"The Next 40 Days"
The text tells us that Jesus remained in human form for 40 days after the Easter Sunday. What did he do during that time? What does the Bible tell us about those 40 days?
The Next 40 Days
A. Many Christians look to the cross of Christ and face their own sin and the love of Jesus as his blood was shed for us. Many Christians look to the empty tomb and the resurrection Sunday in which death was destroyed, new hope was seen, and the promise of our own resurrection from the dead was given. Yet, we often end there. For many Christians the ascension of Jesus is simply and afterthought to Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
B. Our text that was read to us from Acts 1, states that Jesus, “presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3)
C. So Luke tells us that Jesus wanted to prove his resurrection during that time and also wanted to share the teaching of God’s kingdom. This morning I want us to look at those 40 days and examine what the Gospel’s tell us and conclude by understanding the teaching of the “kingdom of God.”
I. Proof Of His Resurrection
A. We sing, “Up from the grave He arose!” and the power of the chorus cause us to say, “Amen!” at the conclusion of the song. It is a powerful anthem. Jesus wanted to offer evidence of that resurrection because many people would believe the lie that “his body was stolen by the disciples.”
B. The apostle Paul spends much of 1 Cor. 15 teaching the need to accept the resurrection of Jesus as a fact, not just a story. He tells us that if Jesus did not rise then neither will you or me. But worse, if Jesus did not conquer death then we are still in our sin.
C. As Paul address this issue, he says (1 Cor. 15:3-8). Paul gives us a list of witnesses who saw the resurrected Jesus in human form so that you can base your faith on their testimony. The first name Paul mentions is Cephas, or as we normally call him, Peter. He then closely follows that statement with “the twelve” meaning the chosen Apostles that were with Jesus during his ministry, not twelve others besides Peter.
D. I want to take you one of those occasions that prove Jesus rose. The first takes place the Sunday after the resurrection of Jesus. The Bible story begins for us in John 20:24-25.
E. To Thomas, the cross was only what he expected. When Jesus said, “Let us go up to Jerusalem” it was Thomas who said, “Let us also go that we may die with him.” Thomas never lacked courage, but he was a natural pessimist. There is no doubt that he loved Jesus and was willing to go, even lead, the group of disciples to follow Jesus to Jerusalem. But like the others, when the time came in the garden to be counted he “scattered like sheep when the Shepherd was struck.”
F. Let me share with you a mistake that Thomas made that too many others make today. Thomas withdrew from the fellowship and it affected his faith. He sought loneliness rather than togetherness. When sorrow came, he shut himself up inside himself at the very time he ought to have taken solace with the company of the other disciples. (E & F taken from Barclay Commentary on John)
G. Thomas would not affirm something he did not believe. I appreciate honest doubt. I also appreciate a willing heart to see the facts. While Thomas was not with the others the day Jesus rose again, he did not totally dismiss that it was possible. He simply declared that unless he had proof he would not believe.
H. Remember, part of what Jesus did during the 40 days was to prove his resurrection was real, not a story. Part of the people he showed himself to was this group of men. Now we know about the upper room the previous week, let’s take a look again a week after the resurrection. (John 20:26-28)
I. Look at the reaction of both Jesus and Thomas. Jesus calls upon Thomas to do two things: (1) stop disbelieving (2) start believing. There comes a time when the facts are laid out that you can no longer live in a question mark. You are required to stop doubting, stop disbelieving, stop having a heart that wants to not believe and start learning what it means to believe.
J. Lord give us a church filled with people who face their doubts with evidence and live in deep faith! This church needs people who deeply believe based upon the evidence and the testimony of the witnesses. Lord give Whitehall such faith! Let us proclaim, “My Lord and my God!”
K. You are blessed if you believe. Look at the rest of this section (John 20:29-31). Do you believe like Thomas? Will you take your doubts and seek to find answers? Having doubts is not the problem, but using them as an excuse to not examine the evidence and come to a conclusion is a the problem. Jesus spent 40 days proving his resurrection. Do you believe it? Does the death, burial and resurrection change how you think and how you examine life? Does it move you from pessimism to proclamation?
II. The Kingdom of God
A. The second action Jesus took during those forty days was to proclaim the kingdom of God. If I may take you back to John the Baptizer, we read (Matt. 3:1-2). The idea of a kingdom was not new to the Jewish people. They had viewed themselves as part of God’s chosen kingdom since the days of King Saul and remembered the glory days of King David and King Solomon. But it had been a long time since those days. Over 1000 years had passed since David sat on the throne in Jerusalem.
B. Now Rome was sitting on the throne, very little or spiritual or physical Israel was left and the people appeared to act as if God had left them alone. Then John comes preaching about a kingdom, reminding them of great need of repentance. Baptizing them (immersing them) in the Jordan River and calling for spiritual renewal before the One who comes in the power of the Holy Spirit arrives. It was a time of intense kingdom talk.
C. When Jesus comes on the scene, he begins his ministry not down in Judea where John was, but he really begins his public ministry up in Galilee. But the message he begins with is the same (Matt. 4:12-13, 17).
D. The three-year ministry of Jesus centered upon the kingdom of God. When Jesus gives the Sermon on the Mount, he begins by telling the people, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew records for us many parables where Jesus describes the kingdom of heaven with illustrations they understood.
E. The kingdom talk is strong talk, especially to people who had such strong nationalist pride. But the kingdom Jesus preached was not of this world and that people didn’t understand.
F. Even his disciples did not fully understand. What appears to be the last day of those 40 days, we hear this question the disciples have (Acts 1:6-8).
G. In just days after that a national feast called Pentecost took place. It was a special day for on that day the power of the Holy Spirit came upon the apostle’s in such a way as they spoke boldly about the purpose of the cross and the Spirit of God convicted 3000 people to respond to the message and they were baptized into Christ for the remission of their sin and God added them that day to their number. That number, that group, is called, called “the kingdom of God.” The fullness of the message of John and the ministry of Jesus is experienced in the fellowship of the kingdom that we call the church.
A. For 40 days Jesus walked on this earth after Resurrection Sunday. During that time he proved he was alive. Something you and I must decide if we believe. And he taught about the kingdom of God. Something you and I must decide if we will enter. The power of God is set before you this day.
B. It is the same message that was preached 2000 years ago. I pray you will be like Thomas and cry, “My Lord and my God.” I pray you will be like those who responded on Pentecost and enter into the kingdom of God through the blood of Jesus by repenting of your sins and being baptized into His body. If you need to respond to His message this day, then come forward as we stand and sing.