Why Did Jesus Appear Only to The Few, Instead of To All?
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. – John 15:16
This is a natural question, isn’t it? Why did he not appear in his resurrected body before all the people, especially those who had tormented and crucified him? Why did he not take that opportunity to show the world the power and majesty of his glory? We can imagine how that would have thrown the multitudes into confusion and terror, even overwhelmed his murderers, if he had presented himself before them. Instead, he appears only to the few, to Mary Magdalene, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and to the Apostles in the upper room. Why?
Two things are clear: God’s foolishness is wiser than men. And Jesus, the Incarnate God, knew the nature of fallen humanity perfectly.
We human beings are prone to making assessments, or judgments about people and events, and to assume that our judgments are both accurate and true, even in the face of overwhelming evidence otherwise. It is a fact that the mass of humanity is all too often prone to deceitful behavior, for the most selfish of purposes. Those who come across as “worldly-wise” are, most often, simply vain. There are many who are known for their intellect, or for their eloquence in every age. There are those who are shrewd with their words, who argue a cause and get immense attention—for a time. But if it does not die in their own time, it dies with them. We have seen this time and time again.
The 19th century theologian, John Henry Newman, says of this, “In truth, this is the way of the mass of mankind in all ages, to be influenced by sudden fears, sudden contrition, sudden earnestness, sudden resolves, which disappear as suddenly. Nothing is done effectually through untrained human nature; and such is ever the condition of the multitude. Unstable as water, it cannot excel. One day it cried Hosanna; the next, Crucify Him….Had our Lord appeared in public, yet few could have touched Him, and certified themselves it was He Himself….It would have been open to the greater number of them still to deny that He WAS risen…”
We are like that, aren’t we? Especially we post-modern materialists. With modern digital technologies like “Photoshop,” we can manipulate reality so precisely as to manipulate the masses to believe even the unbelievable. We can no longer say “Seeing is believing.” The often atheistic science of our day, argues that if you can not touch it, or know it in some measurable way, it is not real. We are no different than the people of Jesus’ time in this ability to see the truth before our very eyes, and still deny it. Worse yet, despise it.
The truth is that even God can not force us to believe in him, or to love him. That would be in direct opposition to his gift to us of our free will. He created us in that freedom and loves us because of it.
The truth is that in his Incarnation and Crucifixion he was teaching us a great mystery; that he loves us in our wholeness; body mind and soul. As his body was restored, so ours will be. The truth is that we will still die in our wholeness, but because he loves us so, we too will be resurrected in our wholeness, perfectly.
Jesus appeared to the few, because he knew us better than we know ourselves. He knew that it was in the seed that the whole tree is hidden. The Apostles and those who they trained went into the world of that time like “lambs among wolves,” but because they spoke and lived their belief in God publicly and courageously, with their whole selves; bodies, minds and souls, the people saw their joy and the consequences of their faith in this world, and in the acquiescence of their own individual free will, they chose inwardly, in freedom, to enter into the growing Church.
So it must be today. We who believe cannot force our belief on others any more than God can, though we often get caught in the conceit that we can. We, too, are few. We, too, must go into the world like lambs among the wolves, with faith, hope and love. If others can see the truth of our faith in the Incarnation and the Resurrection in the actions and words of our daily lives, they may, in the freedom of their own minds, bodies and souls, come to this truth themselves and choose to become one with the Lamb out of freedom as well.
It is, in the end, all about freedom. God did not create us to be slaves. He wants our love, not our fear. That is why he did not appear to the masses after the his resurrection. He knew the deepest meaning of his own parable of the Sewer of Seeds. He knew that those few would be the rich soil in which his seed could be nurtured and produce 30, 60, and a hundred fold in the world. They did that. The Church grew to the surprise of the many, and it continues today.