When a movie ends, people experience a wide range of emotions. If it was a sad ending, there may be tears. If it was a happy ending, you may find yourself smiling or chuckling under your breath, perhaps even rewinding the movie to watch the ending again. You may be frustrated if the ending didn’t make sense and left you with a litany of unanswered questions. You may be disappointed if you spent a lot of money to watch the movie in a theater and the movie was a flop.
When you read the last moments of Jesus’ physical presence on earth, some might think it would be a disappointing ending. After all, Jesus died! But he was also raised to life! Think of the possibilities!
- No more questioning His deity.
- No more wondering who the Messiah is.
- They could now run at light speed accomplishing what Jesus intended from the start.
- This was it.
- He would be with them as they ushered in the Kingdom of God.
Perhaps Jesus understood all too well the nature of humankind. Maybe they would listen now, after they saw Him raised from the dead, but perhaps they would simply look at it as a manipulative plot twist, much like the movies today. There is a good chance the Pharisees would try to crucify Him again, force Him into exile to protect their brand, or allege He was the mastermind behind an elaborate hoax. Maybe Jesus knew the disciples would insist that the Kingdom of God be more strongly enforced, and with the King of Kings in the lead role, no one would dare stop them.
If any of the scenarios above had happened, the disciples would never have become who Jesus had intended them to be. They needed something different. They needed to receive revelation and act on it in a way that would model the Christian life for all who would come after them. This band of merry men wasn’t done growing up, and Jesus had the perfect game plan to help them along.
“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high’” (Luke 24:44-49 ESV).
Over a span of forty days, Jesus gave the disciples the instructions and affirmations they needed to spread the message of Jesus everywhere. Compiled over the four gospels this includes:
- You are the witnesses to what has happened (Luke 24:48 ESV).
- I’m sending the promise of my Father (Luke 24:49 ESV).
- Stay in the city until you receive power (Luke 24:49 ESV).
- Make disciples, baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19 ESV).
- Teach them all I’ve commanded you (Matthew 28:20 ESV).
- I’m always with you, until the end (Matthew 28:20 ESV).
- How to identify those who believe by the signs they show (Mark 16:18 ESV).
- Blessed are those who have not seen me but believe (John 20:29 ESV).
Jesus knew the transforming work of the gospel had to go throughout the world quickly. He could move about supernaturally, but in His physical form He could not be everywhere at once. The disciples no longer needed Him; they needed the Holy Spirit. Besides, Jesus had work to do in Heaven as humanity’s prime intercessor (Romans 8:34).
If this were a movie, the end would allude to the Holy Spirit, strongly suggesting a sequel. They were breadcrumbs to a promise, but nobody knew how transformative this fulfilled promise would be. The Book of Acts is the sequel to when they saw Jesus hanging on the cross, but that’s a different movie. Let’s return to where we began.
Jesus’ post-resurrection journey is shortened to a few verses in each of the gospels. One would think forty days of communication would lend itself to a lot of crucial content, but as it turns out, everything had already been said. His resurrection validated that He truly was the Son of God. Given that we have so little content from those forty days Jesus spent with the disciples, do you ever wonder what they talked about? Whatever it was, it brought closure.
Wait, closure? Wouldn’t seeing Jesus in the flesh be the closure they needed? Apparently not, as Jesus had to spend a little time rebuking them for their unbelief.
“Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen” (Mark 16:14 ESV).
He had to open the disciples’ minds to understand the Scriptures. Despite all they’d seen, they still couldn’t grasp the big picture.
Have you ever reached the end of a psychological thriller and struggled to understand how it all came together? Have you ever had to watch a movie multiple times and search the meaning of an ending on the internet? That was the disciples. They saw the whole script but couldn’t connect the plot to the meaning.
What does all this mean? Hold on with me for just a few minutes.
Approximately forty days later, Jesus left the disciples, but this time their reaction was completely different.
“And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with extraordinary joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God” (Luke 24:50-53 ESV).
This time when Jesus departed, they worshipped Him. They weren’t angry. They weren’t depressed and doubting like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They weren’t dejected or downcast. No, when He ascended to Heaven they worshipped! They returned to Jerusalem with immense joy!
- This was not the Garden of Gethsemane. This was not a moment of panic.
- This was not Golgotha. This was not a moment of fear and sadness.
- This was not the tomb. This was not a moment of confusion.
This was a moment of completion.
This was the culmination of everything from beginning to end. From the moment the disciples got out of their boats and left their careers and families to follow Jesus, it had all been for this. They had it wrong. The crucifixion and resurrection wasn’t the end of the movie, it was just the opening credits!
Only through complete revelation could the disciples experience joy to see their Savior leave them again. But it’s also only through complete revelation they worshipped Him. And only through the resurrection and the subsequent reunion would worship be an appropriate response. Until that point, He was just a prophet who had done some pretty great things (Luke 24:19).
Their joy and worship rose from newfound hope that the journey they had been on for the last three years with Jesus was not over. It would never be over. Jesus was not leaving them empty handed. And He hasn’t left you empty handed either.
Easter is a season of great hope, extraordinary joy and great worship. This movie has been running for the last 2000 years, and it’s not over yet. At times, you may wonder about your purpose. You may wonder if you’ve missed what God has created you to do. Perhaps you feel like the disciples did the morning after the crucifixion – hopeless.
But your story is not over. The credits haven’t rolled. There is still more story to tell, and it’s your job to tell it. What should you do? Let’s reflect on the path of the disciples.
- Encounter the Holy Spirit.
God the Father sent the Holy Spirit for a reason. He is your comforter, your guide. He is here to show you the way. Ask Him for direction, confirmation and boldness to witness. He will reveal the Word of God, convict you, and lead you to righteousness. You will experience the same joy as the disciples, as joy is a fruit of the Spirit in your life. If you are going to be effective carrying out the commands of Jesus, you are going to need the Holy Spirit. You’ll need to be able to sense His leading, His prompting, and His reassurance as you take steps of faith.
Worship is easy when things are going great. When everything is falling apart, worship seems counterintuitive, almost heretical. Easter shows us that worship is born from revelation. Your circumstances are irrelevant because God does not change. You are not worshipping His obedience to your commands. You are worshipping His deity. Worship causes you to be a future-tense Christian. You’ll look forward, not behind.
- Tell someone.
The purpose of every moment after the road to Emmaus was so that the disciples would be equipped to spread the gospel of Jesus to the world. If you’re lost to what your specific purpose may be, perhaps you should just start here and see where the road takes you. Specific purposes often follow amazingly simple acts of obedience.
If you genuinely desire for God to answer your prayers, you may want to pray the prayers He longs to answer.
- Begin to ask God to position you to reach the lost.
- Pray for boldness to be a witness.
- Ask God to give you opportunities to talk about Jesus.
If you pray those prayers, He will answer them. Let this Easter season be less about you and more about others.
Begin walking out Jesus’ post-crucifixion commands and see what happens in your life. You may not know how it’ll end, but one thing is certain: you’re not going to want to miss this movie. Your life can be a movie others want to watch, as well.