Why Didn’t Jesus Christ Appear to His Enemies After His Resurrection?

“Mr. Woolston argues that Jesus’s failure to appear to the chief priests and rulers of the Jews after his death is a significant objection to the truth of his resurrection. This objection has been emphasized by deistical writers, particularly the author of “The Resurrection of Jesus Considered,” and Mr. Chubb, who has discussed it extensively and confidently in his posthumous works (Vol. I, p. 337 and following pages). However, there are good reasons why Jesus did not appear to them. Given their cruel and deeply ingrained malice toward Jesus, and the power of their prejudices, it is unlikely that they would have submitted to the evidence. They had already attributed his miracles to the power of the devil and, when they learned that he had raised Lazarus from the dead, they sought to destroy him. Instead of being persuaded by the testimony of the soldiers, they tried to suppress it. If Jesus had appeared to them after his passion and they had dismissed it as a hallucination or a delusion, and still refused to recognize him, it would have been seen as strong evidence against the reality of his resurrection.

Let’s suppose that Jesus not only appeared to his followers after his resurrection, but they also acknowledged the truth of his resurrection and ascension, and claimed him as their Messiah, bringing the body of the Jewish nation with them. Could it be imagined that those who now make objections would have been satisfied? It’s more likely that these great men coming into it would have been seen as proof that all was a sham and an imposture. The design would have been seen as an attempt to stir up the people against the Roman government and carry out some political scheme under the guise of restoring the kingdom to Israel. The whole thing would have been treated as a national Jewish affair, something planned between the chief priests and the disciples, and there would have been even more clamor against it than there is now. I am convinced that the evidence actually presented by the apostles and disciples of Christ, in opposition to their own prejudices and to the authority and power of the Jewish chief priests and rulers, and in spite of the persecution that their testimony to it exposed them to, was much more convincing and less objectionable than it would have been if they had had the favor and support of the leaders of the Jewish nation, or of those people who had the greatest influence and authority among them.”

A View of the Principal Deistical Writers, John Leland, 1754, vol 1, pp 87-88 (Read volume 1 and volume 2 at the Internet Archive)

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