Those Forty Days
I don’t think that I have ever heard a sermon on those most important days after our Lord’s resurrection and just before his ascension. Perhaps this is because they are somewhat shrouded in mystery. We are not given many details of what happened during that time, but the passage does tell us this much: 1) Christ gave commands to his apostles through the Holy Spirit; 2) He presented himself to them after his resurrection during those forty days providing many proofs that he was indeed alive; 3) He spoke to them about the Kingdom of God; and, 4) He specifically commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem until they received “the promise of the Father” about which Jesus, himself, had previously informed them, a promise that would be fulfilled “not many days from now.”
Luke begins his “Acts of the Apostles” – which some have rightly said should be called the “Acts of the Holy Spirit,” as it is his work we see throughout – referring to the Gospel he had written before. He doesn’t delineate what this book will be about as he does in Luke 1:1-4, but we already know: Luke will speak of the work of the Holy Spirit in the growth of the Church as disciples are made beginning in Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to the uttermost parts of the earth (1:8), the very work the apostles did in obedience to our Lord’s commissioning of them as we read about yesterday in Matthew 28:16-20.
But it seems that much of this work is predicated upon those precious forty days our Lord spent with his disciples (learners) now turned apostles (sent ones). For starters, they needed to know beyond all doubt that Jesus had, indeed, risen from the dead. These men would eventually be martyred for the message they would preach, and the hinge to which that message was fastened was the resurrection of Jesus Christ – the declaration that Christ was Lord over death, hell, and the kingdoms of this world, including Caesar’s. Of this, they had to be thoroughly convinced. As for what commands he gave them through the Holy Spirit we can only guess. Jesus did all of his works through the agency of the Spirit so that phrase should not surprise us. But given that the passage also tells us that he spoke to them about the Kingdom of God, I am inclined to believe that much of what Jesus commanded them had to do with: 1) The precise content of the gospel they would preach; and, 2) The establishment of his Church as believers were gathered into the visible manifestation of his Kingdom on earth. For the power to accomplish this otherwise impossible task, they had to wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Nothing has changed.