The Immortal Messiah
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio, 1601-02
by Trent Dee Stephens, PhD for the Come Follow Me lesson April 11 – April 17, Easter
The following essay is the beginning of Chapter 10 of my next, forthcoming book with Cedar Fort Publishing, The Immortal Messiah, The Physiology of Resurrected Beings, scheduled for release in September.
The two disciples with whom the resurrected Jesus walked to Emmaus and sat at meat, on the afternoon of his resurrection, “…rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them…”1 “…at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews…”2 “Saying, The Lord is risen indeed…”3
“And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.”4
Matthew did not cover this event in his gospel. Rather, as the apostle most concerned with the Jews and the fulfillment of prophecy, he was concerned about “the watch” taking a bribe to declare, “His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept…” adding that, “…and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.”5
Mark was apparently only a teenager at the time of this momentous event, even though he may have been among “…them that were with them...”6 When he was a bit older, he first traveled with Paul and then with Peter, acting as the latter’s scribe and interpreter. So Mark’s very short account of the event was probably actually Peter’s account – who obviously was an eye witness.7 Peter/Mark stated, “After that [Christ’s initial appearances on the morning of the resurrection] he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them. Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.”8
The physician, Luke never met the Savior and did not know him until he was taught the gospel by Paul. He then left his medical practice and became Paul’s traveling companion. During his travels, Luke had the opportunity to discuss the Savior’s ministry with the apostles and other disciples. From these numerous interviews, he compiled his gospel – and then the book of Acts – probably much of that record from his own observations.9 Luke’s gospel, much of it based on Mark’ accounts, is the longest of the four testaments and, together with the Acts, constitute 27.5% of the New Testament.10
John’s gospel was probably written last, after he had apparently read the other author’s accounts. As a result, rather than telling his own story de novo, he often filled in the gaps or corrected the stories told by the others. Thus, in his account, John confirmed that Christ’s appearance occurred, “…the same day at evening, being the first day of the week…”11 He then added the detail, “…the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews…”12 John then corrected Mark and Luke’s accounts that there were eleven apostles present. John stated, “But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.”13 With Judas Iscariot being absent from the time of the Last Supper, that left only ten apostles in the closed room when the Savior first appeared to them.
In order to understand Christ’s resurrected body, we may ponder Luke’s accounts of Christ’s appearances to his disciples following His resurrection. He first appeared to two disciples as they journeyed to Emmaus, we read that after they reached Emmaus: “And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.”14
While Christ “sat at meat” with his two disciples at Emmaus, did he eat the “meat” or did he just watch them eat? We are not told for certain, but we can logically assume that as he “sat at meat” he ate with the disciples. A later encounter that same day, however, leaves no question about Christ’s ability to consume food. On that occasion, Christ specifically demonstrated that He could eat food. After Christ appeared to the apostles, “…he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them.”15
It appears that Christ ate the fish and honeycomb specifically to prove to the apostles that he could eat – he ate “before them” – as in a demonstration. Was Christ just performing some sort of “trick” to “prove” he could eat – to what purpose? It doesn’t seem reasonable that Christ would just swallow food to prove that he could – without his intending for us to ponder the implications of that event. I believe he consumed food to teach us important, eternal truths about resurrected beings – with huge implications. To me, Christ’s purposeful gastrological demonstration provides critical data to our understanding the resurrection. Those data, apparently, tell us that the resurrected Savior’s digestive tract was intact and functional. The implications of that information could not have been fully understood by any of His disciples or their contemporaries. However, it is very interesting that Luke, the physician, was the only gospel author to include this detail of Christ’s first post-resurrection meeting with the apostles. Nor could the implications have been fully understood by anyone living more than a hundred years or so ago.
The Savior told his disciples, “I can of mine own self do nothing…I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.”16 Therefore, it appears that God told Jesus to demonstrate to the apostles that He could eat. It, therefore, appears that it is significant to God to let us know that the risen Christ could eat food. Christ told us that by seeing Him we are seeing God. Therefore, his gastrological demonstration must teach us that God, as an immortal, resurrected being with a body of flesh and bones, can consume food. It is obviously important to God that we know this truth about Him, as He commanded His son, after His resurrection, to eat fish and honeycomb before the disciples – and that this event was recorded in the scriptures.17
Furthermore, we have been told that the resurrected Savior can still partake of food and drink – at least that will be the case at the time of His Second Coming. He has told us:
“Behold, this is wisdom in me; wherefore, marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel, to whom I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim…”18
Of course, it is entirely possible that consuming and processing food by a resurrected, immortal body is completely different from the way it is consumed and processed by mortals. At least three issues, however, argue against that proposition. First, the resurrected Christ apparently had the same body configuration as when he was mortal – including at least lips, teeth, and tongue. He apparently produced speech in the same manner he had done previously. His closest disciples could not distinguish His resurrected body from a mortal body – even though, in several cases, they didn’t quite recognize him as the Jesus they had known. The disciples on the road to Emmaus seem to have thought him to be a stranger, whereas, Mary thought he was a gardener. Maybe he appeared to be a different age, very likely with white hair rather than the dark hair they knew; or perhaps there was some other characteristic, than the Jesus they knew; but there seems no doubt that he looked completely human. His apostles in the closed room thought they had seen a spirit but he invited them to handle him. Second, there is no evidence that Christ left any of His earthly digestive system stashed in the tomb, or anywhere else, in exchange for some other, immortal digestive system. When Christ walked out of the tomb, He apparently left with all of his systems intact and complete. There were apparently no organs left behind in the tomb. Third, formal logic and the scientific method teach us the principal of parsimony, which states that, without sufficient evidence to the contrary, the simplest explanation is most likely the correct explanation.
1. Luke 24:33
2. John 20:19
3. Luke 24:34
4. Luke 24:36-39
5. Matthew 28:11-15
6. Luke 24:33
7. Thomas, Janet, Who Are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?, New Era, 18-22, January 2007, churchofjesuschrist.org/study/new-era/2007/01/who-are-matthew-mark-luke-and-john?lang=eng
8. Mark 16:12-14
9. Thomas, Who Are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?
10. Bormann, Lukas, Jerusalem as Seen by Ancient Historians and in Luke-Acts, In, Laato, Antti, series editor, Understanding the Spiritual Meaning of Jerusalem in Three Abrahamic Religions, vol. 6 of Studies on the Children of Abraham, p115, Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands, 2019
11. John 20:19
13. John 20:24
14. Luke 24:30-31
15. Luke 24:41-43
16. John 5:30
17. Luke 24:41-43
18. Doctrine and Covenants 27:5
You may look forward to finishing this chapter and reading my entire forthcoming book, The Immortal Messiah, The Physiology of Resurrected Beings, scheduled for release by Cedar Fort Publishing in September 2022.
Trent Dee Stephens, PhD