Chapter 31 Between The Resurrection And The Ascension

To whom also He showed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days (Acts 1:3).

The Lord’s death and resurrection, when viewed in connection with the Old Testament dispensation, summed it up and brought it to an end. The Lord remained on earth for forty days after His resurrection to prepare His disciples for the new age of grace. During these days there were appearances and disappearances. The appearances were necessary in order to prove again and again that He was indeed risen from the dead. The disappearances were necessary in order to school His disciples to live by faith and not by sight since His bodily presence was soon to be taken away. In this period there were seven important openings.

The Opening of the Tomb

We are told in Mark 16:1 that certain women brought sweet spices to anoint the body of the Lord and found the huge stone already rolled away from the door of the tomb. There had been an earthquake (Matthew 28:2), and an angel from heaven had removed it. The guards who were on duty became “as dead men.” No one saw Jesus come out of the tomb. The stone was not rolled away to let Jesus out—He was already out—but to let the disciples in that they might see the evidence that He had risen. The Lord did not have to struggle out of clothes to rise. In quiet and calm He rose without disturbing the grave clothes. The Lord opened the door of death and rose triumphant over it.

The Opening of the Heavens

Mark 16:19 tells us, “He was received up into heaven.” “Thou hast ascended on high” (Psalm 68:18) means that He did so by His own inherent power, and was given a royal welcome. The language of the Psalm is that of a military triumph—the Lord having defeated all the hierarchy of hell and fully accomplished man’s redemption. Thus in Psalm 24 we see heaven opening its gates to receive Him. “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall Come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.” He opened those gates, and open they remain until the last of His believing people pass through to sit with Him in everlasting glory.

The Opening of the Eyes

“And their eyes were opened” (Luke 24:31), so that “they knew Him.” The prophets had declared that He would do this (Isaiah 35:5). The first reference of this Scripture may have been to physical eyes. Few of such eyes were opened but millions of spiritual eyes have been opened and all such now know the Lord. All His followers need this touch of His risen life. We read of the two going to Emmaus that “their eyes were holden that they should not know Him” (Luke 24:16)—that Mary in the garden was actually standing near Him yet “knew not that it was Jesus,” that the disciples who had gone back fishing “knew not that it was Jesus” standing on the seashore. All needed their eyes opened that they might know Him in resurrection life.

The Opening of the Future

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee [said the Lord to Peter], When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldst: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldst not. This spake He, signifying by what death he should glorify God” (John 21:18, 19). The Lord in these words told Peter two things—first, he would live to be an old man and, secondly, by which exit door he would depart out of this world. And when Peter turned and saw John following he asked the Lord, “What shall this man do?” The Lord answered, in effect, that that was not Peter’s business. John’s future, too, was in the hands of the Lord. So are all our futures.

The Opening of the Scriptures

“Did not our heart burn within us…while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32). The two on the way to Emmaus were in the depths of despondency. The cross had blasted their hopes of an immediate earthly kingdom. But the Lord appeared to them, and though they knew Him not yet He walked with them. In that walk He opened up a new ministry of finding Christ in all the Scriptures. “Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” As He did so, their hearts burned within them. They were lifted out of their despondency. The opening of the Scriptures set their hearts aflame.

The Opening of Their Understanding

“Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45). Education is not the key to such understanding, though no one would despise it. Many of the best teachers of the Word of God have had little in the way of formal education. Worldly philosophers have no clue to such understanding. But humble believers with very little education have often gone down into the depths of the Word and come up with hands laden with jewels of divine truth.

The Opening of the World

“And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them” (Mark 16:20). These disciples had been hid behind closed doors, eating and drinking. When the risen Lord came into their midst, He upbraided them, then sent them out into all the world. “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” The whole world was their parish. Oiled wheels run freely. And how prompt and ready should we all be to witness for the Lord to all men everywhere, especially when endued with power from on high. “Here am I, send me” (Isaiah 6:8), was Isaiah’s prompt reply.

I know that my Redeemer lives:
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, He lives, who once was dead;
He lives my everlasting Head.

He lives, triumphant from the grave;
He lives, eternally to save;
He lives, all glorious in the sky;
He lives, exalted there on high.

He lives, my mansion to prepare;
And He will bring me safely there;
He lives, all glory to His Name!
Jesus, unchangeably the same!

—Samuel Medley