We have just passed through the period of Lent; and the celebration of Easter last Sunday. After denying ourselves during the period of Lent, in solidarity with sacrificing something of value to us in anticipation of Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, the Good News of the Resurrection of Jesus is complete. The battle over death has been won – the tomb was empty, and Jesus lives!
If you think about it, it is quite a letdown… all that anticipation about Jesus saving the world; and then they kill Him. Yes, he rose from the dead but what now? That’s quite an accomplishment, a divine accomplishment in fact, and there is another act to come… But what happens next? What is going on?
Well, technically, we are now in the season of Eastertide – that period of time after Easter that ends at Pentecost – the beginning of the Acts 2 church that occurred 50 days after the Resurrection of Jesus. Between now and then, we will also observe the Ascension of Jesus – when Jesus returns to heaven; and that occurs 40 days after Easter and 10 days before Pentecost.
Today, this is a special season for the church. The liturgical color is white – and will be continue to be white until the day of Pentecost which is celebrated by the liturgical color red. Other than on Christmas and Epiphany, Eastertide is the only time in the liturgical year when the color white is used. Clearly, these times are special – signifying the purity of Jesus and highlighting the most important events in His life – His birth, the arrival of the wise men to honor the newborn King and the Resurrection itself. In fact, some denominations also celebrate the baptism of Jesus as having occurred on Epiphany as well as the visit from the Magi.
During this time after Easter, Jesus appeared to many people. In several stories we are told that He visited the disciples and announced that He would return to the Father. However, Jesus also taught that the Father would send another to take the place of Jesus – we find out that this would be the Holy Spirit – the third part of the Godhead. The Holy Spirit indwells believers and after the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Acts 2 church is born and on its way, with Peter preaching the first sermon in this brand new church.
In the Greek language, the church is called the “ekklelesia” – meaning a “called out assembly.”And we can infer from Jesus during his restoration of Peter that the ekklesia of Jesus will be different from any other called out assembly before – or since. So this time in the life of the apostles is spent in preparation for the departure of Jesus, additional teaching of the apostles, the Ascension of Jesus and the formation of the church! That’s quite an agenda for the 50 days after Easter.
So today’s church really isn’t silent during this time. We are in the period of anticipation prior to the initial formation of the church. It was exciting then – and should still be exciting to us today. We can also read about the restoration of Peter after having denied knowing Jesus three times prior to the crucifixion. In fact, each of the Gospel writers gives us a little different take on the events after the Resurrection. While John refers to the restoration of Peter as mentioned above, Matthew and Mark both refer to what has become known as the Great Commission. And Luke speaks to the Ascension of Jesus.
The verse for tonight highlights the commands of Jesus to go out into the entire world and spread the Good News. Matthew tells us, in his account, in Matthew 28:16-20, “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
My encouragement this evening is that Jesus still wants believers to go into the entire world and continue to preach the Good News of Jesus. My prayer is that just because Easter is over, we won’t forget that important work still has to be done – to encourage people everywhere that Jesus, that Jewish baby born in Bethlehem, is the answer – the one and only answer. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…