Risen ascended expected and yet still present

The answer came on what Christians hail as the first Easter and in events which shortly followed that Easter. By it the judgement of man by the cross was not lightened or revoked, but Christians have been convinced that in it faith in God was vindicated, and God was seen not to have been defeated but to have triumphed and to have revealed the fashion in which His sovereignty is exercised.

The records, which have reached us, do not make dear the precise sequence of events on that first Easter. However, from them it is obvious that the disciples did not expect the resurrection and that it took, them completely by surprise. The accounts also declare explicitly or by unmistakable inference that the body of Jesus which a few hours before had been reverently and sorrowfully laid in a rock-hewn tomb and carefully sealed in it by a huge stone was not to be found, but that the guardian boulder had been rolled away and that those who had come to anoint the body found the tomb empty. It is abundantly affirmed that the disciples were profoundly convinced that they had seen the risen Jesus, had talked with him, had watched him eat, and had viewed the wounds in his hands and his side, and that one of their number, incredulous, had had his doubts removed by the invitation to put his fingers on the marred hands and his hand into the wounded side. The accounts agree that the risen Jesus commissioned his disciples to go forth as his witnesses and representatives into all the earth. The biographer, almost certainly Luke and a Companion of Paul, who tells us that he had taken pains to obtain all possible information from eyewitnesses and the narratives compiled from eyewitnesses and who probably wrote within less than a generation after the events he describes, declares that during forty days Jesus appeared to the apostles whom he had chosen, "speaking of ... the kingdom of God" — the subject which had constituted the burden of his teaching before the crucifixion — giving them instructions for their mission, and promising them power to accomplish it. After forty days Jesus disappeared from their sight in such fashion that they knew that they were not to behold him again in that manner until a reappearance, his "second coming," which was to be their continuing and joyous expectation. Yet Paul believed that not many years afterwards Jesus had shown himself to him, and the disciples were convinced that Jesus had promised his continued presence with them and would make his abode in any one who loved him.

It seems significant that Paul is the only one of whom our early records tell us who had not been a disciple of Jesus before he met the risen Lord. To be sure, hundreds of these disciples saw him, but so far as our evidence permits us to know none other outside that, circle of friends was won to belief by a vision of the glorified Christ. With the single exception of Paul, and the accounts of what happened to him on the Damascus road indicate that even he was not an entire exception, only those prepared by loyalty to Jesus actually saw him after the resurrection. Yet it is also significant and one of the compelling proofs of the resurrection is that the crucifixion left the disciples in despair and that, hopeless, they were transformed by their experience of the risen Jesus. The resurrection became essential in the faith of subsequent generations of Christians. It meant assurance that because Jesus lived they also would live. Even more important was the conviction nourished in Christians that by the resurrection Jesus had been vindicated and had been shown to be the Son of God with power.

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