ’s continuing to appear to them until they got the message. Mark 16:9–11 tells us, for example, that Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene, who then went to tell the disciples. She was convinced of His resurrection, though the disciples did not receive her testimony at first. Note again that placing Mary Magdalene as a witness to the resurrection testifies to the historicity of the event. If the author invented the miracle, he never would have made a woman a witness to the resurrection because the testimony of women was not generally seen as trustworthy in the first century. Introducing it would only make the story seem more unlikely. But if you are writing history, you include all the facts even if they are not culturally acceptable.
Verses 12–13 describe Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance to two men walking into the country. Doubtless, this is another record of the event described in Luke 24:13–35, where Jesus appears to travelers on the way to the village of Emmaus. When this happened, the men had to receive spiritual insight in order to identify Jesus. Every time someone receives the truth of God in faith, it is because the Lord has opened the eyes of their hearts and minds to see Him. John Calvin comments, “The proper discrimination between truth and falsehood, therefore, does not arise from the sagacity of our own mind, but comes to us from the Spirit of wisdom.”
When God determines to save someone, nothing can stop Him, not even the person’s “free will.” The Lord effectively persuades all those whom He has chosen, regenerating them by His Spirit, giving them the gift of faith, and working in them so that they will persevere. Our salvation is not ultimately in our hands, which enables us to be confident as we serve Him, knowing that our failures cannot inhibit the advance of His kingdom.
Passages for Further Study