Luke 24:31a—Did Jesus dematerialize when He suddenly disappeared from the disciples after an appearance?

Problem: Jesus could not only suddenly appear after His resurrection (cf. John 20:19), but He could also instantly disappear. Is this evidence, as some critics claim, that Jesus dematerialized on these occasions?

Solution: Jesus rose in the same physical, albeit glorified, body in which He died. Such a body is an important dimension of His continuing humanity both before (cf. John 1:18) and after (Luke 24:39; 1 John 4:2) His resurrection.

First of all, the fact that He could appear or disappear quickly does not diminish His humanity but enhances it. It reveals that, while the post-resurrection body has more powers than a pre-resurrection body, it was not less than physical. That is, it did not cease to be a material body even though by resurrection it gained powers beyond mere physical bodies.

Second, it is the very nature of a miracle that it is immediate, as opposed to the natural gradual process. When Jesus touched the man’s hand, “immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (Matt. 8:3). Likewise, at Jesus’ command the paralytic “immediately ... arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all” (Mark 2:10–12). When Peter proclaimed that the man born crippled be cured, “immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength ... leaping up, [he] stood and walked” (Acts 3:7–8).

Third, Philip was immediately transported from the presence of the Ethiopian eunuch in his physical pre-resurrection body. The text says, after baptizing the eunuch “the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more” (Acts 8:39). One moment Philip is with the eunuch; the next he suddenly and miraculously disappeared and later appeared in another city (Acts 8:40). Such a phenomenon does not necessitate an immaterial body. Hence, sudden appearances and disappearances are not proofs of the immaterial, but of the supernatural.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.