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"Sir, we wish to see Jesus" John 12:21
 
Resurrection, disciples   RESURRECTION - DISCIPLES

Neither the empty tomb nor the angelic declaration to the women who came to Jesus' tomb on Sunday morning convinced his disciples that he had risen. In fact, when the women reported to his Apostles what they had seen and heard, they did not believe them. What did convince them were the appearances Jesus made to his disciples after his resurrection over a period of forty days to as many as five hundred followers. The accounts of a few of these appearances are recorded in the Gospels. And in these accounts it is plain that Jesus had not merely been resuscitated and come back to life as before. For one thing the disciples often did not immediately recognize him until he did or said something that enabled them to make the connection. For another, he did not act like a normal person. He could appear in their midst without entering the room through the door. On the other hand, he could eat. Whatever this new reality of the resurrected life for the age to come is, it was clear in Jesus' resurrection that it was both continuous and discontinuous with the present reality of this age. He still bore the wounds of the crucifixion in his body but he was alive and alive in such a way that he no longer could die. He had passed from death to LIFE. The perishable had put on imperishability.

It is sometimes said that Jesus never intended to form a church, that he was a great moral teacher and nothing more. But the response of those who saw him raised reveals otherwise. The Apostle Thomas when he saw him one week to the day after the resurrection said, “My Lord and my God!” Until he had seen him for himself, Thomas would not believe the report of the others that they had seen Jesus alive. And so Jesus gave a mild rebuke to Thomas for not believing unless he had seen and pronounced a blessing on all who would believe without seeing. The church is this fellowship of believers who like Thomas may have begun in doubt but have moved, even without seeing, to the faith to proclaim Jesus as our Lord and God.

And the instruction Jesus gave his disciples during the 40 days he appeared to them after his resurrection reveal he had every intention of founding the church. Principally he commissioned them to go and “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” The first believers followed this instruction and beginning from Jerusalem they went out to proclaim Jesus throughout the world. Today there are believers in virtually every nation and of virtually every race and language. One third of the world's population, some 2 billion people profess Jesus as Lord. The church is the largest and most diverse kingdom in the world. Though this kingdom is divided into many households that are called denominations, these are united under the one head Jesus Christ.

The instruction he gave during the 40 days also defines the life of the church. In his resurrection appearances Jesus opened the scriptures (the Torah) to them revealing new insights and interpretations. He manifest through breaking bread with them. And he gave them authority to forgive the sins of one another that was essential for maintaining the bond of peace in the fellowship. And, the practice of ministering and praying in his name was only confirmed and reinforced by his resurrection. To the minds of his followers, God had validated Jesus through the resurrection as the way to the Father. The teaching the Apostles received from Jesus, the breaking of bread to manifest his presence, the prayer in his name, and the fellowship characterized by mutual love and forgiveness has defined the life of the church ever since.

(Painted by Michelangelo)

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