After the Resurrection: What Now?
© 2023 C. O, Bishop
Matthew 28:11-20; Mark 16:15-20; Luke 24:45-53; John 21:1-24; Acts 1:1-9
Last week we spoke of the Resurrection and the effect it has upon believers. Some of those effects are what we call “positional truth:” They are permanently true because of your position in Christ, from the moment you trusted in His shed blood as full payment for your sins. Others are conditional truths, that should be true of every believer, but, in reality, are only true as far as believers are willing to walk with Jesus by faith, and obey Him.
After the Resurrection
In Acts 1:3, we are told that Jesus spent forty days with the disciples, teaching them, and making final preparation for His departure at the ascension. In Matthew and Mark, not much is said about this time period between the resurrection of Jesus, and His ascension.) Both simply point out that the Lord gave His last request, that they are to go out as His ambassadors; His witnesses, and “Preach the Gospel to everyone; make disciples in every nation, and His promise was that He Himself would be with them, empowering them to serve.”
Mark concludes that they did so, but he leaves out the fact of the Holy Spirit’s arrival (in Acts chapter two;) that it was after the coming of the Holy Spirit that they became fearless evangelists. They were hiding until that day.
In Luke, some important details are added. These details happened in the room where Jesus proved to His disciples that He was not a ghost, by eating some broiled fish and honey. But after he had convinced them that He was truly alive, He said some things, that reveal to us an important key to understanding the Bible. Please open your Bibles to Luke 24, verses 44-53.
44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
46 And said unto them, [Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And ye are witnesses of these things.]
49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. 51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.
52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: 53 And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.
Notice that in verse 44, He reminds them that His life had been completely devoted to fulfilling the prophecies about Himself. Everything from the Torah (The books of Moses) and all the Prophets, including the Psalms, that had referred to Him, either openly or obliquely, had been fulfilled.
Then it says “He opened their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures…” Our tendency is to read that verse as if there were a period, after the Word “scriptures.” But there is not! There is a comma, as the next three verses tell how He opened their minds so they could understand the scripture. If we read that sentence with an inserted period, a full stop, then it seems that Jesus performed some miraculous “brain augmentation” that supernaturally enabled the disciples to understand the scriptures.
But the key to understanding, that Jesus gave them, was to see that the Redemptive Plan of God, fulfilled in the events of the last few days, including the crucifixion, and the resurrection, and their subsequent outreach to the entire world, is the central theme of the whole Bible.
And He told them that they were the witnesses He intended to use. He also reminded them that the Holy Spirit was the One who would empower them as His witnesses, and that they were to wait in Jerusalem until The Holy Spirit came. (They did not know God’s timing. When Jesus ascended, there were still seven days left before the feast of Pentecost. Pentecost was fifty days after the Passover; Jesus spent three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, as predicted, and forty days with the disciples. There were seven days left before Pentecost.)
The last two verses are interesting, too, because they skip the forty days that Jesus spent with His disciples, teaching them, and preparing them for the task before them. They skip straight to the ascension, and His final blessing. It is also interesting to see that His final blessing (which, as we see in the Old Testament, is prophetic of their lives to come) turns out to be the final issuing of the Great Commission, as we see in Acts 1:8, 9. The Great Commission is the Blessing!
The Gospel of John is the only record of the time Jesus spent with the disciples before the ascension. And not all of it is what we would expect. Please turn to John 21:1-24
1 After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself.
2 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.
(Seven of the remaining eleven Disciples were there.)
3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. 6 And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.
7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.
8 And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes. 9 As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. 10 Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. 11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.
12 Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise. 14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.
15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? 21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?
22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.
23 Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? 24 This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.
Lapsing into the Old Life
At least seven of the Disciples, with Peter leading the way, were lapsing back into their old way of life. Jesus had specifically called them away from that life, saying “henceforth ye shall fish for men!” Bear in mind that most of these men had a commercial fishing background: they were not just deciding to “go catch a few fish” for dinner, or go there for recreation: they were reverting back into their old way of life!
