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 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
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