When were the first apparitions of Christ?
Easter morning is dawning on the Sea of Galilee. The first rays of light travel like a guided laser over the water and the hillsides, as though searching for a particular point in eternity to illuminate. Inside a dark cave only a rumble of shifting rock can be heard. Suddenly this rumble reveals itself to be a stone rolling away from the closure of a tomb. Just one spark of light finds its way through the slight jar in the passage. But it is enough to gently caress a reclining body that can barely be seen in the darkness. Suddenly, as if to ignite nuclear fission, the sunlight, and the “Light of Life” explode into a blinding radiance. This is a light that has no direction and casts no shadows. The “explosion” rolls the stone closure completely away, light pours out of the tomb even brighter than the sunlight, and Jeshua emerges. His body has a growing translucent quality giving evidence of its transformation into some higher substance.
Wrapped in his stained shroud, Jeshua walks, almost gliding on air, to the garden shed of the cemetery to look for garments that might have been left behind by a gardener. He is about to leave the cemetery when he sees Mary Magdalene approaching the tomb. Sunrise after the Sabbath would have been the first moment anyone could have attended his body. She is shocked to see the stone rolled away and the body missing. She mistakes Jeshua for the gardener, and asks “Who has taken my Lord?” Then she is even more startled to realize that it is Jeshua wearing the gardener’s attire. She wants to embrace him, but hesitates. Her caution is confirmed by his words: “You cannot touch me, but please, carry the good news to others that I am alive.” She departs with great joy.
Later that day he appears from “nowhere” to join two men walking on the road to Emmaus. He walks with them and visits with them through dinner, when they finally recognize who he is. Then he suddenly vanishes into “nowhere.”
Within days, Jeshua appears to the other Apostles and gives evidence that his material solidity has returned by eating food and allowing Thomas to touch his wounds. After teaching them the miracle of resurrection and many other wonderful things, which even the scriptures say were never written, he transforms his body into heavenly matter and ascends into the clouds.
But what is heaven for those who witness, is infinite potential for him. He continues to visit all the faithful for the next 40 years until the end of the generation to which he was born. The Book of Acts has numerous accounts of such appearances. One was to Ananias, and the most dramatic was as a blinding light to Saul on the road to Damascus. This is when Jeshua called Saul (who became Paul) from his persecution of the Jews. Later Jeshua came again to warn Paul in Corinth, and once more in Jerusalem it is written that Jeshua “stood by him” to sustain his faith. In an apocryphal account it is written that Jeshua appeared at the moment of his mother’s death and escorted her to heaven.
The first generation of those who knew Jeshua seemed to have no problem with paranormal appearances of him after his resurrection. Indeed, these mystical moments of reunion stirred inspiration, often leading to great acts of faith. Such experiences and beliefs permeated early Christian mystical literature, although this subject would become a challenge for later theologians to reconcile. The first to take on this subject was St. Augustine. In his “Literal Meaning of Genesis” he discusses three types of visions: corporeal, imaginative, and intellectual. A corporeal vision is when all of the normal senses recognize a physical presence of Christ. These occurrences were frequent enough they could not be dismissed. St. Augustine defined imaginative and intellectual visions as being subjective, even though the cause may have been Divine.