Could Jesus Be Physically Touched in His Resurrected State?
The Experience of the 11 Apostles
"And behold, Jesus met them and said, 'Greetings!' And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him" (Matt. 28.9).
Luk 24:36 And as they spake these
things, he himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace [be]
Luk 24:37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they beheld a spirit.
Luk 24:38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and wherefore do questionings arise in your heart?
Luk 24:39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye behold me having.
Luk 24:40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
Luk 24:41 Still they stood there doubting, filled with joy and wonder. Then he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?"
Luk 24:42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish.
Luk 24:43 And he took it, and ate before them.
Jhn 20:24 Now Thomas, one of the
twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.
Jhn 20:25 So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe."
Jhn 20:26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
Jhn 20:27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing."
Jhn 20:28 Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"
The Experience of Paul
Act 9:3 And as he journeyed, it
came to pass that he drew nigh unto Damascus: and suddenly there shone round
about him a light out of heaven:
Act 9:4 and he fell upon the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
Act 9:5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And he [said], I am Jesus whom thou persecutest:
Act 9:6 but rise, and enter into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
Act 9:7 And the men that journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing the voice, but beholding no man.
Act 9:8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw nothing; and they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.
Act 22:6 "As I made my journey and
drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about
Act 22:7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?'
Act 22:8 And I answered, 'Who are you, Lord?' And he said to me, 'I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.'
Act 22:9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.
Act 22:10 And I said, 'What shall I do, Lord?' And the Lord said to me, 'Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.'
Act 22:11 And when I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.
Act 26:12 Whereupon as I went to
Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,
Act 26:13 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.
Act 26:14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? [it is] hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
Act 26:15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
Act 26:16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;
Act 26:17 Delivering thee from the people, and [from] the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,
Act 26:18 To open their eyes, [and] to turn [them] from darkness to light, and [from] the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
Why Paul's Experience was of a Physically Seen Jesus Also
First, Paul saw a bright light and heard Jesus' distinct words, while the bystanders fell to the ground in fear, saw the light, and heard a voice but did not understand the words (Acts 9.7, 22.9). Since others were involved it was not an hallucination.
Second, Acts 13 clearly implies a bodily resurrection (v.37).
Act 13.34 For God had promised to raise him from the dead, never again to die. This is stated in the Scripture that says, `I will give you the sacred blessings I promised to David.' [see Isa 55.3]
Act 13.35 Another psalm explains more fully, saying, `You will not allow your Holy One to rot in the grave.' [see Psa 16.10]
Act 13.36 Now this is not a reference to David, for after David had served his generation according to the will of God, he died and was buried, and his body decayed.
Act 13.37 No, it was a reference to someone else-someone whom God raised and whose body did not decay.
Isa 55.3 "Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, for the life of your soul is at stake. I am ready to make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the mercies and unfailing love that I promised to David.
Psa 16.10 For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.
Third, it should be noted that the disciples' experience occurred prior to Jesus' ascension to the throne of God. Paul's experience occurred after this event. The account of the appearance of a post-ascension, glorified Jesus to Paul is sufficient to explain why Paul's experience was different than those of the disciples.
Fourth, Luke apparently did not think there was a problem between Paul's encounter with Christ and Christ's appearances to the disciples (Luke 24; Acts 1.1-11), since he records both.
Act 1:1 In the first book, O The-oph'ilus, I have
dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,
Act 1:2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.
Act 1:3 To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God.
Act 1:4 And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me,
Act 1:5 for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
Act 1:6 So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"
Act 1:7 He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.
Act 1:8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Sama'ria and to the end of the earth."
Act 1:9 And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
Act 1:10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes,
Act 1:11 and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."
Finally, Acts was written after Matthew, Mark, and Luke. These Gospels portray a bodily resurrection of Jesus in the plainest of terms. Thus, if any evolution of the nature of the appearances, it's going in the opposite direction; bodily to vision. And since the earliest comments on Jesus' resurrection was by Paul, this is strong hints at bodily resurrection. The early creed of 1 Cor. 15.3-5 implies a bodily resurrection: "and that he was buried and that he was raised." Verses 42-44 make the same point: "It is sown...It is raised...It is sown...It is raised."
When Christ returns, he "will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body" (Phil. 3.21). It is our lowly body and mortal body that will be transformed, not eliminated. If there is no actual body, Paul could have said we would be like Jesus' glorious spirit, but instead he uses the word body. "Will also give life to your mortal bodies" (Rom. 8.11) speaks of a transformation of our old bodies. "The dead will be raised imperishable, and will be changed" (1 Cor. 15.52). "Changed" implies not an elimination but a metamorphosis. Next verse says, "for this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality." Jesus has that body now: "all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form" (Col. 2.9) is cast in the present tense.
Peter Believed and Preached the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus
Acts 2.25 David said about him:
“ ‘I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will live in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ [Psalms 16.8-11]
29 “Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.
Peter is the one who is speaking in Acts 2. Since
the body is not left to decay or rot in the grave, the Holy One would be
Psa 16.8 I know the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.
9 No wonder my heart is filled with joy,
and my mouth* shouts his praises!
My body rests in safety.
10 For you will not leave my soul among the dead [sheol]
or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.
11 You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.
In His resurrection, Jesus would eat with Peter.
John 21.7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said
to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put
on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and swam
ashore. 8 The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the
shore, for they were only out about three hundred feet. 9 When they got there,
they saw that a charcoal fire was burning and fish were frying over it, and
there was bread.
10 "Bring some of the fish you've just caught," Jesus said. 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn't torn.
12 "Now come and have some breakfast!" Jesus said. And no one dared ask him if he really was the Lord because they were sure of it. 13 Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish. 14 This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead.
Gospels Present a Bodily Resurrection of Jesus
The Jewish leaders accused the disciples of stealing the body: "Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him [away] while we slept" (Matt. 28.19). "And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him" (Mark 16.6). An empty tomb implies a physical resurrection. "He is not here, but he is risen" (Luke 24.5-6). John reports that Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John noticed the empty tomb (John 20.1-15). Thomas touched Jesus physically (vv.24-28). Jesus speaks with his disciples, eats with them and walks with them along the beach (21.19-30; see also 1 John below).
Jesus predicted he would rise bodily: "The Jews then said to him, 'What sign do you show us as your authority for doing these things?' Jesus answered them, 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.' The Jews then said, 'It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?' But He was speaking of the temple of his body" (John 2.18-22).
1Jo 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which
we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked
upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life--
1Jo 1:2 the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us--
1Jo 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
The bodily resurrection of Jesus was proclaimed at the earliest stages of Christianity (i.e., Paul and the Acts sermon summaries) and is multiply attested. Moreover, no first-century Christian writer presents a contrary view.