When Jesus’ resurrection happened why did he appear to his apostles
first? Why did he not appear to the Pharisees & teachers of the law who
handed Jesus over to be crucified?
The Bible does not answer this question, at least not directly. This
requires me to speculate to some extent. First of all, Jesus did not
appear first to the apostles. He appeared first of all to the two Marys
at the tomb. I believe he did so to make a point about the importance of
these women to him personally, and perhaps to help make the apostles more
humble–to emphasize the equal importance of men and women in his
kingdom. Nevertheless, your point is correct that Jesus did not appear to
the Parisees and the teachers of the law. Actually, this is probably not
exactly true. Jesus appeared to over five hundred eye-witnesses. This
group almost certainly included both Pharisees and teachers of the Law.
In addition, Jesus appeared to Paul who was both a Pharisee and a teacher
of the Law!
I believe the issue is not whether he appeared to the Pharisees and the
teachers of the Law as much as whether he appeared to non-believers. It
appears from the Bible accounts that Jesus only appeared after his
resurrection to people who believed in him. I believe that Jesus chose not
to appear to the people you refer to because these people had already
rejected him. If they did not believe when he raised Lazarus from the
dead, an appearance by Jesus himself would not be likely to change their
hard hearts. As Jesus said in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus
(Luke 16:19-31), “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they
will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” Jesus chose
to appear only to those he loved and who loved him. I am guessing he did
not appear to those who did not believe because of their hard hearts, but
as I already said, I am speculating somewhat, so I will leave you to think
more about this for yourself.
John Oakes, PhD