Why Didn’t Jesus Appear To Pilate and The Pharisees?

It’s a common question skeptics of the resurrection ask.
They ask that if Jesus really rose from the dead, then why didn’t he appear to
Pontius Pilate, the Pharisees, and all who doubted him? Surely He would have
done this for scripture teaches that God wants all people to be saved (2 Peter
3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4) and that Christ died for the entire world (John 3:16, 1
John 2:2), and that confession of Jesus’ lordship and in His resurrection are
requirements for salvation (Romans 10:9), so then why didn’t Jesus appear to
Pilate and the Pharisees so that they could believe in Him so that they could
be saved? I propose several answers,.
First, It May Be That It
Would Have Done No Good.
If you rewind to earlier to Jesus’ ministry, you’ll see that
the Pharisees had more than enough evidence to believe that Jesus was who He
said He was. Jesus healed many sick people at evening (Matthew 8:16-17, Mark 1:32-34,
Luke 4:40-41), Jesus healed a man’s leprosy (Matthew 8:1-4, Mark 1:40-45, Luke
5:12-14), He once cleansed 10 lepers at the same time (Luke 17:11-19), healed a
boy with a demon (Matthew 17:14-20, Mark 9:14-29, Luke 9:37-43), healed two
blind men (Matthew 9:27-31), and raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-45). If
you saw a man do all of these things, you would think that that would be enough
evidence to convince you that he is from God and that you should pay close
attention to everything he has to say, wouldn’t it? Well, that wasn’t the case
with the Pharisees. The Pharisees, even though they witnessed first hand many
of Jesus’ miracles, they still didn’t believe in Him.
Instead, they tried to explain it all away by saying that he
was doing his healings and exorcisms by the power of demons. Right after Jesus
performed one of his exorcisms, a couple of Pharisees came and told the people
with him that Jesus was casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub. Jesus
responded that a kingdom divided against itself will not stand but will
collapse. He then said that if Satan casts out Satan than that means that
Satan’s kingdom is divided against itself and will not stand. In other words,
if what the Pharisees were saying was true than that meant that the devil’s
army was fighting amongst itself which makes absolutely no sense. This whole
exchange can be read in its entirety in Matthew 12 and Mark 3. The point is
this; the evidence for Jesus’ messianic status was so powerful, so
overwhelming, that they could not deny that Jesus’ deeds were supernatural, but
if they concluded that Jesus was doing these things by the Spirit of God then
they would have to concede that Jesus did in fact come from God (which they did
not want to do). So what did they do instead? They instead concluded that
Jesus’ power must come from the devil. Jesus provided a brilliant refutation to
that accusation, showing how absurd the claim was (since it would mean the
demons are fighting against their own kind), and even in light of the brilliant
refutation they still would not believe in Jesus!
I think their hearts were so hardened that no amount of
evidence would convince them (reminds me of many modern atheists). If the risen
Jesus had appeared before those very same Pharisees who voted for his death,
they probably would have claimed that it was “trickery from the devil” or
“sorcery” or something like that. Or maybe they would have formulated some kind
of swoon theory to try to argue that Jesus never died in the first place. The
same can be said for Pontius Pilate. He may have tried to argue that his men
failed at killing Jesus and executed those men for their failure.
Secondly, It May Be That He
Did Appear To At Least Some Of Them
This is often overlooked, but the book of Acts indicates
that many of the Pharisees became Christians after Jesus’ death. “So the
word of God spread. The number of disciples in
increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the
(Acts 6:7). Now,
granted, these may not be the same Pharisees who opposed Jesus and condemned
him to death, but chances are that at least some of them are and that the
reason they converted was because the risen Jesus appeared to them. The ancient
pre-Pauline creed cited in 1 Corinthians 15 states that Jesus appeared to over
500 at the same time on one instance. It could be that many of the priests who
were skeptics during Jesus’ life were there during that instance and that the
resurrection was the final evidence that pushed them over to Christianity. Or
it could just be that they heard the preaching of the disciples and converted. So
it may be that a postmortem appearance convinced a few of the priests that
Jesus was telling the truth, or it could be that no postmortem appearance was
necessary since they converted anyway. The New Testament records don’t really
give the reason for their conversion; it just says that they converted.
The latter scenario is likely the case with the priests
mentioned in Acts 6 since this was after the ascension, but I’m saying that
there could have been some priests even before the specific ones mentioned in
Acts 6 that converted on the basis of postmortem appearances (being part of the
500 mentioned in the pre-Pauline creed).
But certainly not all of them converted to Christianity. As
Acts indicates, Caiaphas was still opposed to Jesus and had Peter and John
arrested for preaching in His name.
Finally, Even If This
Question Were Unanswerable, What Would It Matter Anyway? 
Even if I couldn’t answer the question, what would it matter
anyway? Would it prove that Jesus did not rise from the dead and that therefore
Christianity is false? Certainly not. We still have an abundance of historical
evidence that needs accounting for. The skeptic must still explain (1) Jesus’
death by crucifixion, (2) the empty tomb, (3) the disciples’ belief that they
saw Jesus alive shortly after his death, (4) the conversion of the church
persecutor Paul, and (5) the conversion of the skeptic James. None of the 12-15
naturalistic explanations I’ve ever heard can account for these 5 facts, only
the resurrection hypothesis can, therefore, the resurrection is the best
explanation for the 5 aforementioned facts. By the way, if you want to see what
the evidence is for those 5 facts, check out my older blog post titled “The Minimal Facts Case For Jesus’ Resurrection PART 1”.
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