“Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.”—1 Corinthians 15:8 (NKJV)
Who actually saw Jesus? Who were the people He appeared to and why was it important? Earlier in 1 Corinthians, Paul specifically names Cephas (you know him as Peter) as a person who saw Jesus. Jesus made Himself physically available to the rest of the twelve apostles as well. Paul writes that an additional 500 people witnessed Jesus interacting with people as He talked to, walked with, and even ate with people in a physical, resurrected body.
It wasn’t just a small handful of really “holy” people that saw Jesus. In fact, Paul emphasizes just how UN-holy he himself was when he used the term “one born out of due time.” When people who spoke the local language used this phrase, it was a violently descriptive word picture to make the point that something was incredibly unlikely to happen. A more accurate translation is “one ripped from the womb.”
In the above verse, Paul owns his past as a persecutor of Christians and mocker of Jesus. While Paul was making his bones as the leader of an elite force of Christian killers, Jesus appeared to Paul to appoint him as leader of the movement he was trying to extinguish. Paul was then tasked with the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Paul lived one of the most wrenching plot-twists ever written. The resurrection of Jesus is not something Paul dreamed up! It’s an event that echoes through human souls causing explosive transformation. The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is the single most important event in human history!
Paul became the most innovative and hard working apostle of them all. He brilliantly turned common interactions with slaves into an opportunity for the gospel. When the scholarly elite mocked him for believing in the resurrection of the dead, Paul was so engaging that they begged him to speak some more. Christ-communities sprung up everywhere Paul went.
Paul turned incarceration in a governor’s jail into a seminar about the resurrection and the gospel. His message became a novelty act for visiting dignitaries. Whatever the motivation of his audience, Paul’s presentation always struck a nerve. He was never ignored and he knew it.