“He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’” (Acts 1:3-5)
Well, we can put away our Easter outfits, polish off the candy, or run out to buy the “after Easter” candy that is now on sale. Let’s get back to normal (oh, how we long to do that after the last year that we’ve had).
The disciples certainly had this in mind. In John 20:19-31, we read of the fear and lack of hope that consumed the thinking of the disciples after the crucifixion and the experience at the empty tomb. Then Jesus came. He came and stood among them saying, “I’m here just as I said I would be. Put aside your fear. Enjoy my peace.”
And then Jesus breathed his divine breath upon them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit and get ready to be sent out into the world, just as I have been sent, I send you.” However, in the next chapter in the Gospel of John, we find the disciples going back to work, doing what they knew how to do best, and doing what they did before meeting Jesus. They went fishing. They went back to the familiar routine of everyday living as if the previous three years with Jesus were just a fading memory.
Maybe the disciples began to think, “This Jesus movement was a good thing while it lasted, but all good things must come to an end. So, let us just go back to work and forget all this Kingdom talk and especially this resurrection idea. The story is ended.”
Then early one morning the risen Christ finds these disciples-turned-back to-fishermen and says to them, “It’s not over. It is just getting started. Do you love me? Then get out of those boats and feed my sheep. Go find my people and teach them the things I have taught you.”
You would think that it was enough that they encountered the risen Jesus on a number of occasions, but it was not. They were not yet equipped to take up this message of the kingdom of God and boldly proclaim it to the world. They needed on more thing.
Jesus stays with them for 40 days, continuing to teach them about this kingdom that had come. And then he tells them that they must wait for the promise of the Father. Jesus told the disciples, “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7).
That early Sunday morning so many years ago was not just an event to be celebrated once a year, but was the defining moment for all of history. We simply cannot go back. Just as Jesus breathed on his disciples to signify the coming of the Holy Spirit in power to them, so also he promises that “the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2). And, “if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom. 8:10-11).
Jesus’ resurrection was the dawning of a new day, the beginning of a kingdom that will be ever expanding until the great number who are the church is complete. Every day for us is resurrection day. “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades” (Rev. 1:17-18). And so we sing…
I serve a risen Savior, he’s in the world today
I know that he is living whatever men may say
I see his hand of mercy, I hear his voice of cheer,
And just the time I need him, he’s always near.
Let us go forth in the power of the resurrection of our great Savior.