Easter weekend has passed and I find myself breathing a sigh of relief. The remnants of a busy weekend remain visible all over my house. Thousands of plastic eggs from the city egg hunt are stacked in boxes in the corner, Easter baskets and the treasures that they originally held are scattered on the dining room table. I am still catching up on laundry and the housework that was ignored for other activities. Candy wrappers seem to be everywhere, why did I buy all that candy again?
With the holiday over we can begin to focus on spring projects, gardening ideas and plans for the summer. A nice break from the extra celebrations, services and gatherings. I’m sure that is what the disciples were thinking when all the commotion Jesus had caused subsided. Jesus did the work he had promised to do: he died, rose again and then ascended into Heaven where he belonged. They finally had time to put in a new vineyard, redecorate the messy upper room and go fishing. What a relief to have that crazy Passover celebration behind them.
What did the early Christians do after Jesus left them? How can we know what the apostles were busy with after all this took place?
How convenient that a book was written to address these very questions (and many more). It falls right in proper order after the recordings of the life of Jesus found in the gospels and is entitled “Acts” or “The Acts of the Apostles.” The Bible comes through again.
Check out Acts 1:8, as Jesus is ascending into Heaven he promises that they (the apostles) “will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in all Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Sounds like Jesus had some serious work for these men to do.
After this the disciples head back to Jerusalem and enter into an upper room. The names of all the apostles are listed and then we read in verse 14, “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” The first thing they did was to meet together and seek God in prayer. We need to continue to meet together through church services, Bible studies and times of fellowship. We also need to be in prayer and seeking God’s will, strength and wisdom.
Not many days later was the day of Pentecost, another Jewish festival. The disciples of Jesus were once again gathered together, “And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house… And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…” Acts 2:2, 4. The promised Helper had come, the Spirit of God to dwell within the believers. The Holy Spirit that teaches us (John 14:26), helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26), and empowers us to do God’s will (John 14:15-16) and produce good spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23).
Yes, this same Holy Spirit dwells in believers today. If you are a true follower of Jesus, these promises of the Holy Spirit are for you just like they were for the disciples long ago. Believe it and act accordingly.
In the days, weeks and years that followed the awesome commotion of Jesus Christ on earth these men became bold and courageously preached the gospel, evangelized the nations and changed history forever. They did not take a season off, they did not let up; they followed hard after Christ giving everything they had in full surrender to his will. What a beautiful example for us today.
When Jesus died on the cross and rose again, it was a decisive victory over death and over our Enemy. However, it is not the ending, it is the means to a beautiful beginning. We need to be more intentional than ever before in maturing in our knowledge of Christ and growing the Kingdom of God, we should never let up in this area. I enCOURAGE you to not lay back and relax spiritually after celebrating Easter, but to dig in and seek Christ with renewed passion this season and always.
This Sunday we celebrate Easter. We will attend egg hunts, church services, and family gatherings. These events are fine, but do we realize the true immensity of what we are celebrating?
Easter is a holy holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from death to life, but how many of us are living as if he is still dead? Do our lives reflect the power of his triumph over sin and death?
This man who was called Jesus lived on this same earth nearly 2000 years ago. He was sinless and perfect because he truly was the Son of God. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14.
He fulfilled the prophesies of the Old Testament, he was the waited for Messiah. He came to love and to show us how to love. He healed, taught and proclaimed the coming Kingdom of God. Yet the more he loved the more he was hated by the religious rulers of the time. They cared more for their rules, traditions and order than for the truth.
They tried many times to capture Jesus, but he evaded them because it was not yet his hour. Finally, the time had come. Jesus had been eating with his disciples in the upper room, teaching them, washing their feet and preparing them for what was to take place. Jesus led them to the garden of Gethsemane to pray. What did he pray for? For himself, for his disciples, and for you and me. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ you were on his lips that night, read John chapter 17.
The mob came for him, a band of soldiers and officers of the priests ready for a fight carrying “lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’” John 18:3-4. When told they were there for Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus replied, “’I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” John 18:7. This detachment of trained soldiers with swords in hand could not even stand in the presence of this holy man Jesus, the power of his word was too much for them to even stay on their feet.
Jesus gave himself up in obedience to the mission given him by his Father. They bound the Son of God and led him off to be judged. After a bogus trial where he was actually found innocent, the Pharisees stirred up the crowd to demand his crucifixion. Pilate finally relented, valuing his physical life over his eternal one.
Jesus suffered greatly as he was ridiculed, tortured, whipped and finally raised above the crowd upon a cross. Held to rough wood by large metal stakes driven through his flesh. He hung, he bled, he died. Why? For you. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” - Isaiah 53:5
There was no other way. Sin has to be paid for, the price is death. We sin, we die, separated from a holy God forever who cannot tolerate sin in his presence. What hope do we have then? Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus is our hope, our only way (John 14:6). Jesus stepped in to take our place and died for us. A sinless, perfect sacrifice bearing the wrath of God against the sin of the people, our sin. That was his mission on earth, to pay your penalty and redeem you to be his own.
The lifeless body of Christ was laid in a tomb and sealed, but nothing has power over God. Not soldiers, ropes, a cross, or a sealed tomb. Jesus rose from the dead on the third day just as he told his followers he would. He defeated death and remains alive today and forever.
This is why we celebrate; we have hope of eternal life through Jesus if we accept what he did for us on the cross and fully surrender to his kingship in our lives. This event of death and resurrection was witnessed by hundreds and is recorded in all four gospels: Matthew 27 and 28, Mark 15 and 16, Luke 23 and 24 and John 19 and 20. Don’t take my word for it, read it for yourself. Read it to your children!
The tomb is still empty today; don’t live as if Jesus is still there. He remains alive and is seated at the right hand of his Father God (Luke 22:69). Are you living as if Jesus is King and has full authority? If we belong to God, our lives should reflect this truth.
Happy Easter, I enCOURAGE you to truly celebrate Jesus this weekend. We can be full of hope because the tomb is completely empty!