Question: Why didn’t Jesus, if He really rose from the dead, show Himself openly to the rabbis and to the common Jews and to the Romans? Wouldn’t that have established once and for all the fact that He had come back from the grave? And would not such a public appearance of Christ have converted the entire world of that day to Christianity? The fact that even the Bible admits He didn’t do so is presumptive evidence against the alleged resurrection, is it not? If He really was alive, why didn’t He prove it openly?
Response: You underestimate the proud stubbornness and evil in the human heart. There were many eyewitnesses, in addition to Christ’s disciples, who testified to multitudes of friends and relatives and to the rabbis as well that Christ had raised Lazarus from the dead after his body had been in the grave for four days (John 11:43-46). There was no doubt that this incredible miracle had occurred. In fact, the rabbis admitted to one another in their council that Christ was doing “many miracles” (verses 47–48). That fact, however, did not soften their hearts nor make them willing to face the truth about Christ.
On the contrary, the fact that Christ had raised Lazarus from the dead before many witnesses (and that because of this undeniable miracle many of the people believed He was the Messiah) only increased the rabbis’ determination to kill Christ. And now they were determined to kill Lazarus also in order to prevent him from being a testimony to Christ’s divine power (John 12:9-11)! Such fanatical opposition to Christ is not rational and therefore would not have been changed, no matter what further facts had been witnessed.
No, it would not have changed the minds and actions of the secular and religious leaders at all had Christ himself, the very One whom they had crucified, stood before them alive once again. And why should He have done so? Through His fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, and in the miracles that had been confirmed by the many witnesses (who, like spies, had reported to the rabbis— John 11:46), Christ had given Israel’s religious leaders more than enough evidence that He was the Messiah. Undoubtedly, some of the rabbis themselves had witnessed Christ’s miracles. But they still crucified Him.
Both Romans and Rabbis Had More Proof Than They Needed
Furthermore, the rabbis had even more powerful evidence for the resurrection of Christ than the witness of the ordinary people who had testified that they had seen with their own eyes Lazarus come out of the grave “bound hand and foot with graveclothes . . . ” (John 11:44). They had the eyewitness account of the trained and disciplined Roman soldiers who had guarded Christ’s tomb and had reported their terrifying confrontation by the angel who rolled the stone away to expose the empty tomb. Yet in spite of this testimony of a platoon of tough and now badly shaken soldiers, so hard were the rabbis’ hearts that they bribed the guards to say that the disciples had stolen the body while they slept (Matthew 28:13)!
Both the rabbis and the Roman authorities knew full well that Christ had risen from the dead. To supply further proof of the resurrection to those who were determined to deny it would not have changed anything. It would only have made their judgment all the more severe because of the additional evidence for which they would have been accountable. So Christ was actually merciful in not appearing to the rabbis and to the multitudes of others who would not have believed under any circumstances. Clearly He was following His own advice not to cast “pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6).
As for the rest of the people, they were confronted by many resurrected individuals who undoubtedly testified to them of the resurrection of Christ: “The graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints which slept arose . . . after his [Christ’s] resurrection, and went into the holy city [Jerusalem] and appeared unto many (Matthew 27:52-53).
Thereafter, both the rabbis and all the people had additional proof of the resurrection in the miracles that were done through the disciples in the name and power of Christ:
With great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. (Acts 4:33)
By the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people . . . ([and] the people magnified them. And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women), insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about Jerusalem, bringing sick folks and them that were vexed with unclean spirits; and they were healed every one. (Acts 5:12-16)
The very transformation in the disciples, which the Pharisees acknowledged, was more than sufficient proof of the resurrection. The disciples, like the cowards they were, had abandoned Christ in the garden and had fled to save their own lives. Yet here they were, these “unlearned and ignorant men” (Acts 4:13), now no longer afraid, but boldly indicting the rabbis for having delivered Christ to be crucified. In spite of beatings and threats of imprisonment and death, these former cowards were now courageously standing up to the rabbis and with great conviction testifying that their Lord had risen from the dead. Moreover, in His name they were doing astonishing miracles that were convincing multitudes. No further proof was needed.
—An excerpt from In Defense of the Faith (pp. 133-36) by Dave Hunt