If Jesus was raised from
the dead, what
became of him and the power he possessed.
Between the Sunday the tomb was found to be
empty and the day on which the disciples first began to proclaim Jesus was
alive, there is a gap of fifty days. After the arrest, trial and crucifixion
of Jesus the disciples were in shock. Even after they knew that the tomb had
been reported to be empty, they still faced a major problem with their own
disbelief. So let's go back to the chain of events that began immediately
after the resurrection had taken place.
On the Sunday morning after the crucifixion, before the sun had come up, Mary Magdalene slowly made her way to the tomb to finish anointing Jesus' body with ointments and spices.
On arriving at the sepulchre, she discovered the stone had been removed. Peering inside, she realized the body was gone.
I know this is the right tomb, she thought to herself. So she hurried to tell Simon Peter and John.
"They have taken the Lord from the sepulchre!" she cried. "I don't know where they could have lain him."
Peter and John were startled by this news and so they decided to go to the tomb and investigate it for themselves. The sun was just starting to come up over the Mount of Olives as they sprinted toward the tomb.
As they ran, Simon began to breathe heavily. Young John, anxious to reach the tomb, kept up his steady pace and arrived at the sepulchre first. Standing in front of the opening, he could clearly see the body was gone. When Peter arrived, he ran right into the tomb and saw the grave clothes were still wrapped, as though the body had just evaporated.
Mary had been right; the body was gone. Soberly they left the tomb and sauntered back to where they were staying. (John 20:1-10).
Mary returned to the tomb by herself. Disturbed because she thought the authorities had taken the body, she stood in front of the tomb and wept. Stooping to look into the sepulchre, she saw two angels in white.
"Woman, why are you weeping?" they asked.
"Because they took away my Lord, and I don't know where they've laid him," she replied.
While she was standing there, a man came up from the garden and said, "Why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?"
Thinking he was the gardener, Mary said, "Sir, if you took him away, tell me where you laid him."
"Mary," the man said simply. Instantly she recognized it was Jesus.
"Master!" she cried, falling at his feet.
"Don't hold me," the Lord replied. "Go to the brethren and tell them I am ascending to my Father."
What a flush of excitement filled Mary's heart as she ran to tell the disciples! But even though they heard Jesus was alive, and that Mary had actually seen him, they refused to believe her. (Mark 16:9-11; John 20:11-18).
When the sun had fully risen, Joanna and Mary, the mother of James, and some other women departed for the tomb from another part of Jerusalem. When they arrived at the grave, they were surprised to find the stone had been rolled away. Entering the tomb they saw the body was gone. While they were discussing what could have happened, the two angels appeared in front of them, and they fell with their faces to the ground.
"Don't be afraid," said one of the angels, "for I know you seek Jesus. He isn't here, for he's risen, as he said he would. Go quickly and tell his disciples he's risen from the dead and is going before you into Galilee. You will see him there."
They fled from the sepulchre trembling. As they started to run off to the disciples, they suddenly came face to face with Jesus in the garden.
"Rejoice!" he said, and they fell at his feet. "Don't be afraid. Tell my brethren to go to Galilee and there they shall see me."
With great joy they sought out the disciples and told them everything they had seen. But still, the disciples refused to believe.
"We cannot believe these emotion women," declared the disciples. They're words seemed to be against all logic. These early reports of the women who had seen Jesus came back to the second-story room where the disciples were hiding. They stirred things up for the disciples who remained unconvinced. (Matthew 28:1-10: Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12).
But that evening two more reports came in. Peter claimed Jesus had appeared to him during the afternoon. While he was talking about his encounter, two more followers came from the countryside where they had talked to Jesus for quite some time along the road, but still the majority of disciples would not believe. (Luke 24:13-35).
While they were arguing about these accounts, Jesus suddenly appeared in the room. The doors were locked because they were afraid of the religious leader, but Jesus appeared inside of the room without bothering to enter through the door.
"Why didn't you believe?" he asked.
I can imagine all of their mouths dropped open in surprise. Jesus scolded them for not believing the reports that he had come back from the grave. Hadn't he predicted it to them over and over? Why did they have to wait until they had actually seen him?
