So That You May Believe...
Pastor Chuck’s Message
Sunday, April 19, 2020
“The Next Forty Days”
“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book [the Gospel of John]”
(John 20:30) … “This is the disciple [John] who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:24-25)
“In my former book [the Gospel of Luke], Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” (Acts 1:1-4)
Following our celebration of Easter, we are going to begin a new series of messages entitled, “The Next Forty Days.”
One of the most significant periods of time in history is often the most neglected and that is the 40 days Jesus spent on earth between His resurrection and the ascension to the right hand of the Father in Heaven. What do you think happened to the disciples during that 40 days of time after Jesus rose from the dead? What could the disciples have been thinking when they saw the risen Christ? Understanding the events that took place for the 40 days after the resurrection of Jesus must be more than disconnected snippets-in-time, but they must become a significant part of our spiritual journey.
The purpose of those 40 days was for Jesus to show Himself to be alive! He had indeed risen! Just as He had told them He would: Mark 8:31-32, “He [Jesus] then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this…” (ref. also Matthew 12:39-40; Matthew 17:22-23).
For the 40 days following His resurrection, Jesus walked and talked in places where His ministry had been. During those 40 days, Jesus healed many and He continued to preach and teach. Jesus was seen in His restored (resurrected and glorified) body by hundreds, just as He had been previously seen by His disciples in His transfiguration on the mountain (Matthew 7:1-9, Mark 9:2-9;
Luke 9:28-36). This time was meant to prepare and strengthen His disciples for things to come. His now-resurrected body (a glorified body), was the same body Jesus had on earth, but it was now transformed. The wounds in His hands and feet (Psalm 22:16) and the cut in His side were still visible (John 20:25-29). He engaged in physical activity, He still breathed (John 20:22), talked (John 21:15), ate (Luke 24:41-43) and walked (Luke 24:15). Yet, after the resurrection, Jesus’ body was also different; He was not always easily recognized by His disciples (Luke 24:31), He could pass through barred doors and windows and appear or disappear, and He did not need rest or sustenance to sustain Himself.
Jesus spent most of this post-resurrection time instructing His disciples and preparing them for the task of telling the world about Christ before He went back to Heaven. Then, on the 40th day, He was taken up into the sky and ascended to Heaven which also was witnessed by others. Luke writes, “When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.” (Luke 24:50-53)
And in Acts 1:9-11, “After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Why should we consider the events of those 40 days and the significance of the Ascension?
Simply put, author and theologian Rick Marschall writes:
“Jesus' birth had been according to Scripture. His miracles had shown His power. His preaching had taught the world wisdom. His persecution and death had fulfilled prophecies. That He conquered death was an astonishing miracle. But His ascension to Heaven – His bodily rise to be with the Father at the Throne, the mystery of rejoining the Godhead – more than any detail of these other manifestations, confirms the Divinity of Jesus Christ.”
Yes, Jesus is God! He is the “I Am!” He is “Emmanuel, God with us!” He is “the Lamb of God!” The “Son of God!” He is “the image of the invisible God … the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being!” He is, “The fullness of God, “the Creator and Sustainer of all things by His powerful word!” He is, “Life,” “Eternal Life!” He is “the firstborn over all creation.” He is, “The First and the Last,” He is, “Our redeemer and King,” “Savior and Lord!” He is “Our Messiah!” He is “the Holy One!” He is “Jesus, the only name under Heaven through whom we must be saved!”
And to this, I must pause to lift my hands in the air, fall on my knees with tears in my eyes, and proclaim to you with a grateful heart that by His Love, Grace and the Power of His Resurrection, we are saved through and through by His shed blood, and to proclaim to you with great joy, Hallelujah! He is Coming Again! Praise God! Praise God! Truly, my cup is running over! Be encouraged!
For forty days Jesus stayed on earth and demonstrated to His followers and to the world that He was truly alive! The Sanhedrin (the Jewish ruling counsel) had called Jesus a blasphemer, and others claimed His miracles were of the devil… but Jesus’ 40 days of appearances in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas, being seen by multitudes, could not be adequately challenged or disputed. The contemporary Jewish historian of the day, Josephus, referred to it, as did other writers. Two generations later, the writer Eusebius interviewed many people who had known people who saw Jesus during these days, told of miracles, even cited sermons and letters of the risen Jesus. Historically, the Church multiplied rapidly and, even in the face of great persecution, very few people disputed that Jesus rose from the dead.(ref. the Book of Acts chapters 1-8).
