Acts 1:1-11 (Lk 24:19-53; Mt 28:5-17; Mk 16; Jn 20:9-31; Jn 21:1-14; 1Cor 15:1-8; 1Jn 1:1-4)
Following the celebrations of the Passover and the Firstfruits – the death and the resurrection of the Messiah and Lord — believers all around the world are rejoicing in the risen Savior, having begun the 50-day (7-week) count till Shavuot/Pentecost. For many people then – 1985 years ago – and now, such a thing as the resurrection is only a rumor, or a myth, idle chatter, or impossible. Even for the closest disciples of Yeshua, the 11 apostles, it was “too good to be true”!
Jesus had told them that He would be crucified, put to death, and that He would rise again and meet them in Galilee. Yet when the event actually took place, their hearts were hardened and would not even believe the testimony of their own friends who had seen Him alive again, talked with Him, touched Him, eaten with Him! Even though He had told them all what was going to happen; even though it was written in the Tanach (Bible)!
Acts 1:1-11 Truly, O Theophilus, I made the first report as to all things that Jesus began both to do and teach (2) until the day He was taken up, having given directions to the apostles whom He chose, through the Holy Spirit; (3) to whom He also presented Himself living after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them through forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. (4) And having met with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to await the promise of the Father which you heard from Me. (5) For John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days from now. (6) Then, indeed, these coming together, they asked Him, saying, Lord, do You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? (7) And He said to them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in His own authority. (8) But you shall receive power, the Holy Spirit coming upon you. And you shall be witnesses to Me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (9) And saying these things, as they watched, He was taken up. And a cloud received Him out of their sight. (10) And while they were looking intently into the heaven, He having gone, even behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them, (11) who also said, Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into the heaven? This same Jesus who is taken up from you into Heaven, will come in the way you have seen Him going into Heaven.
Jesus showed Himself alive to the 11 men whom He especially chose and sent (and afterward Saul/Paul) to be His witnesses to the Jewish people first, and also to the Gentiles. By proving day-by-day for 40 days that it was He Himself who had died and risen from the dead, then it was no longer just a rumor hard to believe. Just as the sheaves of wheat are counted each day from the day of Firstfruits until Shavuot/Pentecost as a “confidence builder” for the harvest, so Yeshua, until the day of His ascension, built in the certainty of the truth of His resurrection for the hope in God’s promise of life after death for believers in His Son. (Read the passages at the top of the page.) The good news brought unspeakable joy to their sad and hardened hearts, and prepared them to live and to die for the truth of the gospel in the face of fierce opposition, ridicule, and persecution. (Remember the Samaritan men who came out to see Jesus after the Samaritan woman at the well had gone back to tell them that she had met the Messiah: they went to Him, and heard and saw for themselves, saying, “Now we believe not only because you told us, but we have heard for ourselves.”)
Paul writes later that Jesus showed Himself alive to more than 500 people at one time together. In many ways the gospel writers wrote how the Lord clearly showed that He was indeed alive after having been dead and buried for three days. He had defeated the devil, sin, and death, and was indeed the Son of God who had come into the world to save His people from their sins. He is the King of Israel, Messiah, Son of David.
Do you believe? Do you know without doubt that Yeshua Messiah is alive – risen from the dead and now seated at the right hand of the Father – and that He is the Savior of the world, including being your own Savior from sin and death?
Have you believed what is written in the Scriptures, both the Tanach and the New Testament? Have you believed when your friends or family members told you that it is true?! At least one of Yeshua’s apostles doubted that the truth was true: Thomas was not with the other apostles when the Lord first appeared to them all, and he said that unless he actually saw Him and the nail prints in His hands, and put his finger into the print and into His side, then he would not believe. A week later, Jesus appeared again to all of the apostles, this time including Thomas. Jesus told him to do what he had said, and said to him, “Do not be unbelieving, but believing”. Thomas answered, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (Jn 20:24-29)
For those of you who still are not certain and still unbelieving, is it because your heart is hardened to the Holy One of Israel to whom all must give an account on the day of judgment? Is it because He is holy, and requires that His people be holy? Is it because you have too much love for this world? Is God’s plan interfering with your own plans or ambitions?
For those of you who say you believe, can you testify of having seen God working in your life and in the life of others: answering prayers, healing sickness, giving hope and comfort through suffering and loss, protecting you from harm, blessing you beyond all expectation and “worthiness”, forgiving you your sins and giving you power and faith to forgive others their sins?
Do you have living faith and hope that Jesus is coming again to put away evil from the world that He created and made? Do you love Him enough that you want Him to come again?
Why is this hope and expectation important for believers? In the passage we read in Acts, before Jesus was about to ascend to Heaven to sit at the right hand of God, and before the disciples would receive the Holy Spirit, the seal of the New Covenant relationship, their first question to Him was concerning the restoration of the Kingdom of God to Israel, the very thing that the Lord taught them (and us) regarding how to pray. It was also a very logical question by Israeli Jews, who were taught to expect that when the Messiah, Son of David, would come, He would bring YHVH God’s peace and righteous rule again to Israel. When Jesus did go up in their sight into Heaven, the two men dressed in white standing by them said, “This same Jesus/Yeshua, who was taken up from you into Heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into Heaven.” (v. 6,11)
The return of the Lord Jesus Christ and our resurrection or rapture (whichever applies personally at the time of the First Resurrection) is the hope and expectation of all true believers. The Lord’s Supper reminds us, as often as we take it, that Yeshua is coming again. The whole life of Messiah and the gospel is summed up in the Communion: for Yeshua to have died, He had to be born a human being; for Him to come again, He has to be alive by being raised from the dead; by coming again, He has to be ‘somewhere else’ now — in Heaven, the place from where He first came: God appeared in flesh and blood. The last prayer of the Bible is, “Even so, Come, Lord Jesus!”
Do you believe the Word of God concerning the things to come? Will you be ready to endure to the end by faith that overcomes the world in the blood of the Lamb and our confession of Jesus as LORD/YHVH?
God has a plan for restoring His kingdom over Israel, and the whole Earth, even the universe. Yeshua is alive, and He is coming back in great power and glory! For this we are here: Yeshua’s witnesses to bring more people into His Kingdom; God’s sons and daughters to grow to full maturity in preparation for our Bridegroom’s return.