"Visual encounters" with a being taken to be Jesus have been reported since the earliest days of Christianity. In fact, the Christian belief that Jesus was resurrected seems to have been based largely upon the reports of appearances of him after his apparent death by crucifixion, for the report of an empty tomb by itself would hardly have given rise to the Resurrection belief. Christic visions and apparitions have been reported during the entire history of the Christian church . . . " (p. 5).
These visions of Jesus as well as visions of Mary and other saints are rampant throughout Church History. Wiebe mentions several other books that document specifically visions of Jesus in history (actually there are far more books dealing with apparitions of Mary).
1. A Dictionary of Miracles by E. C. Brewer (1901)
2. The Apparitions and Shrines of Heaven's Bright Queen by W. J. Walsh (1904)
3. I Saw the Lord by Chester and Lucille Huyssen (1992)
One of the appearances of Jesus in Church History that I found interesting was the report by St. Jerome. Jerome (347-420 CE) was one of the great scholars and intellectuals of the first millennium of the Christian Era. He translated the Bible into Latin which became the standard translation for Christians for a thousand years. Jerome describes having been beaten for his love of Cicero and his neglect of the Scriptures. He was taken to the judgment seat of God and scourged on the orders of Jesus. He remarks: "Let none think this is a vision or a dream!! The angels know it was no dream. Christ himself is my witness it was no dream; yea, my whole body still bears the marks of that terrible flagellation" (Brewer, p. 368 cited in Wiebe, p. 18).
That is an interesting report. Jesus had Jerome scourged because he was neglecting the Scriptures. Its a good thing Jesus doesn't do that now as I am told that while the Bible is the world's bestseller, most Christians have never read it in its entirety and many Christians seldom read any of it.
In 1221 St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226 CE) saw Jesus, Mary his mother, and a multitude of angels, and two years later he saw Jesus again. This time St. Francis was given three white and three red roses of exquisite beauty as an external ratification of the reality of his vision, it being in the midst of winter, when a rose was nowhere to be found (Walsh, vol. 2, p. 34 cited in Wiebe, p. 20).
William Booth (1829-1912 CE) reported seeing a myriad of angelic beings as well as patriarchs, apostles, and Christian martyrs. Then he saw Jesus, who rebuked him for his "nominal, useless, lazy, professing Christian life." (Huyssen, p. 34 cited in Wiebe, p. 21). This experience led Booth to start the Salvation Army.
After surveying church history, Wiebe, in chapter two of his book, discusses the experiences of 30 people he interviewed between 1988 and 1993 who claimed to see Jesus. He says:
I do not know whether any of them would accept the designation "visionary," for most were quite mystified about having had such an experience, and none is in monastic life, although some are very active in their religious communities. None of them, moreover, seems to have deliberately induced the visionary experience(s), and most appear to think of themselves as quite ordinary. All of them were quite committed in their faith when I spoke to them, although a number indicated that this commitment had fluctuated in their lives, even after the visionary experience(s). (pp. 40-41).
These individuals either responded to a newspaper ad that Wiebe ran or were referred to him by those who knew he was involved in this research. The individuals interviewed lived in the UK, the US, Australia and Canada. A number were from his home province of British Columbia which has a population of 4 million; this fact tells him that this phenomena of Christic appearances must be much more common than most expect. There were 19 women and 11 men interviewed and their religious affiliation included Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Mennonite, Pentecostal Holiness, Christian Reformed, Baptist, United Church of Canada, Anglican, non-denominational Evangelical and several with no religious affiliation at the time of their vision. 7 of these have gone on to enter the Christian ministry and all are now actively involved in their churches.
The most interesting account to me was the case of Kenneth Logie, a Pastor of a Pentecostal Holiness Church in Oakland, CA for 40 years. He claimed multiple experiences of seeing Jesus in his church service with one of these even being videotaped. The first encounter was on a Sunday night in April 1954. While preaching Kenneth
saw a shadow on the exterior glass doors, made by someone standing outside. He wondered who might be arriving so late in the evening. He reported that "the door opened up, and Jesus started walking down the aisle just as plain as you are." He turned to the people on one side of the aisle, and then to the people on the other side of the aisle, smiling as he went. He walked up to the platform where Kenneth was preaching, but instead of walking around the pulpit, moved right through it. When he placed his left hand on Kenneth's shoulder, Kenneth collapsed to the floor. Jesus then knelt down alongside him and spoke to him in another language. Kenneth responded in English, believing that he was interpreting what was being said to him. He says that this event was witnessed by the congregation of about fifty people present on that occasion (p. 77).
In May 1959, a Mrs. Lucero got up to testify of seeing Jesus and being healed.
As she spoke she disappeared from view, and in her place stood a figure taken to be Jesus. He wore sandals, a glistening white robe, and had nail prints in his hands--hands that dripped with oil. Kenneth reports that this figure was seen by virtually everyone in the congregation, which he estimated at two hundred people. He also reports that the figure was filmed (in color) by a member of the church with kind of eight-millimeter movie camera popular that the time. Kenneth says that the photographer was so awestruck that he shook, and placed the camera on top of the organ in order to keep it steady. The appearance was much like Sallman's "Head of Christ." Kenneth says that the effect upon the people in the church was electrifying. After several minutes Jesus disappeared, and Mrs. Lucero was again visible (pp. 77-78).
Wiebe had met Logie in 1965 at a meeting in Grenfell, Saskatchewan where Logie was speaking about the appearance and showing the movie clip of Jesus to a group of about 200 people. Wiebe says this was the impetus for the research that led to his book some thirty years later. In 1991, while researching for his book, Wiebe visited Logie in Oakland. He writes: I visited him and the church that summer, and spoke with four or five persons who were present in his church in 1959 when the incident took place. They supported the account given above. I naturally wanted to see the film again... and was disappointed to learn that it had been stolen from the apartment in which Kenneth lives (p. 78).
Wiebe says: My own memory of the film is that it showed a figure that looked like traditional images of Jesus. . . . My memory of the glistening white robe as well as the outstretched and scarred hands is clear, but I cannot remember any movement of the figure, nor do I remember seeing the full face appear (pp. 78-79). Wiebe says he remembers the responses of some of the people who saw the film with him in 1965--some thought it was Jesus and others thought it was an actor playing Jesus. Wiebe doesn't give his own personal opinion.
This is a fascinating report. If true, you would have Jesus appearing to a group of people at one time and even being recorded on film. This should prove once and for all that Jesus was raised from the dead and lives today. Unfortunately, the film has been stolen.
If its not a genuine appearance of Jesus, then you need to be able to explain how a crowd of people could have been fooled. It could have been an actor but it could also have been a mass delusion . (I am intentionally avoiding the term hallucination for now as it carries the connotation of a mental disorder). Groups of people have been deluded or fooled by an illusion. Large crowds have claimed to see the Virgin Mary in Medjugorje, Bosnia. 10 miles from where I currently live, from 1990 to 1998, in Conyers, Georgia, thousands of people claimed to see Jesus and the Virgin Mary . See this video:
Interestingly enough, most Protestants will deny that anything miraculous happened in Conyers or in Medjugorje but they will insist that the miraculous happened in Jerusalem circa 32 CE. Many Christians both Catholic and Protestant will deny that what the people claimed to see in 1959 in Oakland, CA was really Jesus but they will insist that what Paul saw on the road to Damascus circa 38 CE was really Jesus. Is this being consistent? I maintain that all of these claims are not genuine appearances of Jesus or Mary but rather are best explained as delusions.