Christ & His Disciples after His Resurrection
Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday and today, and forever” for His people. His love, grace, wisdom, power, and faithfulness neither diminish nor increase. Yet, how His people relate to Him may and must change. He has so much to teach them! The forty days between Christ’s resurrection and ascension was a transition period between the disciples enjoying His physical presence and enjoying His spiritual presence through His Holy Spirit. In these days, He taught lessons of lasting value.
Understanding the absent-present Christ
When Mary Magdalene fell at Jesus’ feet, He responded by saying, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father” (John 20:17). Mary had to learn that His resurrection did not simply restore the former way of enjoying His presence. Soon He would ascend to have spiritual fellowship with His people. Christ’s repeated appearances to His disciples confirmed both that He truly lived to care for them and that He would not remain with them bodily. They had to learn the meaning of Jesus’ words to Thomas:
because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.John 20:29
Though believers today have not known Christ’s bodily presence, sometimes they still wish they did. In reality, Christ’s resurrection and ascension did not bring an impoverishment but an enrichment of His communion with His people. By being present spiritually He was able to abide with His disciples as they scattered about. He promised: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20). Has the Lord Jesus taught you that His spiritual presence is no less real than His bodily presence was? What a blessing when the Lord Jesus lets you know and experience that truth whatever you go through in life.
Living by His Word
Christ repeatedly pointed His disciples to His teachings and the Scriptures. The angels reminded the women that Jesus rose according to His own prediction (Luke 24:5-8). Jesus opened the Scriptures about the Messiah to the travelers to Emmaus before revealing His bodily presence (Luke 24:32). That same night He opened the understandings of the disciples to understand the Scriptures (v.45). Though they already knew the Scriptures, He was teaching them to remember and live by the Word, not their own thoughts or feelings. He is the teacher who continues to enable to understand His Word.
This is an ongoing lesson in the life of faith. As the chief Prophet, Christ continues to stir up the remembrance of His Word and open His students’ hearts to receive it. He still teaches to live by His gospel word even when every sense and feeling may bring a message contrary to that Word. He teaches to heed His commands, which He gave after His resurrection: “follow me” and “go ye therefore and teach all nations” (John 21:21; Matt. 28:19).
Seeing more of His Glory
The disciples recognized their Master as the same One who had called, taught, served, and blessed them. At the same time He showed His glory in a far greater way. He had gone through death into life and triumphed over the grave. This greater revelation of the Prince of life brought about a crisis for the disciples; they recognized Him and yet repeatedly doubted, questioned, and evidenced confusion (Matt. 28:17; Luke 24:41) as they wrestled to grasp this. The fruit of this wrestling is shown in Thomas who rises above all the others in confessing Jesus is “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28).
Living in presumption, we may be content to know the facts of the gospel. Even as God’s people, we can think we know who the Lord Jesus is. But by His Spirit, Word, and works, He shows more of who He truly is and more of who we are. This may stir up a struggle inside us to embrace those newly seen glories of His person and trust in His wondrous work for and in us. As the Lord Jesus shows more of His glory, He exposes more of our ignorance and unbelief in order to remove it and draw us closer to Himself.