We are big on Easter, and rightfully so—God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, putting an exclamation mark on the life of his Son. Some branches of the faith are big on Pentecost, celebrating the coronation of Jesus in heaven and the overflow of the Spirit dripping down to the earth.
Between the two, there’s a span of 50 days.
In the hubbub of Easter, we sometimes forget Jesus stuck around for another 40 days after resurrection. Apparently he had more to say and do. The very first verse in the book of Acts teaches us the gospels were about “all that Jesus began to do and teach.” The rest of Acts teaches us that Jesus is still doing and teaching in the days, weeks, months and decades after the gospels. The work of the first-century church was the work of Jesus. Isn’t that true today? It’s all too easy to substitute our work for his, to engage in ministry apart from his direction. What is Jesus doing and teaching in our day? Are we still working with him or simply working for him?
Jesus’ message in the 40 days of resurrection was really no different than his message during his three years of ministry: He taught about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). Acts opens and closes with the Kingdom of God front and center. The very last verse in the book shows us Paul, three decades later, proclaiming the Kingdom of God (Acts 28: 31). Have we meditated on the meaning and importance of the Kingdom, or have we reduced the message of Jesus to only his sacrifice of the cross? Individually and corporately, we need to rediscover the Kingdom message.
The angels who were present at the ascension asked a pretty good question: “Why are you looking toward heaven?” (Acts 1:11). It’s a question worth considering. Frequently, we are more concerned with heaven than with the Kingdom of God. The breathtaking sacrifice at Calvary purchased the forgiveness of sins and the hope of heaven, but in our generation, many followers of Jesus have limited his work and message to heaven and heaven only. We should ask: If the gospel is only about going to heaven, why did Jesus invite us to take up the yoke of discipleship?
I’d love to get the podcast of everything Jesus taught in those 40 days, but it hasn’t shown up on iTunes yet. In the meantime, he invites us to work with him just as closely as the first disciples.
So why 50 forgotten days instead of 40?
Simply because there were 10 days of waiting, watching and praying before Something Big happened to the church. The idea of 10 days to do nothing is desperately needed in the church today, and this is the perfect time of year to embrace that very thing.
The gospel accounts end with Jesus saying, “Go!” Acts opens with Jesus saying, “Wait!” What was so important that Jesus told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem? In our day, many Christians are familiar with the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20), but are we aware that Jesus also told us to wait? Jesus said, in effect, “Don’t go anywhere, don’t do anything, until you receive all that I have for you.” Have we meditated on the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives? We can work for God without any special empowerment. We cannot work with him apart from the Holy Spirit.
There are plenty of Lenten devotionals. They help us reflect on the gravity of the cross and the glory of resurrection. But what do you do after Easter? That’s really the question of what it’s like to live in the Age to Come. The days between Easter and Pentecost are usually an afterthought, yet they can become an opportunity to reflect on the significance of the resurrection in our lives. The risen Jesus didn’t leave in a hurry: He hung out with his disciples and put the finishing touches on three years of training. He wants to do the same for us.