The Church: Remarkable Moments in History
F. F. Bruce said that when reading the Gospels, we experience the life and work of Jesus on earth; but when reading the book of Acts, we experience the life and work of Jesus in Heaven. Many call Acts the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church. I like that.
In Acts 1: 1-3 we enter into a unique in-between period where Jesus appeared to His disciples for forty days following His resurrection (vs. 3).
In Matthew 4 we read that Jesus was in the desert being tempted by the devil for 40 days at the beginning of His ministry. Now, we read that Jesus, following His resurrection, ministered in His glorified body for 40 days. The numbers are interesting but certainly not the main issue of this account.
The chief desire of Jesus was twofold:
1. Verse 2: "giving instruction through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen.” These men, (all except Judas who betrayed Jesus) had lived, walked, learned from and were faithful to Jesus during His three years of ministry. They are the focus of His attention after the resurrection and before His ascension (vss. 1 and 2). It was paramount that these men had been with Jesus "the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us ... a witness with us to His resurrection” (vss. 21-22). Jesus directly prepared the apostles to be witnesses to the meaning of His death and resurrection. No other religion or even Christian religious sect has this level of credibility. These men and women were eye witnesses for 40 days to the true person of Jesus, the living Christ, the Messiah ... the One who is God in the flesh.
2. Verse 3: Jesus gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. Why is this so important? The disciples, along with many others, would have no reason to doubt that He was alive and not merely a "ghost" or "spirit." A common saying is that people believe what they want to believe, but is that true? No, in reality, people only believe what they are convinced of and convicted of to be true. The early apostles and disciples needed that level of proof. Paul gives his endorsement of the reality of the physical witness of Jesus during the 40 days prior to His ascension (1 Cor. 15: 3-7). He says that Christ appeared in a unique order, first to the apostles, then to more than 500 eyewitnesses, then to Paul himself. What credibility these witnesses had. So strong was their testimony that no one could refute it; they could only discount it.
Forty days with the glorified Jesus. What a glorious, brief, yet dramatically important period of history. Here is the true foundation of the church. Yet, there are still greater things to come.
God bless you as you pray this month,
Lord I thank you for the Church and I thank you for Your revelation through the book of the Acts of the Apostles. Thank you for this introduction this afternoon to what is "your chief desire". May I continually be listening to the Voice and prodding of the Holy spirit as He gives instruction, ever dwelling in the reality of Christ in me the Hope of glory!