John A. Braun
It started already on Easter Sunday. Jesus was not with the disciples as they were huddled in a room behind locked doors. He had been absent from them on a few occasions before. But this was different. This time Jesus had been crucified.
Then suddenly that night behind closed doors in the midst of their fear, doubt, and confusion, Jesus stood among them. “Peace” he said. After the shock, they knew it was Jesus. He wasn’t really gone. He had left Joseph’s new tomb empty. But he did not stay with them that night in the upper room.
The disciples who were there tried to convince Thomas, but he would not believe. A week later Jesus appeared again. Thomas believed, and another lesson began to dawn on the disciples. Not only was Jesus alive, but he had heard their conversation with Thomas even when he was not present.
For 40 more days, Jesus taught that lesson. The disciples needed to get used to the idea that Jesus was there even if they couldn’t see him. They had grown familiar with his touch, his words, his face. The presence of Jesus would be different now. It would no longer be a presence of flesh and blood in space and time. Now it would be a presence of spirit and power beyond space and time. Physics can’t explain that, but the disciples learned the lesson over those 40 days.
When Jesus ascended, he made sure they knew the lesson: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). They began a new chapter without being able to see Jesus with their eyes as they had for the past three years.
But how would they know what to do and what to say? Jesus also helped them understand this new chapter. He promised to send them aid: “When the Advocate comes . . . the Spirit of truth . . . he will testify about me . . . Because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer . . . he will guide you into all truth” (John 15:26, and 16:10-13). The Spirit would help them be accurate witnesses of what they had heard and seen.
So here we are almost two thousand years later. We have not seen Jesus and can only imagine what he looked like, the tone of his voice, and his physical touch. But we see him through the eyes of those who saw him—the eyewitnesses. While Paul was not in the upper room with these 11 men, Jesus also appeared to him.
All of them are eyewitnesses, with Christ’s stamp of approval and the Spirit’s assurance of authenticity. Peter reminds his readers, “We were eyewitness of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). Luke also assures us that he checked with the eyewitnesses and had “carefully investigated everything from the beginning” (1:3).
For us, what better place to be! The chapter that records the events of God’s people after his Ascension is still being written. We do not know how many pages are left in the chapter. We know that our stories are being written. We do not see Jesus, but we have the reliable and inspired words of the eyewitnesses to guide us. We cling to those words, because Jesus also warned about distortions, additions, and subtractions to their record.
We might like to see how the chapter ends, but we have to trust that Jesus is with us as he promised—a presence of spirit and power not confined by space and time. We might not know exactly when this chapter ends, but Jesus has given us a peek at the next chapter: “I will come again.”
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Author: John A. Braun
Volume 103, Number 5
Issue: May 2016
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