by Shawn Brasseaux – firstname.lastname@example.org
For three years, the Lord Jesus Christ ministered throughout Israel’s borders. He appointed twelve Jewish men to accompany Him in His ministry. He foreknew His own death, but His apostles had no idea of His coming crucifixion (Mark 8:31-33; Luke 18:31-34). These Jewish believers knew was that this Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God, the Christ, the Creator God manifested in human flesh. Israel’s Messiah-King was finally in their midst! Christ Jesus would fulfill the Old Testament promises by bringing in Israel’s kingdom. He would deliver them from their enemies, especially the Romans. This was the crux of the Gospel of the Kingdom, the message John the Baptist preached in Matthew 3:1-6.
This humble Jesus of Nazareth healed the blind, the crippled, the deaf, the mute, and those possessed by devils. He never mistreated anyone. He was a compassionate, gentle man: yet He was the righteous Almighty God! He hushed storms, He walked on water, and He fed the multitudes. He sat with the sinners, the immoral, and the crooks. There was nothing special about His appearance, but when He chose, His whole body would radiate brighter than the sun! Imagine what Peter, James, and John felt and saw on the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew chapter 17!
Remember, Peter and the ten were ordinary people like us (we have excluded Judas Iscariot). They loved the Lord, and He loved them with a love they could never understand. They spent more time with the Lord than anyone else ever did: these eleven men talked and ate with the Lord Jesus on a daily basis. They saw His miracles, and were amazed beyond comprehension. They abandoned their former lives, but they did not care because He promised that when He would rule Israel, they would be ruling alongside Him in His kingdom (Matthew 19:27,28).
On numerous occasions, Jesus told the twelve of His upcoming sufferings and death, but God hid it from them (for one instance, Luke 18:31-34). The eleven apostles were with Jesus Christ on that night in the Garden of Gethsemane—just imagine their shock to see crowds of people coming to arrest Him. Soon, the situation escalated. The apostles’ minds raced in disbelief as Judas betrayed Him with the kiss. In the panic, Peter cut off the ear of one of the high priest’s servant as they grabbed Jesus. In fear of the Romans and Israeli religious leaders who were arresting Christ, the eleven fled and forsook Him (Matthew 26:55,56; Mark 14:50). Peter denied knowing Christ three times. What heartbreak these eleven apostles felt… the pain even God Himself felt.
As Israel’s Messiah carried His old rugged cross to Golgotha, the apostles must have stared in awe. Here was Jesus, Israel’s mighty King, His body beaten to a pulp, and His blood dripping with every step. The crowds heard His heavy breathing as they pressed in to see Him. They spat on Him, they mocked, they scorned, and they laughed. His apostles stood there thinking: He is God, why does He not do anything? Why is He letting them mistreat Him? Why does He not fight back? Why is so quiet, not speaking out against their railings and blasphemy?
While the soldiers nailed Him to the cross, the apostles were still looking on in unbelief. They probably cried like little kids as they wondered what was going to happen next. Surely, He would destroy all these hateful people, come down from the cross, and be Israel’s King like He promised. Instead, for the next six hours, our Lord Jesus Christ was immobile on that cross. The unbelievers laughed and smirked. When He was finally ready, He let Himself die. The apostles wondered: Why did He allow them to kill Him? What about all those promises He made to us? What will happen to us now? Now, the apostles’ minds were spinning wildly out of control. Our King and Messiah is dead?!?! What about that kingdom promised in the Old Testament?!?! Their hopes and dreams seemed to have vanished now. Jesus Christ was dead. Maybe they felt foolish. Perhaps they were so heartbroken that they did not know what to think anymore. They turned away with hearts saturated with grief. What to do now? They did not know.
But… Imagine on resurrection morning, as Christ Jesus arose in power and great glory. The apostles were amazed to see Him alive and well. His scars were visible, but He looked the same as He did in His earthly ministry. They loved hearing His gentle, yet authoritative, voice again. They touched Him, and hugged Him, and wept and shouted for joy that He was alive! He would still be able to bring in that kingdom! But Jesus Christ had a different plan: He would not tell them, but that kingdom would be postponed over 2,000 years. For the next forty days, He spoke to His apostles regarding the kingdom of God. On His last day on earth, the eleven apostles asked Him, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6)? Instead, He told them that it was not for them to know when He would establish Israel’s kingdom.
As we look back, it has been 2,000 years since the Lord left earth. After telling them to wait for the Holy Spirit, who came ten days later on Pentecost, His body literally lifted off of the ground, and they watched Him going up to presence of God His Father in heaven! They lost Him once in death, and were excited to see Him alive again; but He left them again at the ascension. It was bittersweet time for them. How they wanted Him to stay, but He had to fulfill Psalm 110:1, and sit at His Father’s right hand.
Certainly, Jesus Christ did not completely leave them. As promised, He came to them ten days later on the day of Pentecost when they were baptized with the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-18; Acts 2:1-4). Although we believers have never seen Jesus Christ in the flesh, we have Him indwelling us in the Person of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13,14; Ephesians 4:30). The same Holy Spirit that moved men to write God’s Word in print is the Spirit which is now inside us members of the Church the Body of Christ. Wow! Here we are in 2009, and creation is still waiting for that coming King and kingdom. Christ Jesus will be returning after the horrible Tribulation, to establish His eternal rule and reign. He died, He was buried, but He rose again. Long live Israel’s King… for once His kingdom is established, it shall have no end (Isaiah 9:6,7; Daniel 2:44)!!!!