I want to start by saying, “Thank you” for walking with me through Passion Week. There is still much more to come for Jesus and His disciples but it isn’t broken down into a specific time frame for each event. These events are VERY important and bear remembering.
There are 40 days left for Jesus to walk this earth with His disciples and impart and/or stress the final points He wants to leave with them before stepping back into Heaven. Those days end just before The Comforter He promised rushes in like a mighty wind. From then on The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, picks up the torch and walks with man even closer that Jesus did. He testifies of the Father and the Son and draws us at all times towards the Father’s will.
Let’s take a step back from that moment with the Holy Spirit though and look at some of the special times Jesus had left with His followers. We will take them slowly and see where the Holy Spirits draws us with each of them.
Resurrection Sunday was the single busiest day for appearances of Jesus, which we have record of. The first person to see Him alive was Mary of Magdalene. Mark 16:9 tells us this fact. When she first saw Him she didn’t recognize Him. It may have been because of her grief or maybe He was hidden in shadow. But as soon as He spoke to her she KNEW Him.
Mary wasn’t the last on that day. Matthew (28:8-10) tells us that Jesus appeared also to the other women who had come to the tomb. They were on their way back to His followers but weren’t moving all that fast for reasons of fear when He stood before them and greeted them. After meeting with Him personally they were MORE than happy to rush back and tell the disciples He was alive.
We are told by Luke (24:34) that Jesus had appeared to Simon Peter alone during that resurrection Sunday. Paul the apostle also confirms this when telling the Corinthians about Jesus’ resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. We don’t have any other details about this meeting with Jesus. Not even from the book of Mark where it is supposed that Mark was actually writing from Peter’s experiences. I guess this was one meeting Peter wanted to keep close to his own heart and not share with the world.
The longest meeting Jesus had that resurrection day was with the two men on the road to Emmaus. Cleopas and his companion traveled with Jesus from Jerusalem to Emmaus without even recognizing who He was. Somehow He had blinded them to who He was, including not letting them recognize His voice. Only when He broke the bread in their presence did they put it all together. They were so excited about seeing Him alive that they jumped right back up and ran back to Jerusalem.
Which brings us to the last resurrection day appearance recorded. When the two men returned to where Jesus’ followers were staying they all started sharing their experiences. While they were excitedly talking Jesus decides to show up in person. They are all shocked into silence. The silence is broken when Jesus asks for something to eat, thereby proving Himself flesh and blood again.
During the first disciple visit Thomas was somehow absent. Eight days later Jesus appears to a room full of His disciples and Thomas is present this time. Until that day Thomas kept voicing his doubts. When Jesus appears this time He specifically addresses Thomas’ doubts. “Touch me. Put your finger in the holes in My hands. Put your fist in My side.” ALL Thomas’ doubts left at that moment and never again would he harbor any doubts.
I find myself identifying with Thomas. I refuse to take the word of the ‘news media’ or many internet sources, especially when it comes to judging someone’s guilt or innocence. I want to go directly to the source for my answers. I, however, don’t have trouble believing people I know, unless it is about something that they heard from one of these questionable sources. I would probably be a ‘half-Thomas’ instead.
My favorite appearance of resurrected Jesus is next. It is probably the favorite for many others too. John devotes a whole chapter (21) to telling us this story. This appearance takes place after several of Jesus’ disciples ask themselves, “Now what?” They really don’t know what they are supposed to be doing now. They are apparently not very good at waiting. They haven’t been given any new ‘marching orders’ so they are at loose ends.
Peter has had it with sitting around waiting. “I’m going fishing” he announces to the group. Six other disciples decide that they are going to join Peter. They fished all night. Net after net they dragged from the sea but it was always empty. This certainly isn’t the first fishing trip where they came back empty handed but this one probably stung more than the others. Jesus has been conspicuously absent from their midst. They don’t know what they are supposed to do next. And even the job they left seems to be leaving them emptyhanded.
As the morning approaches the boat full of brothers is ready to call it a night when they hear a greeting from the shore. “Did you catch any fish?”
Dejectedly they call back. “No.”
“Throw your nets on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”
I can hear their whispered responses. “Who does He think He is? A fish whisperer? Does He really think we hadn’t thought of that already?”
After a moment one of them says, “Let’s just humor Him. What can it hurt?” and they throw out their nets one more time. Expecting to get nothing again they reach out to pull up an empty net only to find themselves straining with all their might. The net is FULL!
Immediately John remembers another fishing expedition like this and he KNOWS Who called out to them. “It’s the LORD!” John tells Peter. Peter threw on his jacket, jumps out of the boat and swims to shore. He has forgotten all about his fishing partners and the haul they were struggling with. He wants to be where Jesus is.
The rest of the disciples drag the net nearly to the shore. By this time Peter has met up with Jesus and Jesus asks him to bring some of the fish they just caught. Peter rushes back to his fishing buddies and helps bring the net the rest of the way on shore.
When they get back to Jesus with some of their fish they find He already has several cooking on the fire. Together with the new fish, Jesus cooks breakfast for the whole group. This was a relaxing breakfast of bread and fish, all served to them by their Lord.
