The World Had Changed

At the beginning of the book of Acts, Jesus’s resurrection was already starting to have a dramatic effect. The powers-that-be, while not mentioned by Luke explicitly, were obviously shaken by more and more reports that the man they had publicly executed was alive. Even those who dismissed such reports could feel a growing public sentiment that they were not eager to challenge. In this short vacuum of uncertainty, Jesus chose to spend forty more days teaching his disciple about the kingdom of God. ((Acts 1:3))

That his disciples needed further teaching about something that he had focused on throughout his ministry illustrates just how contrary it was to their culture. Even when Jesus had used the plainest possible language, his followers had failed to understand, mistaking the literal for parables and parables for reality. Now that they had seen his predictions literally fulfilled, he tried once again to explain God’s plan.

Exactly what Jesus told his disciples we can only guess from what they later told others. It is likely that much of what he said was still beyond their understanding, but in time they would remember and understand. They could see that Jesus was preparing them for something, but what that might be was still a mystery. Even if they had wanted to act, Jesus forbade it. They were to wait in Jerusalem until they were “baptized with the holy spirit.” ((Act 1:4-5))

The number of disciples now stood at around one-hundred and twenty, including Jesus’s earthly family. For forty days he lived among them as he had before, but everything was radically different. His human flesh was now glorified, and he traveled freely between the realms of heaven and earth, appearing behind locked doors and moving instantly between distant places. That Jesus was alive at all after his brutal crucifixion was amazing, but it slowly began to dawn on his followers that this resurrection was not like the few others they had seen.

The Jewish teachers had long awaited the resurrection of the dead. Not a single resurrection, but the resurrection of all the righteous Jews at the end of the age, when God would judge wickedness and reconnect heaven with earth. That God had carried out this resurrection for one man in their own time was a puzzle. In some ways it seemed as though the world had ended, but no one had noticed!

The disciples could not miss the symbolism when, forty days after his resurrection, he invited them to meet him on the mountain across the valley from Jerusalem. Just as Moses had spent forty days on Mount Sinai before being given the old covenant, they hoped that, after their forty days of preparation, the last battle was finally about to begin.

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