It had been about three years since they had answered the call to follow Him. Each one had their own story of how it happened. Nathanael was told he was an Israelite in whom there was no deceit. Peter and his brother Andrew heard the words, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” while casting their net into the sea. Matthew was sitting at the tax collector’s booth. The years that followed had been the most exciting and intense years of their lives.
The things they witnessed were incredible—miraculous healings of the sick, deliverance from demonic forces, the feeding of five thousand people with a mere handful of loaves and fishes, followed by another mass feeding. There was the day when a funeral procession was coming down the street and He was so moved by the mother’s grief at the loss of her son that He stopped the procession, touched the coffin, and the young man sat up alive. And that wasn’t the only time that someone dead came back to life! There was the girl who was dead when He entered the room and alive when He left it. Then there was Lazarus, who was dead for four days and was called out of his tomb alive.
There were the times when He told such insightful stories—stories that held deep truth and revealed meaning to those who were open enough to understand them.] Sometimes He taught multitudes of people who gathered around Him to hear what He had to say, and at one point the people were on the verge of taking Him by force to make Him king. At other times He took His closest followers away to a quiet place where they could rest and where He could give them personal teaching
These were heady days indeed.
Of course not every day was full of such positive excitement. On some days, there was opposition. There were those who disagreed with Him and what He taught, who would challenge Him, trying to show that His teaching was wrong; but His answers were filled with such wisdom and power, and most of all, love. Those who were challenging Him may not have seen it as love, but those who believed in Him saw such deep love for people in the answers He gave, and most of all, in His actions. Everything about Him was rooted in love and compassion for others. He was the most incredible person they had ever known. They deeply loved Him.
As time went on, His opposition grew stronger and more determined to put a stop to Him. But then right in the middle of all that, there was the day when the people met Him outside of the walls of the city waving palm branches and shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” His religious opponents were afraid to touch Him because of His popularity, and were also concerned that His activities would cause the civil authorities to step in, which could have resulted in their losing their positions of prominence.
These three years were extraordinary—full of wonder and hope, excitement and learning. His followers expected it to continue for many more years. They even disputed who among them would be the most prominent when He came into a position of power.
Then it happened. He was arrested, and within 24 hours He was executed as a criminal. Their hopes and dreams for the future were crushed. The one they loved so deeply was gone. The life they had lived these past years was over. The future He spoke of hadn’t worked out as they expected. He was dead.
They were sad and confused. They were afraid and hid behind locked doors. They were shocked at the abrupt end of what they had become used to, the work they had participated in, the love they had come to know so well. Everything changed almost instantaneously. The future was bleak.
Three days later, early in the morning, some women who were His followers visited the tomb, but His body wasn’t there. When they told the other disciples, nobody believed them. Peter and John ran to the tomb and saw that it was true, He wasn’t there. They didn’t understand it, but they knew His body was gone.
Suddenly He appeared in the midst of them, in the locked room where they were hiding. The man they had loved and followed, who had been brutally tortured and killed, was standing before them.
He was alive!
He had risen from the dead and was back with them. His presence changed everything. Though He had been executed as a criminal, the fact that He was standing there alive was the validation that all He had said and done was of God. The things He had told them about Himself were true: He was the resurrection and the life; He would raise this temple in three days; He would be killed and would rise again. The truth of those words was now evident because He was there, alive. Their faith wasn’t misguided. He wasn’t another failed messiah. He was what they had believed Him to be.] Faith and hope were renewed. His presence brought new understanding of all that had happened. It totally changed the context of the preceding days. It hadn’t been a defeat after all—it was victory.
Shortly after that, He ascended into heaven. He was no longer with them physically, but the Holy Spirit was sent to dwell within them—a constant presence guiding them in truth and love and in sharing the faith they had gained.] He had taught them a great deal during the time they were physically together, and then He commissioned them to go everywhere teaching others about Him, telling them of His love, His life, death, and resurrection, and the salvation which was available to all.
The wonderful days of living and working together with Him had come to an end, and the days of branching out and reaching others had begun. While it took time and adjustment, they did what He had instructed; they went to different cities and countries, meeting new people, making new friends, leading others to Him. They built communities, they taught others what He had taught them, they engaged in the mission day by day, year after year, heart by heart. They faced difficulties, trials, and tribulations, but they carried on even unto death—and in doing so, profoundly affected the world of their day and every age since.
His resurrection changed everything! His being alive empowered them to move beyond what they were used to, to let go of how things had been, and to enter into a new way of life—spreading His love and salvation to others, which effectively resulted in the faith being passed on to all succeeding generations since then.