(AD 30: during the 40 days after resurrection)
After his resurrection, Jesus was on earth for forty days before he returned to heaven. He made a number of appearances, including the following, more or less in chronological order (we don’t know when all of them were):
- Mary Magdalene
- Peter (ref 1 Cor 15:5)
- 500 disciples simultaneously (ref 1 Cor 15:6)
- James (ref 1 Cor 15:6)
- Cleopas and his friend walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus
- 10 of the disciples in a room (minus Thomas)
- All 11 surviving disciples in a room
- All 11 surviving disciples by the Sea of Galilee
- All 11 surviving disciples in the region of Bethany, immediately before ascending to heaven
And then after the ascension he made one more appearance – as a man – to Paul the apostle.
Bear in mind that NONE of the people he appeared to, ever expected to see him again. Until the resurrection – and even in some respects until the ascension itself – everyone including Jesus’ closest family and followers, thought that Jesus’ death was the end of a great man from God.
And yet the moment he went back to his Father, the disciples “worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God” (Luke 24:52-53). They had shed the despair of death, though with plenty of fear of persecution yet to come, and were turning their faces to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). They did so with confidence, attended by the promise that Jesus would be “with you always” (Matthew 29:20).
Thus emboldened, ALL of those terrified, faith-lacking disciples, KNOWING that Jesus was alive and with them always, devoted the rest of their lives to telling people about him. And 10 of the 11 disciples were killed for it, with the other (John) spending most of his latter years in exile for telling people that Jesus was alive.
That’s what happens when we feel the full weight of the reality of what Jesus did: we understand that nothing is more important than other people knowing him too, and that with Jesus with us, we have all we need.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a well-attested event of history, but it wasn’t the end – it was really only the beginning:
“In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven” (Acts 1:1).
That’s what Jesus BEGAN to do, and the rest of history is what he’s CONTINUED to do – in, through, with, and despite us, his disciples.
The question is not whether God is still working – he never stopped. The question is, are we working with him?