Have you ever wondered why Jesus hangs around for 40 days after his resurrection? His work is done. He rose from the dead. Why doesn’t he just move on? I have to admit I never really wondered about this until someone mentioned it in a sermon years ago. Ever since then, I think about it every year after Easter.
The Bible is full of stories about Jesus’ appearances after the resurrection. Matthew 28:9-10 mentions Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary that morning. He instructs them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell . . .” In Matthew 28:16-20 Jesus meets the eleven disciples in Galilee and gives them the Great Commission: go and make disciples.
In Mark, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, to the men on the road to Emmaus, and to the eleven disciples. Luke has Jesus appearing first to Simon and Cleopas, the two Emmaus men, and disappearing as soon as they recognize him. Then he appears to the eleven disciples and explains how everything fits together.
The Gospel of John has stories about Jesus’ encounters with individuals after the resurrection. First, he appears to Mary Magdalene. The disciples believe that Jesus is risen but they do not understand it. Then Jesus appears to them behind a locked door, breathes on them, and tells them to receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus comes to the disciples several more times, having private conversations with Thomas and Peter. The book of Acts tells us that Jesus appeared to his disciples many times over a period of 40 days.
Jesus hangs around in order to teach his disciples what they need to know to continue his ministry. They learned during the three years of Jesus’ ministry, but they often did not understand. After Jesus’ death, they are afraid and confused, unsure how to go on. So Jesus hangs around to instruct them, give them courage, and tell them how to go on from here. After Jesus’ ascension, and the giving of the Holy Spirit, the disciples continue with courage and confidence. Their boldness spreads Christianity all over the world.
My favorite story about this time after the resurrection illustrates the reason Jesus hangs around. Peter denied Jesus three times. Peter probably felt like a failure as a disciple. How can Jesus ever trust him again? So Jesus takes Peter aside and asks him three times if Peter loves him. Peter says, “you know I love you!” And Jesus tells him to “feed his sheep.” The three declarations of love erase the three denials and Peter leads the church into the future.
Jesus doesn’t just appear to the disciples back in the day. He also hangs around for us today. In Hebrews 13:5b, Jesus says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” We have the witness of the resurrection and all those appearances after that assure us that Jesus is always with us. It doesn’t matter what we have done or how we have denied him. He always loves and always forgives whoever wants to come back as one of his lambs.
I am so thankful that Jesus hung around for his disciples and that he hangs around today.