Chapter 20 - Why doesn't Jesus appear to each of us?

In the last chapter, we discussed Jesus' miracles. There is one miracle, however, that deserves special discussion. Jesus' resurrection after his death is the ultimate and defining proof of Jesus' divinity.

Just about everyone knows the story of Jesus' death and resurrection. The story is summarized in the Apostles' Creed. Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day he arose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

There is only one way for Jesus to prove that he rose from the dead. He had to appear to people. Therefore, several different places in the Bible describe Jesus' appearances after his death:

  • Matthew chapter 28
  • Mark chapter 16
  • Luke chapter 24
  • John Chapter 20 and 21
1 Corinthians 15:3-6 provides a nice summary of those passages, as written by Paul:
    For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
As you can see in this passage, Jesus appeared to hundreds of people a number of different times.

Being like Paul

When we look at these Bible passages, there is a question that comes to mind -- why did Jesus stop making these appearances? Why isn't Jesus appearing today?

It really is odd. Obviously Paul benefitted from a personal meeting with the resurrected Christ. Because of the personal visit, Paul could see for himself the truth of the resurrection, and he could ask Jesus questions.

So... Why doesn't Jesus appear to everyone and prove that he is resurrected, just like he appeared to Paul? There is nothing to stop Jesus from materializing in your kitchen tonight to have a personal chat with you. And if you think about it, Jesus really does need to appear to each of us. If Paul needed a personal visit from Jesus to know that Jesus was resurrected, then why wouldn't you?

Key Point

If Paul needed a personal visit from Jesus to know that Jesus was resurrected, then why wouldn't you?

It is an important question for the following reasons:

  • We are told by the Bible that Jesus appeared to hundreds of people.

  • We know that it is OK for Jesus to appear to people -- it does not take away their free will, for example -- because it was OK for Jesus to appear to hundreds of other people.

  • We know that it would be easy for Jesus to appear to everyone all through history, since Jesus is all-powerful and timeless.

  • We know that, if Jesus did reappear to everyone, it would be incredibly helpful. We could all know, personally, that Jesus is resurrected and that Jesus is God. If Paul (and all the other people in the Bible) needed a personal visit to know that Jesus was resurrected, then why not you and me?

  • Yet, we all know that Jesus has not appeared to anyone in 2,000 years.

Key Point

The reason why Jesus has appeared to no one for 2,000 years is because Jesus never appeared to anyone.
In other words, there is nothing stopping Jesus from appearing to you, and several good reasons for him to appear.

Praying to Jesus

What if we pray to Jesus like this: "Dear Jesus, please appear to us, as you did to Paul and the 500 brethren, so that we can see the evidence of your resurrection. In your name we pray, amen." Here is what Jesus has promised us in the Bible:

Matthew 7:7 Jesus says:

    Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
In John chapter 14:14:
    Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.
In Matthew 18:19:
    Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Jesus is actually in our midst. So he is right here already, supposedly. Yet when we pray to him to physically materialize, as he did to hundreds of others, nothing happens.

Isn't it odd that Nothing happens, given the fact that Jesus promises us that something will happen? Isn't it odd that nothing happens when, supposedly, Jesus is right here with us already, and materialization would be trivial for him?

What you will find, if you think about it, is that the situation we see here is exactly like the situation in Chapter 5. We have created a situation where coincidence cannot "answer" the prayer. The only way for this prayer to be answered is for Jesus to actually, unambiguously, materialize. In this situation, we also know that it is trivial for Jesus to materialize, that there would be many benefits if Jesus did materialize, that Jesus has supposedly materialized to other human beings, and that Jesus has promised to answer our prayer that he materialize.

How do we explain the fact that this prayer goes unanswered, no matter who prays, despite Jesus' promise that he will answer our prayers?

As you think about this, you will realize that Paul's story in the Bible must be false. Simply look at Paul's story like any judge in a courtroom would. What Paul's story in 1 Cor 15 is suggesting is entirely unprecedented - a man dead three days with mortal wounds came back to life. Yet there is no evidence that it is true, and there are many alternative explanations for what Paul is saying. Paul could be fabricating the story, Paul could have hallucinated or dreamed the meeting, Paul could have seen an imposter, etc. In addition, no one is seeing Jesus today, even though it would be trivial and obvious for Jesus to appear to people today just like he did with Paul.

Given this evidence, if this were any normal situation instead of a religious one, people would conclude that what Paul is saying is untrue. There is zero evidence to support Paul's story, zero reason to believe it, a motive to lie and plenty of alternative explanations. There is also the fact that much of the rest of the Bible contains provably false stories. Plus the fact that it would be trivial for Jesus to provide the evidence that Paul needs to confirm his story by reappearing on earth. Add to that the fact that Jesus has promised to answer our prayers but refuses to materialize when we pray to him. The only thing to do is to reject Paul's story. Every bit of evidence points to the fact that the resurrection story is a myth, nothing more.

What about Jesus' famous statement in the Bible, "Happy are those who have not seen yet still believe"? What you realize is that this statement creates the perfect cover for a scam. Let's say you are Jesus, you are a normal human being, you realize that you are going to die and you want to cover for this fact. Here is what you would say: "Happy are those who have not seen yet still believe." What you are saying is, "I exist, and the way I am going to show you that I exist is by not showing that I exist." For every other object in the universe, the way that we know it exists is because the object provides evidence of its existence. If there is no evidence for an object's existence, we call it imaginary (e.g. Leprechauns). But with Jesus, the lack of evidence is turned into evidence. Quite clever, but obviously a scam.

If the resurrection were true, then Jesus would be answering prayers as he promises in the Bible. He would also appear when people pray to see him. The fact is, as we saw in Section 1, there is no evidence whatsoever that Jesus answers prayers.

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by Marshall Brain

New York Times Coverage
discussed in a
New York Times piece
by N. D. Kristof.
For a counter-point to Mr. Kristof, please see
Chapter 26.

Recommendation by Sam Harris
Sam Harris recommends WWGHA in his book Letter to a Christian Nation.

Endorsement by Richard Dawkins
In a New York Times Letter, Richard Dawkins calls WWGHA a "splendid Web site."

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