I wonder what they talked about during the meal. They DIDN’T question who He was for they KNEW it was Jesus. I wonder about that statement in the story. Was there a reason others might have wondered about His identity? Was His appearance changed? Were there more scars evident on Him than just His hands, feet and side? Is this why Mary of Magdalene and the disciples on the way to Emmaus didn’t recognize Him? But He was recognizable to the group of them in the home both times so maybe it was a spiritual blindness that they experienced, even for a moment.
After breakfast, while still with the entire group, Jesus addresses Peter. This isn’t the first time Jesus has spoken personally with Peter since His resurrection but this one is VERY important. This is when Jesus officially calls Peter to his new role. Peter will never again wonder “What now?”
Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him. Three times Peter answers that he does. And three times Peter is told to “feed My sheep” by Jesus. There are MANY sermons out there postulating on the reason Jesus kept asking. Some look at the word Jesus used for “love” and the one Peter used in return. Others link the number of times Peter denied Jesus to this conversation. I think Jesus was driving home a point to Peter and He kept at it until He was CERTAIN Peter got that point.
Peter, the disciple Jesus told that He would build His church on the foundation of the knowledge that was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit. Peter, the man Jesus called to be a “fisher of men.” Peter, the disciple who SWORE with an oath that he didn’t know Jesus. Peter, the disciple who was always putting his foot in his mouth. This Peter, Jesus makes CERTAIN that he KNOWS beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has been forgiven and restored. Jesus did it publically so that there would be no lingering doubts from the other disciples as to where Peter stood with the Lord.
AFTER restoring Peter, Jesus calls him to take a walk with Him. John follows and Peter starts asking about other people’s jobs. “It’s none of your concern. YOU follow me. I will worry about the others Myself. I will assign their tasks when I’m ready. This time is for you. Concentrate on your role.”
That’s not exactly word for word but I believe it conveys what Jesus was saying to Peter at the moment. I have a feeling He says the same thing to those of us who try and control all those around us. It’s not our job but His to direct His children. He certainly puts some in the position of authority but even that authority comes with limits. Be willing to live within them. That includes me too of course!
Jesus also took time to make a personal visit to His brother; James. This same James was certainly with His mother when they tried to drag Jesus home while He was preaching. James didn’t fully accept who his own Brother was, until this meeting. Like Jesus’ visit with Peter, we don’t get to hear what these two brothers talked about. Whatever it was it changed James’ life forever. He became one of Jesus staunchest followers. Never again would James doubt the fact that he grew up side by side with the Son of God!
Jesus BIGGEST appearance was to a crowd of more than 500 people. Paul tells us of the size of this gathering. The possible location for this appearance is when He gave the ‘great commission’ to His disciples on the mountain in Galilei. Matthew (28:16-20) doesn’t tell us that no others were around during this time so He could have easily been speaking to them specifically and the crowd generally. We know that He also calls us to be witnesses for Him; to fulfill the ‘great commission’. This is a great way to get His ‘troops’ marching in the same direction. No one would have to wonder “What now?” any longer.
The final time Jesus walked with His disciples was the morning He bid them good-bye and stepped back up to Heaven. That must have been something to behold! One minute they are standing there together and the next Jesus is being drawn up into the sky. No glass elevator. No escalator. No strings. No hidden wings. Just God calling His Son home and lifting Him bodily from the earth.
For just a few minutes the disciples watched and waited. They might have gone back to the “What now?” thinking but they weren’t left there. God sent some angels to prod them back into action doing the things Jesus told them to do on the mountaintop. “He will be back in time. But for now, get busy doing what He told you to do.” And that is just what the disciples did from then on.
We are still waiting for that return. Only God knows the moment that will happen. In the meantime we are to do exactly what Jesus told His disciples to do. Spread the word of His work. Share the story of salvation with anyone and everyone you can. Live your life in a way that would please Him. And keep walking in faith. He IS coming back!
After Jesus left He fulfilled His promise to send A Comforter to His people. This Comforter arrived on the day of Pentecost. This is the next holiday on the Jewish calendar after Passover. During His last visit with His disciples, Jesus told them to stay in Jerusalem until the Comforter came. After leaving the Mt. of Olives they hung out together and waited.
When the Holy Spirit showed up He raised the roof! He gave Jesus’ disciples a new strength. A strength that flowed directly from God that they could rely on to help them live the life they were called to by Jesus. The Holy Spirit didn’t make them perfect or infallible but He spoke to their hearts daily to draw them back to God if they wandered or wondered. He provided them with conviction and power.
The Holy Spirit provides these same ‘services’ for us today. He leads and guides those who ask Jesus to be their Lord. When we invite the Holy Spirit FULLY into our lives He gives us this same power. Jesus made sure ALL of us were provided for and that we had enough evidence to KNOW without a doubt that He rose from the dead and WILL return again. He kept the first part of that promise so we can TRUST Him to keep the last part too!
Lord Jesus, THANK YOU for giving me all the proof I could ever need to KNOW You as my Lord. There is NO DOUBT in my mind or heart that You are God’s Son, that You have risen from the dead, that You gave me the Holy Spirit to be my Comforter, and that You are coming back again. I put my trust in YOU!
Help me live my life in a way that pleases and glorifies You. I pray for any who see me in the times when I fall short. I pray that their faith is not harmed by my actions. I pray that You will be able to show them restoration and forgiveness as I turn back to You. I pray that You would call out to me so LOUDLY that I cannot help but turn back EVERY time I turn away. Whatever it takes Lord, keep me near Your side.