“When Jesus was resurrected from the dead, why did he not appear to the Jewish and Roman officers, instead of simply showing himself to the disciples? Would not the former have been more convincing?”
There are several factors that must be considered in responding to this inquiry.
That there was ample evidence, even to the non-believing Roman and Jewish authorities, that Christ has been raised from the dead, seems quite apparent when all the relevant data are assembled. Think about the following facts as reflected in Matthew 28:3-4.
First, as the guards were at their stations, a great earthquake shook the region.
Second, an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and opened the tomb by rolling away the massive stone that blocked the entrance, thus breaking the Roman seal.
Third, the angel sat upon the stone, illuminated in brilliant light, comparable to lightning.
Fourth, the guards were terrified, shaking with great fear. They were so seized with terror that a temporary paralysis made them immobile.
Fifth, it was painfully obvious to the soldiers that Christ was not in the tomb, and that his body had not been removed by any natural means.
Then think about this.
Some of the guards reported to the chief priests “all the things that came to pass” (28:11). Especially, note the term “all.” If the guards did not actually see the Savior come from the tomb, they clearly inferred it from the evidence available, e.g., Christ’s earlier prophecies, that he would rise the third day (cf. 27:63), together with the fact that none of the disciples had come to confiscate the body. These facts would have been compelling indeed.
Clearly their report was given serious credibility, as evidenced by the fact that the priests informed the elders of the soldiers’ report, and a significant sum of money was appropriated to silence the guards as to what actually had happened.
Here’s another point to consider. The ridiculous story was fabricated that the disciples “stole the body” while the guards were “asleep.” What credibility — sleeping witnesses!
The priests and elders further promised that if the report of the Lord’s disappearance reached the attention of Pilate, they would take care of the problem (vv. 12-14). Consider also the fact that the guards were not punished with the usual death sentence (cf. Acts 12:19; 16:27); instead they were rewarded.
And then, why was there not the slightest piece of evidence that an investigation was launched, or that any search for Christ’s body was ever pursued. If his body were recovered, that would have silenced forever any report of a “resurrection.”
Finally, is it not intriguing that, eventually, a “great company of the priests were obedient unto the faith” (Acts 6:7)? Did the report of the Roman guard have anything to do with this unusual collection of conversions? It is difficult to believe otherwise.
These facts show that there was sufficient evidence of Christ’s resurrection, even to his enemies, to establish the reality of that event.
As to why the Lord did not “appear” personally before Jewish or Roman authorities in general, that would be a matter of speculation, but it seems to me that some reasonable inferences might be drawn.
- Further revelation of the living Christ was not necessary, due to the fact the reality of his resurrection was established already by credible, even hostile, witnesses.
- Personal, post-resurrection appearances of Jesus before the wicked Jewish and Roman authority figures would only have created more disturbance, which, at this point, would have accomplished nothing in the divine scheme of things. In fact, likely such would have further hardened the hearts of those so set against the Savior. Thus, such appearances actually would have been a disservice to those leaders, who, in spite of their abuse, were still subjects of Heaven’s love.
In view of all these considerations, the New Testament accounts of Christ’s resurrection are demonstrated to be highly credible. And the explosive growth of the first-century Christian movement is ample testimony to the power of that evidence.
The thousands of first-century people who became followers of Jesus were in a much better position to evaluate the reality of the resurrection event, than are modern critics.