A Study in Acts: Hope Restored
Over the next several days, I invite you to join me in diving into the Book of Acts. I think it’s a fitting study right after Easter, as the Book of Acts focuses on the foundation and growth of the Early Church immediately after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.
Before we jump into Acts though, we should really wrap up the story of Jesus’ time on earth after His resurrection. See, Jesus did a lot on earth after He rose from the dead, but it’s often glossed over. Understanding the whole picture, what Jesus accomplished while still on earth before ascending to His throne again, sets the stage for Luke’s message in the Book of Acts. So lets takes a few minutes to catch up on Luke 24:13-53. I encourage you to take a few moments and read this passage yourself.
Jesus has risen from the dead. The tomb is empty, the guards have fled. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James are the three women mentioned by name, but they were not the only ones present at the empty tomb (24:10). After learning what had taken place at the tomb by the two angels, the women quickly returned to the eleven Disciples to inform them of the news. I’m sure much to their frustration, their news was not received well. Scripture tells us that the Disciples did not believe them; in fact Peter took off running to the tomb to see for himself, only to find their story was in fact true!
Jesus was already busy while the women and Disciples wrestled through what I can only imagine was a myriad of emotions. He wasted no time making His rounds visiting people. His first encounter was on the road to Emmaus, where we see Him engaging two travelers lamenting Jesus’ death and failure to rescue them from the hands of the Roman Empire. After traveling with and listening to them recount His trial and execution, their disappointment in dreams of being freed from Roman rule, and the Disciples not believing the women’s story of the empty tomb, it’s almost like Jesus can’t take their depressive moods anymore. We see Jesus then unload the entire Biblical story on them as they continue walking, starting with Moses and the Prophets making everything clear to them with relation to Jesus Christ. Walking almost 7 miles, that’s a lot of time to occupy!
At the end of the day Jesus agreed to stay with them, rather than continue walking as the sun sat. The Scripture says that when Jesus broke bread and blessed it, that at that moment their eyes were opened to who was in their presence. Up to this point, it was not revealed to them that the man walking by their side was Jesus! At this moment, they realized the significance of their journey and who was with them. Their eyes had been opened and belief took hold in their hearts. And as quickly as they believed, Jesus vanished from their presence. Without delay, the two men rose and went back to Jerusalem to find the Disciples and tell them about their encounter with the risen Lord, Jesus.
It was in this moment of testimony among the two men, the Disciples and others with them, that Jesus made His appearance again. Startled and unsure what they were witnessing, Jesus assured them that it was He, their risen Lord with flesh and bone. He encourages them to touch Him to put their doubts to rest, showing them the scars on His wrists and feet. He even went so far as to eat solid food before them, making it clear He was not just a spirit.
I can feel their confusion. Sure, they had heard the stories now from the women and the two travelers, Peter even saw the empty tomb himself. But now they were confronted with undeniable proof that their friend, who days before they saw die and be buried, was sitting before them alive and breathing. The confusion that must have been swirling in their minds as they tried in their finite way to make sense of everything, I can only imagine was overwhelming. Then Jesus, knowing their struggle with unbelief in the moment spoke and opened their minds so that all they had heard and witnessed became clear to them. They then understood fully what Jesus had taught them, and the significance of what He had endured.
“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”– Luke 24:46-48
Everything came to a head in this moment. Jesus had fulfilled His earthly mission, the Disciples now believed and understood at a level previously not reached. Death was conquered, sin had been defeated and its grasp on us broken. Jesus’ time on earth was coming to a close, and His accession back to His heavenly throne was upon them. But as we know, that is not where the story ends. If anything, this is where the story really begins.
The hope that was seemingly lost with Jesus’ arrest and death has now been restored. Is it the way the Disciples imagined it would be? Not even close. They imagined an earthly king, with an earthly kingdom, one that would challenge and eradicate the Romans from their lives. Jesus’ mission, the prophecies He came to fulfill, was vastly different. But it involved them in a way they had not considered. And now, it involves us.
These are the days I love the most, the day after we think the story is over. What happens next? It’s like a good movie that abruptly ends and leaves you wanting more. With Jesus, we get more. A lot more. See, Jesus didn’t just come to earth, do some miracles, and then die on a cross just to rise from the dead and free us from sin.
He did it so we could experience change and proclaim His love to others.
The story continues; it continues for us, and because of us. We are witnesses just as much as the Disciples. Sure, we didn’t see Jesus’ resurrection first hand. But have you experienced it in your life? Have you been transformed by His power through repentance and forgiveness of your sin? If you have, if you identify as a Christian, you have a responsibility to proclaim the truth, no different than the Disciples. The same charge Jesus gave to them has been given to you.
The question then is rather simple. Are you doing it?
Is something holding you back from proclaiming the truth of Jesus? Are you believing that the story stoped with His resurrection? Are you letting doubts or fears get in the way of fully trusting Jesus, and moving forward in your faith journey?
We’ve seen in the last verses of Luke’s account the struggles and obstacles the Disciples faced the next day. We’ve seen how Jesus addressed them, opened up eyes and minds to see and understand the fullness of His mission. The story didn’t end that day. The Disciples moved past the issues of that day with a new passion and desire, fueled by the truth of Jesus Christ.
Will you join me in doing the same? Don’t let the story end.