Summary: Don’t be a cowardly lion.The disciples did it and we can, too.

Toto, We’re Not In Kansas Anymore

Well, I guess Easter is over for another year. The Easter dresses and suits aren’t new anymore

and the candy’s gone. Things are pretty much back to whatever passes for normal these days,

back to the old, pre-Easter routine.

And in churches all across America today, pulpits are being filled by substitute preachers.

Denominational leaders and other “experts” advise preachers to take some time off the week

after Easter to relax.

The reason we’re supposed to do this is that the week before Easter is the busiest week in the life

of the church and the preacher. There are additional worship services to prepare for, the Lenten

Bible Study, the Maundy Thursday Tenebrae service, the Good Friday service, the Easter sunrise

service. All of these come in addition to the normal duties, and all require a certain extra amount

of time and energy.

And then comes the main event: the Easter Sunday worship service. Do you know what the

Easter service is for the preacher? It’s the Super Bowl, the seventh game of the World Series,

and the NCAA finals all rolled into one! Easter is special. Easter is the holiest day of the year for

the church.

The joy of Easter is so great, the victory so decisive, that Easter Sunday alone can’t cover all that

the resurrection of Jesus did for us. That’s why Easter is not just one Sunday, but a full seven

Sundays. Eastertide. A week of weeks to celebrate Christ’s victory over sin and death.

In our first scripture reading today we read about the evening of Easter Sunday. Rumors are

flying around Jerusalem that something has happened to the body of Jesus. Different individuals

or groups have already claimed to have seen Jesus risen from the dead: First Mary Magdalene.

Returning from telling Peter and John that the body was gone, she met Jesus outside the tomb.

Other women had seen him. Two people traveling down the road to Emmaus tell of Jesus

appearing to them and walking with them. So the disciples gathered together in the Upper Room

to think about these things.

It was evening. And they hadn’t seen Jesus. They were scared - maybe the Jewish leaders would

also have them killed. Maybe they were scared of Jesus. What would He say to them? They had

deserted Him in His hour of need. What would Peter do when he had to face the one he had

denied three times. The door was locked. Maybe to the Jewish leaders, maybe to Christ.

It is dark when Jesus comes to them.

And what does He say? “Peace be with you.” No words of reproach. No, “what’s with you

leaving me when I needed you most?” No, “Thanks for your support.” Again Jesus said, “Peace

be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said,

“Receive the Holy Spirit.” If he was upset with them or disappointed with their actions, he didn’t

show it.

In fact, Jesus appears eleven times in the forty days between his resurrection and ascension.

While these last 40 days are important, there is relatively little said about them in Scripture.

Only 142 verses and many if not most of them have to do with resurrection itself. It seems that

Jesus just appeared to the disciples once in awhile - we are not told where he was the rest of the

time. He appeared to Mary Magdelene and the disciples, he walked with two disciples on the

road to Emmaeus.

It seems that Jesus didn’t do much in the way of ministry during this time. We are not told of

any continued ministry or healings or teachings. He only spent time with his followers - and that

time was limited - that was precious time.

It is interesting how this time was spent and why Jesus spent this time as he did. It shows that

the work of ministry had now been transferred to the disciples, the very ones who had deserted

him. This time was spent to prepare them. Instead of being with Jesus and watching him

minister, the torch had been passed. When we think of what Jesus said to them we can also hear

him say the same things to us since we, as his disciples, are to continue the ministry, too.

First, I notice that Jesus wanted to make sure the disciples, not others, knew that he had risen -

early disciples would greet each other with the words "He is risen" with the response "He is risen

indeed". He wanted them to know that He would continue to guide them. He lets them know

what side of the boat to catch the fish from.

In all these ways Jesus was preparing them for the hard work of the gospel that lay ahead. They

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