Easter is over. The resurrection sermons have been preached. The new clothing is no longer new. The eggs have been eaten or discarded. The candy is almost gone. The decorations have been put away, awaiting next year’s celebration. Now what?
That depends on your grasp of the resurrection of Christ.
It had been forty days since Jesus exited that borrowed tomb. He had made an appearance to more than 500 people since that early Sunday morning. The list of folks who saw Jesus is impressive. The Apostle Paul identified many of the witnesses by writing: “...He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time” (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). Since the letter of 1 Corinthians was written within thirty years of the resurrection of Jesus, Paul’s sources could be (and likely were) checked and found reliable.
As the time drew near for His return to Heaven, Jesus met with His men one more time. His instructions to them were clear: “And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now’” (Acts 1:4-5). The Apostles had experienced the power of the Holy Spirit through salvation, direction, miracle-working, and teaching, but this encounter with the Holy Spirit would be different. This new experience would provide these men with all the power necessary to carry the gospel to the world.
What Jesus said next in Acts 1:8 energized these Galilean men, with evidence of that being documented in Acts 2. Here’s how Luke recorded the words of Jesus to His Apostles: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Thirty-five words. That’s all it took for Jesus to prepare these men to be God’s catalysts for change.
First, Jesus promised them power. “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you...” (Acts 1:8). The word power is the Greek word “dúnamis.” It is a word from which we get our English word dynamite. The ability of God’s people to do God’s work requires the power of God. The gospel message is explosive. That’s precisely what Paul said when he wrote: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16). The word translated “power” here is the same word used in Acts 1:8. As previously mentioned, that power was delivered on the Day of Pentecost in the next chapter of Acts.
Then Jesus told them what that Holy Spirit power was designed to do: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me...” (Acts 1:8). These men were called to be “witnesses” for Jesus. Here’s another interesting word. The word translated “witnesses” is “mártus” and it’s the word from which our English word martyr is derived. These disciples had no allusions of grandeur. They were told their ministries would lead to their demise. And in fact, each of these disciples were killed because of their witness. Only John lived to die of old age, but he did that in exile on the Isle of Patmos.
Finally, Jesus told these men where the gospel message must be declared: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). From near (Jerusalem) to far (end of the earth), they were to lead in taking the gospel to the world. This command was reminiscent of Christ’s earlier order: “‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen” (Matthew 28:19-20).
If we are to take to heart the message of Christ to His followers, we must be redeemed (indwelled by the Holy Spirit), resilient (willing to offer our lives in the furtherance of the gospel) and relentless (taking the gospel to the ends of the earth).
Yes, Easter is over. But the resurrection we celebrated last week is still relevant. Let’s allow that single resurrection to encourage us as followers of Christ, as we take the gospel across the street and around the world.
John Burleson is the Pastor of Calvary Church of Conway. Email him with questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.