The disciples were at a loss for words—yet they had so much to say. They were elated he had actually come back from the dead, but they still didn't understand what all of this meant. (Luke 24:36-43: John 20:19-23).
Later, the disciples met Thomas, who had not been in the upper room. Of course, they told him about the Lord's appearance, but his response was just as predictable as the others had been.
"I'm sorry," replied Thomas. "I won't believe it unless I see the nail prints in his hands and the spear wound in his side and actually put my fingers into them."
Thomas was just as skeptical as the other disciples had been. He could simply not accept their word for such an unbelievable event.
So a week later, with the disciples again meeting in the upper room, Jesus suddenly appeared again and this time looked straight at Thomas.
"Come here and put your finger into my hands and your hand into my side," Jesus said. "Don't be without faith, but believe."
But Thomas fell to his knees in front of Jesus and cried, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:24-29).
Later, Jesus appeared to the disciples on a mountain top in Galilee as he had promised. Here the disciples were to learn more about what their future held.
Matthew's Gospel tells us, "They worshiped him, but some doubted." (Matthew 28:17). They knew he had been resurrected from the dead; they knew he was God, but they also knew that he would be leaving soon. If they were still so fearful of the religious leaders, how could things get any better after he departed to go to the Father?
Jesus began to speak, "All authority and power is given to me in heaven and in earth." (Matthew 28:18). He began by confirming again that he was God and that he had used his power to conquer both life and death. As God, he had control of the universe—he had all power and authority.
"Therefore, you are to go make disciples in all nations." (Matthew 28:19). On the basis of his power and authority, Jesus was telling the disciples they would reach the world with his message. The disciples had witnessed the resurrection; now all they had to do was to tell the world what had happened.
Jesus certainly knew of their doubt. He knew they had reservations. So he told them the greatest part of this strategy he had been planning for reaching the world. "And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age!" (Matthew 28:20).
Now on the surface this statement might seem to be symbolic, that Jesus would be with them in spirit throughout time. But as we'll see, it was far more than that. In fact, this statement is the key to Christ's whole command to make disciples. They knew he had the power to overcome death. But he was going to stay with them and all future disciples. He was going to live inside his followers so that they could use the Lord's power!
For the first time the disciples had a chance to grasp what the future would hold for them. The Lord was going to win much of the world to himself. Everywhere they went, he would be present. All they had to do was speak, and the supernatural power of Christ would take over. He would give power to their words.
The meeting which Jesus held with his disciples on that mountain top in Galilee was the beginning of that transformation. Many of the things which Jesus had taught the disciples over the past three and a half years suddenly began to make sense.
He had said all along that this was going to happen. But they had expected him to set up a kingdom. So he had told them, "It is necessary that I go away, because if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come." (John 16:7).
As long as Jesus Christ walked the earth, he could teach only a limited number of people at any given moment. He had to leave, so that the Holy Spirit would come. The Holy Spirit was going to show them how to conquer the world by making disciples.
Jesus spent forty days with his followers before he finally said good bye. He gathered them together back in Jerusalem and told them not to leave the city. On the Mount of Olives, opposite Jerusalem, they all met for the last time.
"Wait for what the Father has promised, which you have heard me tell you about many times. In just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. . . But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power to testify about me with great effect to the people in Jerusalem, those in Judea, Samaria, and even to the remote parts of the earth."
After he had said that, Jesus rose into the sky and disappeared into a cloud. (Acts 1:4-11). The disciples walked the half mile from the Mount of Olives back to the upstairs room of the house in Jerusalem where they were meeting. They were alone now, but there was definitely an air of expectancy in the group. They knew something powerful was coming.
So for several days the eleven disciples, the women who had first seen the risen Lord, and many others who had believed in Jesus spent time praying together. They didn't know how it would happen, but they knew the Holy Spirit was coming as the Lord had promised.
On the day of the feast of Pentecost, approximately ten days after Jesus had ascended into heaven, the disciples were again together. Suddenly there was a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were meeting. Then what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of those in the room. Everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in foreign languages which they didn't know.
