george_hancockstefanFrom the Passover Celebration until Pentecost there are 50 days.  The Feast of Ascension is set 40 days after the Resurrection which leaves 10 days from Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Every evangelist spends a good amount of time talking about what Jesus did in those 40 days. In the concluding chapter of his gospel Matthew writes about the resurrection, the falsification of the resurrection by the Sanhedrin and concludes with what is known as the Great Commission – Jesus telling the disciples what they must do until he returns.  Mark has only the story of the resurrection (and a contested conclusion). Luke in his gospel presents the resurrection, the appearance of Jesus Christ to those who traveled to Emmaus, an appearance to all the disciples and then jumps to the Ascension. The Apostle John has the most extensive post resurrection section.  It is covered in two chapters.  In it we find the description about the empty tomb, the appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene, and the appearance of Jesus to the disciples. All of this happens in the first Sunday.  On the second Sunday he presents that appearance of Jesus Christ to Thomas who was absent on the first Sunday.  The next 33 days is introduced with the word ‘afterwards’ in 21:1.  In this period, Jesus Christ appears to his disciples one more time as John records ‘this is now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. It is in the third appearance that Jesus Christ reinstates Peter to his position as an apostle and asks him to feed his sheep and his lambs.

Apostle John twice has this expression: Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples which are not recorded in this book. (20:30) and Jesus did many other things as well. (21:25) Apostle Paul picks on these additional things when he writes to 1 Cor. 15:5 Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles and last of all he appeared to me also.

Peter in his various addresses in the Book of Acts talks about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and of the fact that they have been witnesses of the Risen Lord. In his address to the Gentile Roman centurion Cornelius, Peter makes this specification: God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.  He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen – by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.  He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. (Acts 10:40-42)This specification is continued when the Apostles choose a disciple to replace Judas who betrayed the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is necessary to choose one of the men who had been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us.  For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” (Acts 1:21)

From my childhood I was fascinated with two things that do not exist in the post resurrection story: 1) Why didn’t Jesus Christ show himself to Pilate or to Caiaphas? My answer came from the conversation that Abraham had with the rich man who ended tragically in Hades. “No father Abraham, he said, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.  He said to him, “if they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead. “ (Luke 16:30-31)  There are some people who want to see one miracle after another.  Yet, the Word of God tells us that if we do not believe when he speaks to us, we will not believe even if we see miracles such as the resurrection.

The second puzzle for me was why the Lord Jesus Christ did not choose the apostle to replace Judas.  This answer is not in the Scriptures, but it is a reflection that I have with the fact that God trusts us to do some decisions – minor or major if they do not contradict what he has revealed in His Word.  The disciples were aware that the position of Judas had to be filled; they were aware of the criteria which they should use and they went ahead and did it. I encourage the people to go ahead and make major decisions in their lives because God trusts them to make them.  He has given us intelligence, he had given us His Holy Word and he has given us the Holy Spirit – all the things that we need to go ahead and do mighty deeds in His Kingdom.


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Rev. Dr. George Hancock-Stefan

George Hancock-Stefan

Pastor George Hancock-Stefan completed 30 years as the pastor of the great congregation at Central Baptist Church in Atlantic Highlands in 2020. Those 30 years have been a blessed time for him, his wife...