Put yourself in the disciples’ shoes after the cross for a moment. You’ve lived with Jesus for years. You’ve watched the miracles. You had hoped, perhaps, he was … the one. But not the one, the messiah, we think of, rather the one to finally free Israel from the Romans. But instead, those same Romans killed him on a cross. (remember, your mindset is Earthly, physical rescue) That’s where you are mentally, you had put more and more faith in Jesus, letting yourself believe in him, only to be disappointed. Now what are you doing?
- Wondering what you’ve spent those years on
- Wondering how stupid you could be
- Wondering what it all meant, surely it wasn’t for nothing?
But what of your faith? You have a deep faith in God, obviously, you didn’t follow Jesus to learn carpentry. Where’s your faith now?
- Confused, very confused.
The picture of the disciples after the crucifixion is one of confusion and uncertainty. They were still together, but they seemed still paralyzed by what had happened. They weren’t sure what to do next. Jesus had told them plainly that he would die, but they weren’t’ really prepared.
36While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
37They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
40When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate it in their presence.
44He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
45Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
50When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
So, Jesus had risen from the dead. He’s appeared to many of them. Yet, when he shows up here at their meeting, they still think it’s a ghost. Evidently, death is too final to overturn. So Jesus provides more proof, touch me, feel my wounds. I’m not a ghost, in fact, I’m hungry, do have any food?
A dead man they can touch, standing among them, eating. Think of someone who’s passed away. A grandparent, perhaps. What if they stood before you and you were able to give them a big hug, to talk to them, share a meal together. Wow.
They did that with Jesus. And then, if that weren’t enough, he floats away, into the sky, up to heaven as they watch. So now where’s your faith?
- Ready to do anything
So this miracle of a resurrected Jesus and his amazing ascension inspire you, but what to you do with what you’ve seen?
So you go into the world and tell everyone “Guess what? I’ve seen a dead man come to life and then he flew up into the sky, floating all the way to heaven!” How will that likely go over? Who’s going to believe that?
The miraculous appearing of Jesus over and over (He could have gone back to heaven after just one or two appearances) wasn’t as evidence that they could share to prove that he was the Christ, it was for them and their faith. He needed them convinced of who he was if they were to change the world, but the story of His appearing and ascension wasn’t how they would change it.
So then, how would they?
- Loving God above all else
- Loving their neighbors as Jesus had loved them
- Loving their enemies
- Get serious about sin
- Caring for the downtrodden
- Reaching out to the untouchables
- Putting all those things they had learned from Jesus into practice.
Jesus needed their faith to express itself through love, but to do that they had to have faith. But it wasn’t their faith alone that would change the world, in fact it couldn’t. As James said, faith without deeds is dead. Instead, they considered nothing their own, they gave to anyone who had a need, even selling their houses do so, the met together daily in the temple courts, they devoted themselves to the scriptures and the teaching of the apostles, they healed and preached and taught in the streets.
The question for us, and it’s a serious one, is how is your faith being expressed in love?
What are you doing with what Jesus has taught you? Or is your faith dead?
What will you do tomorrow to express your faith to those you see?