So, when Jesus revealed Himself to them as we read in this passage, they were like children caught in some sort of mischief…afraid to talk to Jesus. But Jesus only addressed Peter:
He called Peter by his old name, Simon Bar-Jonas, since he had dropped back to his old job. Jesus asked whether Peter was more committed to Jesus than He was to the fish. (The “Love” he asked about in Greek, is the Agapé love—the fully committed, unconditional love we are commanded to have toward one another, in John 13:34, 35.)
And He was not asking “whether Peter loved Jesus more than he loved the other disciples,” as He had already commanded them all to love one another in the same way He had loved them. The issue was the fish. “Are you more willing and more committed to pouring your life into my priorities than you are to catching fish for the market?” Or is it just, back to “business as usual?”
Peter definitely understood the question as it was asked, because he chose a different word for “Love,” to give his reply. He did not use the Agapé word for love, but Philéo…meaning, “Yes, Jesus, You know I am fond of you! I have affection for You! I like You!” This is a totally different idea, not even addressing Jesus’s question. Jesus did not respond to the verb change: He just said, “then feed my lambs!” (The Greek word, here, translated as “feed” is boskō, and it simply means “feed.”)
Jesus asked the same question a second time, using the same verb, Agapé, and Peter answered, again using the word for affection; not a fully committed, unconditional love. Jesus again ignored the verb change, and said, “then shepherd my sheep!” (This word, poimaine, is a different view of the job… not just feeding. Some Bibles translate both as “Feed.” But the poimaine word means the whole job of caring for a flock, as described in Ezekiel 34:1-10.)
Jesus spoke a third time, this time using the same verb Peter was using: “Simon, son of Jonas, do you even like me? Do you even care??” Now we see that Peter was grieved, because the third time, Jesus used the same verb he himself had used. He answered, and said “Lord (master) You know all things! You know that I like you! You know I am fond of You…that I have affection for you!”
Perhaps Peter was simply unwilling to profess “unconditional love”, as he had previously done, knowing that the last time he had done so, he also utterly failed, and denied he even knew Jesus. But Jesus simply answered, “then feed [boskō again] my sheep.” (“Take the job seriously, and do what I have asked you to do!”)
He then told Peter, “Follow Me! (Keep being the Disciple you were called and trained to be!)”
Peter looked around and saw John, and asked “What about him? What do you want him to do?” Jesus answered, “What is that to you? You follow me!”
This is either the third or the fourth time Jesus had to call Peter away from the fish. Scripture tells us that Peter served faithfully, after this, and that he was eventually martyred for his faith.
We can see the transformed lives of all of the disciples after they were indwelt by the Holy Spirit. All of them were faithful, and history and tradition (hard to sift out which is which) tells us that most (or all) were eventually martyred.
What about Us?
I don’t want to get too specific, here, because obviously, I don’t know the future, nor do I know God’s will for any individual. But what we can see, here, is that we are to leave our old way of life behind, to whatever degree we are called to do, and remember that we now live for Him, not for ourselves. The fact of the resurrection has made some definite changes in our lives, simply because we have been placed into Christ. We can read about those changes, among other places, in Ephesians 1:3-14.
Some people simply live out that changed life in the same place they were when they were first born again. They may do the same job, and associate with the same people. But Jesus expects that how they do that job, and how they interact with the people around them is definitely to change. We are no longer part of the world. We are part of Jesus, and we are called to act like it.
We are called to lay aside our old priorities and embrace the priorities of Jesus. In John 4:34, He said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work!”
Embracing His priorities, and His values, is the essence of discipleship. And, just as it was impossible for the disciples to do the job apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit, it is also impossible for us to live that life apart from Him doing it through us. Every believer today receives the Holy Spirit at the moment they trust in Jesus as their Savior.
But we still have our old sin nature, and we are engaged in a lifelong struggle to maintain submission to Christ so that the new nature is in evidence, and the old self is set aside. We are secure in Him, but the fight is real. We cannot “just coast.”
Peter finally left behind his beloved occupation and identity as a commercial fisherman, and he never went back. He had something better, and something more important to do.
And, so do we! We need to examine our own lives and ask how the Lord would have us to change, in order to honor Him.
Lord Jesus, open our eyes to the reality of Your Word and allow us to feed upon it as Your disciples. Help us to walk in Your footsteps and be the men and women of God that You have called us to be; Ambassadors for Your Grace.