When the people outside heard the sound of the rushing wind, they came running to see what was happening. A large crowd of foreign Jews had come to Jerusalem for the feast and they gather around the building where the disciples were meeting. When they heard the disciples talking in their own native tongues, they couldn't believe their ears.
"How can this happen?" they exclaimed. "These men are from Galilee and yet we hear them speaking all the native languages of the lands where we were born. We hear them telling us the mighty deeds of God in our own languages." At least sixteen different languages were being spoken by the disciples that day.
Some in the crowd began to mock the disciples saying, "They're drunk; that's all."
At this Peter stepped forward, probably standing up on the second story balcony, and shouted to the crowd.
"Listen, all of you. Some of you are saying these men are drunk. Well, it isn't true. People don't get drunk before 9 a.m.! No, what you see this morning is the outpouring of God's Spirit predicted long ago by the prophets."
Then Peter proceeded to preach a sermon in which he told the large crowd that Jesus from Nazareth was actually the Messiah. He quoted several passages from the Old Testament to confirm what he was saying then added:
"So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!" (Acts 2:36 NLT).
Peter's words pierced the hearts of all those listening to him and they fell under the power of conviction. Through Peter's message, the Spirit was doing exactly what Jesus had predicted he would do. The Holy Spirit was convicting the listeners of their sins.
"Brothers, what should we do?" they cried out.
So Peter said to them: "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38 NASB).
He kept preaching more to them and said: "Be saved from this perverse generation!" (Acts 2:40 NASB). And the number of those who believed that day and were baptized was 3,000 in all.
When Peter addressed that crowd, the hearts of those who listened were pierced with a sense of conviction. For the first time, they fully grasped what they and their fellow countrymen had done to their promised Messiah. They saw how hardhearted their lives and actions were. They saw the destruction that their sin had brought about in their lives and they knew immediately that their opinion and actions towards the Lord had been all wrong.
So when they asked what they should do, Peter's immediate response was to tell these men that they needed to repent. This simply means they needed to change their opinion about the Lord. Then they needed to turn from the wicked world in which they lived and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. Then they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Christ would actually come to live in their hearts just like he had in the lives of the disciples that very morning.
You've been reading about Jesus as The Liberator. If you've been listening with your heart, there should be experiencing a sense of conviction from the Holy Spirit. Unless you are closing out the Holy Spirit's power, he should be convicting you right now of how sinful and self-centered you are. Has there been a sense of brokenness building up in your emotions and your feelings? If that has begun to happen, concentrate on what God is telling you and begin to focus on what God wants you to do.
Coming to Jesus demands a complete personal revolution in your heart and your life. Christ wants to forgive your sins. He wants to come and dwell inside of your heart and fill you up with his Holy Spirit. But for that to happen you must first come under a conviction of your own sin. If you would like to know more about how this works, check out How to Become a Christian, How to Repent of Your Sins.
In fifty short days after his resurrection, Jesus transformed that ragged group of fishermen and peasants into an army that would make a profound impact on the pagan world of their day. Those men and women turned their world upside down with the revolutionary message that Jesus was indeed The Liberator.
Our world is more modern but it is also much more pagan then the world the disciples lived in. The coming of the Holy Spirit marked the beginning of a tremendous spiritual explosion which changed those men and began the early Christian movement.
The disciples had been powerless without Jesus. All the knowledge they had gleaned from three and a half years with Christ was meaningless until he gave them his power. Once they had received that power, however, they began an unstoppable spiritual force that changed the world. If you are not a part of the force, you should be.
The secret to the growth of the early church begins with Christ. When we change our minds about him and allow him to become our God, our own personal revolution begins. Turn your heart and mind towards him and he will liberate you from the power of sin.
Christ wants to forgive your sins and give you his Holy Spirit. His death, because he was God in the flesh, can wash away your sins—IF you let him. He also wants to come and dwell inside your heart. If you would like to know more on what to do, check out How to Become a Christian, and also How to Repent of Your Sins.