EDITOR'S NOTE: This is adapted from the introduction of the author's new Easter-to-Pentecost devotional, 50 Forgotten Days: A Journey Into The Age To Come.
If paying the price for the sins of the world was his only objective, Jesus could have flown into Jerusalem any Friday morning and flown away by Sunday night. Job done, back to heaven, sit down for eternity.
Absurd, you say? Of course, but sometimes our preaching communicates this very message, especially in the weeks leading up to Easter Sunday. But the seven weeks following Easter provide an opportunity to center on the Gospel Jesus preached: the gospel of the Kingdom of God.
Consider this: what was so important that the Savior felt the need to stick around after he purchased our pardon? He had lived a sinless life, provided the example of perfect behavior, and wiped the slate clean for anyone who comes to him in faith to receive his grace. What was left to do? The book of Acts immediately re-focuses us on our Lord’s grand mission:
In my former book, 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. (Acts 1:1-4)
The opening words of this wonderful book can provide preaching material between now and the Sunday we call Pentecost. Here are two starters for the 50 forgotten days.
1. “All that Jesus began to do and to teach ...” (emphasis added). This is something worth emphasizing: the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is just the beginning for us. We can preach and teach the life-changing truth that the gospels contain what Jesus did back then, but he is still doing things today. For everyone with ears to hear or eyes to see, Jesus is still teaching and still doing. Through our sermons we can share the current good news of what Jesus is doing in lives all around us — how many testimonies are there among the people of your church? Their redemption stories point to the power of God, which is still reaching and rescuing today. Likewise, Jesus is still teaching:
2. “... forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God ...” What was so important that the resurrected Christ felt the need to repeat himself? This passage from Acts reminds us Jesus stayed earth-bound for 40 more days in order to speak about the Kingdom of God. At the beginning of the gospel record Jesus launched his preaching with the gospel of the Kingdom of God. His parables revealed and explained God’s Kingdom. His miracles demonstrated the Kingdom. His death and resurrection inaugurated God’s Kingdom. And then, just for emphasis, he stayed with the disciples for weeks in order to teach about the Kingdom of God! Can you imagine the Lord of Glory teaching about his kingdom for 40 intense days after the resurrection? That’s a podcast I would subscribe to! The seven weeks after Easter provide the perfect setting for a sermon series on the Kingdom of God. It can reinforce God’s mission and message. It can move our congregations forward. It can transform holiday church attendance into everyday church attention. Just try preaching for seven weeks on God’s kingdom — you’ll see a difference among your people.
We have all worked so hard in the days leading up Easter: Palm Sunday, Easter pageants, building repairs and special music. Wouldn’t it be a shame to waste that momentum? Jesus considered the coming weeks important enough to give them his personal attention. He still does!