LEADER TIMES WEEKEND RELIGION ARTICLE FOR
April 14, 2012 by William H. Scarle, Jr.
Both Easter and Passover are over and for both Christianity and Judaism there is often a spiritual letdown after the deep meaning of the holy days and the multiple celebrations of the mighty acts of God. However, the fifty day period between Passover and Pentecost was a very busy time for the Apostles of Jesus, although the sacred text is not nearly as full of detail as many, myself included, would like. When Jesus told the Apostles prior to his ascension that they would be “witnesses” he certainly was referring to the time between his resurrection and his departure into the Shekinah glory of God on the Mount of Olives when he was, according to Luke, teaching them.
There are ten appearances of Jesus recorded in the Gospel accounts. Five of them take place on the day of resurrection, or Sunday. Seven of them take place in Jerusalem during the seven days of the Passover festival, before the Apostles leave Jerusalem for the Galilee. Two of them are in Galilee. The final appearance recorded for us takes place on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem after the Apostles have returned for the celebration of Shavuot, or Pentecost.
This had to be a time of intense teaching of the Apostles by Jesus. They had been told of the suffering of the Messiah and his resurrection by Jesus prior to the events themselves, but they scarcely understood it at all. They had also been instructed in the nature of the Messianic Kingdom, but even at the last appearance of Jesus on the Mount of Olives they were anticipating the restoration of the Davidic monarchy on earth and the suppression of the Roman Empire. Jesus did not deny that those promises of the Scripture would be fulfilled in the Father’s time, but first the Apostles were to be “witnesses” to the ends of the earth. What they were to witness to was the resurrection and the Kingdom teaching pulled together by Jesus in these forty days of instruction following that event.
I have always thought that much of this instruction is incorporated into the Gospel of John and that the material printed in red in the red letter editions of the Gospels are not simply the words of Jesus, but the words of Jesus plus commentary, or Midrash, by John. Of course, it is impossible to draw the line between the two, and it is not really necessary, since John would be giving us the benefit of the deeper understanding of these words from a post resurrection perspective.
It seems to me that an awareness of this time of intense instruction of the Apostles by Jesus in the time between his resurrection and ascension could be factored into our congregational education programing. Would not this give substantial support to special studies of Jesus’ teaching and his understanding of the Kingdom during this period? It might even be followed up by an emphasis on the mission of the Church and the Great Commission.
The most meaningful of the post resurrection appearances of Jesus for me is recorded in John, chapter 21. Perhaps it is because of the detail of the story, and the fact that I have stood at this spot so many times and meditated upon its reality. Jesus’ dialogue with Peter needs to be understood as a lesson for all the Apostles. In a word Jesus tells them to feed his sheep. The period between Passover and Pentecost was a time of intense feeding. Perhaps we should give more attention to that fact.
(Bill Scarle can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org ).