The number 40 is a number of God’s own significance. It appears 146 times in the Bible. When we think of the number 40, we think of Noah in the Arc, the Israelites years in the wilderness, of the days Moses was on the Mountain with God, of Jonah and Nineveh, and, in Jesus' case, the number of days He was tempted of the devil… and the number of days between the Resurrection and the Ascension. “The number 40 signifies testing, trials, probation, or provision” and in these 40 days between the resurrection of Christ and the ascension of Christ, provision was His purpose. Jesus was their provision during this time of extreme trauma, fear and transition. Jesus was providing for their needs mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally.
Provision for the Disciples
1. Reassuring Them of His Promises
Jesus had promised His disciples in John 14:18-2, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
No, they didn’t understand what Jesus meant at that time but can you can imagine the power and truth of those words as they came flooding back into the disciples’ hearts and minds! Now, they understood. Jesus had said to the disciples, “… In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.’ Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” John 16:19-22)
Think about this for a moment; “If I was of those disciples, everything I would have heard for the first three years, would take on a totally new meaning for me when I saw that the one who taught them is now alive from the dead. Something that is absolutely impossible; a miracle beyond even the creation of the universe” (David Bryant).
Everything those disciples would have heard and experienced, from the time of their calling by Jesus to “become fishers of men, to their struggle with doubt, misgivings, fear and failure, would now take on a totally new meaning for them.
The Apostle John sums it up with these words, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete” (1 John 1:1-4).
2. Affirming and Comforting Them
“And after eight days his disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, 'Peace to you!' Then he said to Thomas, 'Reach your finger here, and look at my hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving but believing.' And Thomas answered and said to him, 'My Lord and My God!’” (John 20:26-28)
The disciples were cloistered behind locked doors and Jesus mysteriously and remarkably “stood in their midst.” What a powerful moment that must have been! Jesus confirmed and affirmed the disciples’ faith and trust and was now living proof that it had not been in vain. He assured them that what they had seen, experienced, and the emotions they had felt were real and He assured them that they had a future and it was complete in His love and presence.
3. Restoring, Sustaining and Empowering Them
Jesus sustained the disciples with the Holy Spirit until the Day of Pentecost. In John 20:21-23, “Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Jesus breathing on the disciples was like that of creation when He, the Creator (John 1:1-2), breathed into the nostrils of man the breath of life and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). Breath is a significant image for God’s Spirit in the Bible. In both Hebrew and Greek, the word “Spirit” is translated “breath.” When Jesus breathed on His disciples, He gave them the Holy Spirit, the sustaining power of God, bringing new life and the ability to carry out their mission. As in the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was now upon them and on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit would be in them.
4. Commissioned Them to Go
Jesus set the disciples apart for the immediate and future work of God for all believers. They were to go out and preach the gospel to the entire world.
Jesus said to the disciples, “…As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21) and Matthew records Jesus final instruction, Matthew 28:18-20, “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing 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. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
“Those 40 days were absolutely essential so that they knew He was alive from the dead, they knew He was victorious, they knew that the kingdom was real, and that He was the King. When He finally sent them out to the ends of the earth, they would know exactly why they were going and who they were going for, and be able to stand up even against the greatest resistance in order to press forward in this wonderful mission that all of us still share in, which is to bring the gospel to the people of the earth” (David Bryant).
For the next 40 days, Jesus appeared to His disciples five significant times and would continue to instruct His disciples before His ascension and prepare them for what would take place on the 50th day, ten days after Christ’s ascension, the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit would be sent by God to baptize the Church into the body of Christ.
I pray that this introduction has prepared your heart to consider what happened with the disciples over “The Next 40 Days.”
Oh Lord, our God, as we consider the extreme love, care and assurance you gave to the disciples after your resurrection, so too, we ask for your presence as we struggle under the weight of COVID-19 and the devastating affects it has had on our world both large and small. Help us to know and feel with great assurance, the fullness of your promises, to hear your voice of affirmation and comfort, and to realize the sustaining power and strength of your Holy Spirit; that we may truly know the Power of His Resurrection as you enable us to reach beyond ourselves with the Good New of Jesus Christ! HE IS RISEN! AMEN!
What Did Jesus Do Those 40 Days? By Rick Marschall
The Antiquities of Josephus by Flavius Josephus
The History of the Church by Eusebius
The Significance of the Number 40 in the Bible by dailybreadreflections.wordpress.com
Inspiration and Authority of the Bible by Benjamin Warfield
40 Days after the resurrection by Neil Stavem
The Supremacy of God’s Son by David Bryant