We often fall into the trap of seeing the resurrection of Jesus as the “end of the story”. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, did miracles, was betrayed by a friend, arrested, and crucified for our sins. He then rose from the dead. Happy Easter! The end! That’s not the end of the marvelous story of Christ and his Church. In fact, Jesus does four things following His resurrection that we would do well to learn from and hear what Christ is saying to us through these actions. Let’s look at the Acts of the Apostles.
“In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up,after giving instructions through the holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak: for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:1-5)
The first 5 verses of Acts give us a glimpse into what happens after Jesus rose from the dead. Let’s take a look at what those actions were and how we can apply them to our life:
1.) Jesus proved He was alive: “He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered.” (vs 3)
The first order of business for Christ was to prove to his disciples that He had risen from the dead. This group of apostles had seen Jesus arrested, knew about the suffering He endured, and were in hiding. Imagine being an apostle who had taught about Jesus being Lord and Messiah, who had witnessed miracles and believed in Christ, and then to see him arrested and crucified. It was not only a damaging blow to their faith and belief in the claims of Christ regarding His identity, but it was also a source of fear. The government and religious leaders had conspired to kill Jesus because of their fear of his popularity. The disciples had participated in the spread of Jesus. They were hiding. The government and Jewish leaders wanted to squash this “Way” of Christ. It would include hunting the disciples down as well. They were afraid and defeated.
Jesus appears to them and shows them “many proofs” as a way to encourage them, build up their faith again, and to strengthen them for the persecution they would face. It was a way to solidify the truth of Jesus as God Incarnate and the Son of God. Jesus secured their belief that he was, indeed, the Messiah.
We must also have that encounter with Christ and that moment of belief. We must seek that confidence to know Jesus has risen from the dead, He is Lord of all, He is God, and He has given us redemption from our sins. We must allow the proof of the resurrection of Jesus to ignite the fire of our hearts and embolden us to share the Gospel with others. There is undisputable proof that Jesus rose from the dead.
2.) He stayed with them for 40 days: “…appearing to them during forty days” (vs 3)
The significance of 40 days should not be overlooked. (Remember the temptation of Jesus for 40 days in the wilderness by Satan?) It is intentional. Jesus has just returned to his disciples after being crucified. He has proven to them he has been resurrected and now spends time teaching them. Jesus is certainly not one to waste a moment and so we can safely surmise that his teaching was a combination of instructing them, teaching with parables, reminding them of what the Lord has done, and in prayer. Jesus spent his time on earth teaching, doing miracles, and in prayer. He did all these three after his resurrection. He taught them, he proved he rose from the dead, and we can be assured he spent time in prayer because the disciples immediately went and prayed after his ascension.
3.) He taught them about the kingdom of God: “…and speaking about the kingdom of God” (vs 3)
To teach others about the Lord, we must know our faith. Our belief and faith do not need to be confined to Sunday Mass and leaving it within the parish walls when we walk out on Sunday. If we treat our faith as another “to do” item on our weekly list of “things to do” then we will never know our faith, our Lord, well enough to teach others. Jesus instructs them about the faith. He expects us to do the same with those we love. He expects us to teach them about Him. He is waiting for us to tell our family, friends, and neighbors about him. He is waiting for you to know your faith well enough to do so.
4.) He instructed them to be patient: “While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak.” (vs. 4)
If you are like me, patience is not a virtue I have most of the time (road rage much?). Jesus tells his disciples to be patient. He tells them to wait for what comes next. He doesn’t specify when it will take place or what exactly it is, but he directs them to wait. Jesus is oftentimes telling us to be patient, to wait for Him, but we get anxious. We get impatient. We want things now. Fast food, fast internet, immediate smartphone notifications are all part of our life. Many of us even have watches that show text messages and phone calls immediately when we receive them. God does not work on immediate. Jesus tells them to wait and be patient for what comes next. He is telling us the same thing – wait and be patient.
Just as the final actions and words of Christ before and during his crucifixion are key to understanding our faith and the work of God, his actions following his resurrection are just as vitally important. We must learn from what Jesus does and we must open our heart in prayer to ask him how he desires for us to apply that to our life.