Three Things the Early Church Did following the Resurrection
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk[c] from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”
It was a week after Resurrection Day and what an emotional rollercoaster ride the disciples had been on. Two weeks prior to this they were wildly cheering as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The people were paving His way with palm branches and their coats as they made a royal road for Jesus. They were celebrating what they thought was Jesus’ Coronation as King. Many thought that Jesus was setting Himself up as the conquering King – at least that was what they hoped for. What an enthusiastic high that must have been. They must have laughed and shouted in glee and loudly celebrated that week.
The celebration took on a somber note that evening at the Seder meal that came to be known as “The Last Supper’. Jesus took the bread and said, “This is my body.” He took the wine and said, “This is my blood”. Eat and drink in remembrance of me.
That was a strange thing to say. He was right there with them. Then He said something that must have really caused them to wonder what was going on. He told them that His betrayer was sitting right there with them.
Can you imagine their bewilderment; their doubt; their guilt? They all began to ask, “Is it me? Is it me? Am ‘I’ the betrayer? (Matthew 26:21) They knew that all of us have the seed of betrayal with in us. We all have that root of sin buried deep within our heart. We all are capable of rebellion, deceit, and betrayal. Horrified they began to anxiously wonder if it was them that would be the weak link. Surprisingly, it was the ones with the most power and seemed the strongest that would betray and desert Jesus. Judas, who had responsibility for and was in control of the groups finances and Peter who so loudly and vehemently declared that he would never desert Jesus – actually did. But all would be scattered like frightened school girls before the week was out.
First there was the joy of Palm Sunday, with the comfortable love of the Last Supper and the frightened fear of failure. But whenever you have an emotional high – you can be sure a corresponding low will soon follow. I have learned not to allow myself to get too giddy with excitement because there will be a corresponding low to follow. It is better to stay more on an even keel, I think. Because before the week was out – the horror of the Friday crucifixion would set them back and they would experience a low such as they never felt when Jesus was with them. They shut themselves behind locked doors and hid themselves away in fear for their lives. What defeat! What sorrow they must have felt.
But don’t worry, because following your lowest low will come another emoti
onal high – if you hang on. One of my favorite verses says,
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
After the clouds – will come the sun. After defeat comes victory. After despair comes hope – if you are a man or woman of faith. No matter how dark and dreary the day; no matter how defeated and hopeless things seem to be – never, ever, give up. It is the one who endures to the end that will be saved, Jesus said. Do not quit! You do not have permission to quit! That is not an option for you and me. We are men and women of faith. We endure.
And the disciples endured. How? Fellowship and prayer. It is our natural tendency to hide ourselves away when we are down. We vegetate in a book or a movie or a glass of wine. Don’t do that. It will only cause you to sink lower. Do what the apostles did – pray and fellowship. We get strength from each other.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
We really do need each other. The first century Christians made it a habit to fellowship and pray. We need to do the same.
Well, Friday crushed all their hopes and dreams. Their world came apart. For over three years they had left everything to follow Jesus – now He lay dead in a cold, cold tomb. Or did He? Imagine the joy of that first Easter when Jesus appeared among them. He talked with them. He ate with them. They even touched Him! Sorrow turned to joy! Despair turned to delight! Hopelessness was filled anticipation!
Joy of Palm Sunday! Despair of Friday! Joy of Resurrection Day! WOW! What an emotional roller coaster ride. Have you ever been on one of those? It’s exhausting! Now is Easter is over. It’s a week later. Now what?
First of all, they were walking in joy. Maybe they were skipping and dancing and laughing in joy. I imagine those Bible Studies and Prayer Meetings took on a whole different tone. Jesus would walk with them and interact with them for over a month before He would ascend to heaven before their very eyes.
They must have had a new hope; a new joy in their lives that they never had before. And that’s what Jesus does when He is present. I remember the joy I felt when I came to Jesus. I remember the sorrow; the darkness; the depression I felt without Jesus. When I invited Him to be my Savior the sky seemed bluer; the grass seemed greener; the birds sang sweeter than ever before. That’s what happens when you put your faith in Christ. The anticipation of heaven; the confidence that you are never alone; the knowledge that you will never face anything that you and Jesus can’t handle together – enables us to walk in Joy.
Secondly, the disciples were walking in obedience. Before long He would be gone. That joy deep within their heart would never leave them. Faith keeps it burning strong. But God allows us to face life without Him physically walking beside us. What then? Obey. Just walk in obedience. There is many blessings to the obedient. Listen.
Salvation: “ Son though he was, he (Jesus) learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” Hebrews 5:8-9
Holy Spirit: “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.’ Acts 5:32
Eternal life: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:27-28
God’s Love: “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” John 15:10
Obedience opens the door to heaven’s blessings. Don’t think God will smile on you when you walk in willful disobedience. Don’t think you will enjoy the blessings of heaven if you are living contrary to God’s known will in your life. Walk in obedience and you will walk in His love. Walk in obedience and you will walk in His blessings. The Psalmist wrote,
“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly.”
When you walk in obedience – the Lord will shield you from danger and shine His blessings on you. In fact, He will withhold no good thing from you.
Thirdly, the disciples were walking in service to the King. The primary job of the disciple is to make the world a better place. It is to be a blessing to other people. That’s one of the reasons God doesn’t just zap us up to heaven when we repent of our sin. We need to grow. We need to mature. We need to become more Christ-like. As we do that we are to build people up and minister to them. The Bible says,
“ 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:4-8
We are saved to serve. The early church walked in service to the King. Every Christian has a place in the Kingdom. Every Christian has been given gifts and talents that are to be used for the good of others. The Bible says,
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” Ephesians 4:11-12
Can I ask you a question? What are you doing to equip people for works of service? What are you doing to build the Body of Christ up? It is part of your responsibility as a Christian to serve. As you mature – you become better at works of service. The immature think works of service is to please God – and it does – but works of service are not done to win God’s love – they are an expression of our love and faith and obedience to HIM.
I don’t know if you have discovered your gifts and talents yet – but you need to. The Body of Christ; the Church – needs you to be healthy and helpful. Can I encourage you to find a need and fill it? It’s between you and God. I will help as much as I can – but you need to respond to God’s call on your life. Walk in service to Him.
The Early Church set an example for us to follow. They:
1. Walked in Joy
2. They walked in Obedience
3. They walked in Service to the King.
We need to do the same. Easter is over. Resurrection Sunday is over. Let’s start walking!