Today’s read concludes the Gospels. Each writer (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) describes the various events surrounding Jesus’ appearances after His resurrection. There were many eyewitnesses to the historical fact that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead, just as He promised. These were not isolated events; over a period of 40 days Jesus walked, talked and ate with His disciples and even large groups of people at the same time. How the disciples must have treasured those days! How their faith must have grown. I am sure their hearts were filled with joy each time He appeared, and they experienced a sense of loss when He departed.
After those 40 days, Jesus led them out of the city, where He gave them final instructions to go into all the world and make disciples. He tells them to wait for the promised One, the Spirit of God who will clothe them with power from on high, and then right before their eyes, ascends into heaven. What happened afterward has always made me laugh, because it shows us these were just ordinary men like you and me. They stood gazing up in the sky after Jesus has disappeared, not moving, perhaps hoping He would come back. I’m sure they were thinking, “Now what?” Two angels appear and bring them back to reality, essentially telling them to stop standing around gazing into the sky and get busy doing what Jesus told them to do! I love their words: “He will come back in the same way!” One day, those clouds are going to part and we’ll see Jesus descending!
My favorite thing that Jesus did during those 40 days was His intentional, compassionate restoration of Peter. When the women met the angels at the tomb, they specifically mentioned that Peter was to be told that Jesus was risen and would meet them soon (Mark 16:7). While we don’t have the details, Jesus apparently met Peter privately sometime that first day (Luke 24:34). Finally, during breakfast by the Sea of Galilee with all the disciples, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him, giving Peter the opportunity to “right the wrong” in his betrayal. Three denials…three affirmations of love and loyalty. Jesus went out of His way to let Peter know he was forgiven, restored, and welcomed back into sweet fellowship and friendship with the Savior he had disappointed.
Such a great lesson for us.
First, Jesus always forgives when we repent. He longs to show compassion and delights in restoring us, so we should never hide away and be ashamed when we fail Him. Instead, we should run to Him as a child goes to his father’s arms.
Second, we should be forgivers. When someone wrongs us, let us be quick not only to offer forgiveness, but to be the one to seek out the one who has wronged us, and take the initiative to repair the relationship.
Third, we find Peter with the other disciples, even before Jesus found him. As the body of Christ, we should never shun the repentant one as though we are better than they are. Instead, we should welcome them in so that hearts can be healed, and the body made whole.