First Mennonite Church
October 4, 2020
Forty Day with Convincing Proofs
Text: Acts 1-1-11
Today, I want to start a new series of sermons from the book of Acts of the Apostles. We should know that there are several reasons why this book is so important for our understanding of the Christian faith, history of church development, and especially of God’s involvement through his Spirit at the departure of Jesus Christ. Acts is a fascinating book to study and I hope we will not only enjoy its rich narrative flow, but more importantly, that we will be able to reestablish our spiritual foundation on the basics of the Christian faith.
The book of Acts is Luke’s second volume of writings. The Gospel according to Luke together with the book of Acts of the Apostles, comprise one fourth of the New Testament contents. Both volumes were addressed to a man named Theophilus.
The book of Acts gives witness to the radical transformation the coming of the Holy Spirit brought on the lives of the disciples. From a fearful and undecided Peter, the Spirit made a bold and determined preacher of Jesus Christ. Peter not only led, the once scared and doubtful group of disciples, but he even announced to his audience that they were guilty of the death of Jesus, for instance.
Acts of the Apostle is well placed within the New Testament. It fills the gap between the Gospels whose central focus was the life and ministry of Jesus, and the Epistle/Letters of Paul and the other NT writers whose concern were the local and regional churches scattered throughout the Roman Empire. While the Gospels end with the accounts of Jesus earthly life in Jerusalem, the letters relay the missionary activities of Paul and address the issues troubling the fledgling Gentile churches.
Luke begins the book of Acts from where he left the Jesus story in his gospel. He, however, repeats the story of Jesus’ ascension, but his account of it in Acts has some more detail than it has in his gospel. Jesus’ activities during his forty post-Easter days is summarized when Luke affirms that “after his suffering, Jesus presented himself alive to them with many convincing proofs, appearing to them for forty days and speaking to them about the kingdom of God.”
Jesus showed himself by giving his disciples “convincing proofs” that he was alive. In ancient rhetoric, convincing proofs were necessary elements in legal matters. It’s what today called “hard evidence,” which is necessary to convince even the skeptics. Therefore, by Jesus’ proving himself to be live through many hard evidences, doubt or skepticism on the part of his disciples was completely dispelled. Luke’s way of describing what and how Jesus attempted to eliminate any doubt on the part of disciples, clearly indicate that Jesus’ disciples, like anyone even today, would not take lightly the claim that someone has come back from the dead. That description of what Jesus did tells us that we should not think that the disciples and others were easily or uncritically convinced. The gospels make it clear that doubts persisted and had to be overcome for the disciples to believe that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. The first time they saw Jesus after his resurrection, according to Luke 24: 37 and 40, the disciples thought they were seeing a ghost. However, at the end of those forty days, they were thoroughly convinced that Jesus, the very same one whom they saw die on the cross and whose body had been buried, was once again alive and doing well.
During those forty days, Jesus interacted with his disciple. He ate with them, walked with them, and expounded more to them about the kingdom of God. The impact of Jesus’ physical interactions with his disciples thoroughly convinced them that Jesus was alive. They were convinced to the point that they were willing to put their lives on the line for the sake of telling others about Jesus. They were willing to commit their lives to cause of Jesus and his message.
The resurrection of Jesus proved to his disciples that he was indeed God’s Messiah. And convinced of that, the disciples’ expectations were intensified. They remembered things Jesus had told them before. In Luke 22:28-30, Jesus told them,“You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
The Disciples’ Burning Question
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” After hearing so much about the kingdom of God and being convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, the disciples wanted to know if the time to restore Israel had come. Their question was perfectly reasonable. The Messiah was expected to purify the land and rule over the nations. Therefore, the disciples wanted to know if the time had finally arrived. The disciples were anxious to exercise their role of judges over Israel. They wanted to sit on their respective thrones. They envisioned sharing with the Messiah power to rule over the nations and to get rid of the Roman dominance.
Jesus instead redirects their attention. They will receive power, but not political power. They will receive power to continue the work of Jesus even after he is gone.
I will pause here so we can reflect on how this passage might speak to us today.
In 1Corinthians 15, Paul writes that after Jesus’ resurrection, he:
- Appeared to Peter (1 Cor. 15:5).
- Appeared to the twelve (1 Cor. 15:5).
- Appeared to five hundred men and women all at the same time (1 Cor. 15:6).
- Appeared to James (1 Cor. 15:7).
- Appeared to all the apostles (1 Cor. 15:7).
- And lastly, Jesus appeared to Paul himself (1 Cor. 15:8).
Thus, the disciples were completely convinced that Jesus was alive. They had not been hallucinating about having seen Jesus. They had not been naïve to believe Jesus was alive, simply because someone told them. They saw, touched, and had fellowship with the Risen Christ and their lives bore witness to their conviction.
Therefore, for us, for you and me, how deep a conviction do we have that Jesus is the Risen Lord? What convincing proofs do we have that Jesus is alive and pending to return again? In what way our life demonstrates this conviction?
Peter, James, John and their friends were never again afraid to speak about Jesus. Not imprisonment nor sword deterred them from obeying the commands of Christ to preach the message of salvation. Therefore, the question once again, have you received Jesus’ hard evidence that he is risen, or have we only heard preachers speak about that?
Is Christ the true Lord over our life? Is he the one who keep our heart beating with joy, who gives it peace, and fills it with fearless commitment to speak and live out his message of love?
My dear sisters and brothers, conviction of heart is the work of the Spirit of God. It is the Spirit of God who can reveal to us the Risen Christ. The apostle Paul says, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1Corinthians 12:3). This is what Jesus says in John, “He (the Holy Spirit) will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.” Convincing proofs that Jesus is alive and conviction that he is Lord and Savior, are the work of the Holy Spirit.
Let us, therefore, open our heart and welcome the Holy Spirit in our heart. Let us allow him to mold and to fill us with the words of Jesus. Let us train the ears of the heart to know the voice of the Holy Spirit when he speaks to us. And by allowing the Spirit to take control over our thoughts, actions, and motives, we will be able to reflect that Christ Jesus lives in us. Amen!