Jesus’ Location Before the Ascension

Dear Catholic Exchange:

According to scripture, after His resurrection Jesus appeared many times to His disciples. In between these appearances where did Jesus go? Did He go to Heaven? If so, would you say that His Ascension before His followers was His definitive departure from earth?

G. Bolling

Dear Mrs. Bolling,

Peace in Christ!

This is a speculative question for which it will not be possible to give a definitive answer. The overall “weirdness” of the various resurrection appearances of Jesus makes it hard to establish exactly what it was like to live and move about in a glorified body.

For one thing the body itself was difficult to recognize for even His disciples. Mary Magdalene did not at first recognize Him and neither did the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Jn 20:15, Lk 24:16). In the case of Emmaus road disciples, that their eyes were “kept from seeing them” suggests seeing Him risen required some measure of faith. Still, we are not told exactly why He was difficult to identify in other cases though there is nothing to suggest that He was dazzling as He was in the transfiguration. It is possible that He had a ghostlike appearance (whatever ghosts actually look like) but this may simply be due to the fact that He can simply appear places without having to travel from point A to point B (see Lk. 24:36ff and Jn. 20:19). Jesus’ wounds are still present but apparently do not hurt Him any more. But paradoxically though He can seemingly vanish and appear at will and pass through solid objects like closed doors (Jn 20:19), He still is capable of eating meals with His friends (Lk 24:43). Why a glorified body should have to eat at all was hard enough to explain that a fair number of commentators through the ages suggested that Jesus merely pretended to eat — though nothing in the resurrection accounts suggest this.

As you can see there are quite enough mysteries surrounding what the New Testament actually does tell us, that it is well nigh impossible to speculate intelligently on questions like yours which the resurrection accounts do not address. Perhaps when Jesus disappeared He was appearing to many other people in situations unrecorded by the gospels. Paul for instance tells us that He appeared to over five hundred brethren at one time (1 Cor 15:6) so perhaps he kept Himself occupied with other unattested appearances like these.

United in the Faith,

Pete Brown

Information Specialist

Catholics United for the Faith

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Steubenville, OH 43952

800-MY-FAITH (800-693-2484)

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