The Witnesses

There are some more interesting details in the “40 days between.” As stated before comparing scriptures with scriptures and noticing small details are helpful in our studies.

Jesus Is Alive!

Matthew 28:8 (NIV)
So the women hurried away [KJV: departed quickly] from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

With all of the excitement, people were running back and forth between the empty tomb and Jerusalem. Not everyone perceived the same things. Thus, the four accounts present different viewpoints, each of which is true. Notice each one adds extra details to produce a more complete, richer picture of the resurrection in the Gospel. Despite the popular belief, there are NO discrepancies between the four books of the Gospel.

The Witnesses

After His resurrection, Jesus appeared and talked to His apostles and many of His followers. Unfortunately the human race needs witnesses to any events that are happening in the world. We forget that true faith is unseen faith.

List of witnesses:

  • Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9–11; John 20:11–18).
  • The women returning from the tomb (Matthew 28:8–10).
  • Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5).
  • Two travelers on the Emmaus road (Mark 16:12–13; Luke 24:13–32).
  • The disciples without Thomas, and others with them (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36–43; John 20:19–25).
  • The disciples, with Thomas, on Sunday night, one week later (John 20:26–31; 1 Corinthians 15:5).
  • Seven disciples by the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1–25).
  • Five hundred people in Galilee (1 Corinthians 15:6).
  • Jesus’ half-brother, James (1 Corinthians 15:7).
  • The disciples receiving the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16–20).
  • The apostles at the ascension (Luke 24:44–49; Acts 1:3–8).

In Mark 16:9–14, we read where the Eleven heard two reports of Jesus being “alive” but did not believe them. Jesus rebuked them for their lack of faith and stubbornness. On occasion, we have the same weakness of disbelief. After this happens, take a moment to stop, confess, and ask forgiveness. Then, MOVE forward, again!

Blessings

Luke 24:50–51 (MSG)
He then led them out of the city over to Bethany [means House of God]. Raising his hands he blessed them, and while blessing them, took his leave, being carried up to heaven.

Luke 24:50–51 presents a beautiful picture of Jesus’ love and amazing grace. He loves us enough to wash, weed and mend us. (see last blog) Jesus’ last act was to bless the Eleven and He kept blessing them as He ascended to heaven. The word “blessing” (εὐλογέωeulogéō) [g2127] has more than one meaning.

Meanings of blessing:

  1. A gift causing our work to succeed (Deuteronomy 28:12).
  2. God’s presence with us (Genesis 26:3)
  3. God giving us strength, power and help (Ephesians 3:16; Colossians 1:11).
  4. God working in and through us to produce good (Ephesians 3:16).

How to receive the God’s blessings:

  1. Always look to Jesus for His blessing on your ministry, work and family (Hebrews 12:2)
  2. Believe in, love, and obey Him (Matthew 5:3–11; 24:45–46; Revelation 1:3; 16:15; 22:7).
  3. Remove everything (the yeast) from your life that would hinder the blessing (Romans 13:12; Ephesians 4:22; Hebrews 12:1).

Nugget: God freely gives blessings but we must still strive toward holiness.

Thought provoking proofs of the resurrection:

  1. If the enemies of Jesus had taken the body, they surely would have displayed it to prove He had not risen.
  2. If the disciples had taken His body, they would have never sacrificed their lives and possessions for what they knew to be a lie.

The Books of the Gospel and Acts

The four books of the Gospel and Acts form a foundation for the New Testament like the five books of the Torah build a foundation for the Tanakh (Old Testament).

Dates Written:

Matthew (60—65 A.D.):
Purpose: To prove that Jesus is the Messiah, the eternal King
Mark (55, 65 A.D.):
Purpose: To present the person, work, and teachings of Jesus
Luke (60—63 A.D.):
Purpose: To present an accurate account of the life of Christ and to present Christ as the perfect human and Savior
John (85—90 A.D.):
Purpose: To prove conclusively that Jesus is the Son of God and that all who believe in him will have eternal life
Acts (63 A.D.):
Purpose: To give an accurate account of the birth and growth of the Christian church

Nugget: It is easy to think that Mark and Luke were two of the original twelve disciples but they were not. Both of them traveled with Paul.

The Books of Luke and Acts

These two books share a special relationship. It is believe that Luke wrote both books.

The books of Luke and Acts combine to form a letter addressed to a man named Theophilus (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1). Theophilus means “one who loves God,” or “lover of God.” The title “most excellent” from Luke 1:3 probably denotes official dignity (Acts 23:26; 24:3;26:25).

Nugget: Scholars say Theophilus, Luke and Paul were Romans citizens. This is probably where the three became friends.

The Book of Luke

Purpose of Gospel of Luke:

  • Describe an accurate account of the life of Jesus.
  • Present Jesus as the perfect human and Savior.
  • Stresses Jesus’ relationship with people.
  • Give prominent place to women.

Luke was a medical doctor and historian. He put great emphasis on dates and details connecting Jesus to events and people in history. Luke was also a close friend and traveling companion of Paul. While traveling with Paul, Luke learned spiritual teaching which helped him to become a missionary.

God’s plan for Luke traveling with Paul:

  • Interview the other disciples.
  • Gain access to historical accounts.
  • Witness to the birth and growth of the early church.
  • Present references to illnesses and diagnoses.
  • Be a Gentile convert, the only non-Jewish author of any of the Bible books.
  • Write his book of the Gospel and Acts as reliable, historical documents.

Nugget: God’s plan is never a last-minute decision. It was His purpose to use a Jew and a Gentile to help establish His Church. We need to be aware of our surroundings and friends who is part of God’s plan for our lives.

The Book of Acts:

The Holy Spirit lead Luke to write to Theophilus in order to fill a need in the Gentile church and to give a full account of the beginnings of church.

Acts presents:

  1. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
  2. The development of the early church.
  3. The teachings to the church (Jews first, then Gentiles) to help them serve the “One True God”.
  4. The role of the Holy Spirit in the church’s life and mission.
  5. The baptism in the Holy Spirit as God’s provision for empowering the church.

Nugget: Spirit (πνευ̃μαpneúma) [g4151] means to breathe; breath; God’s powerful breath.

Nugget: Does the Book of Acts seem to just stop like it wasn’t finished? Well, that is correct. Because, it isn’t finished, yet!

We are still living out the Book of Acts, today. Acts means action. The power of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Acts is still here with us!

Other Key Figures

Before covering the Feast of Pentecost, we will study about two other men God used for setting up the church. Peter worked with the Jews while Paul helped guide the Christian’s Gentiles.

Peter

Jesus’ first words to Peter were “Come follow me” (Mark 1:17). His last words to him were “You MUST follow me” (John 21:22). In the steps in between those two callings, Peter never failed to follow–even though he often stumbled. It is better to be a follower who sometimes stumbles and fails then to be one who fails to follow.

Strengths and accomplishments:

  • Became the recognized leader among Jesus’ disciples.
  • Rose to be the first great voice of the gospel during and after Pentecost.
  • Probably gave Mark much information for the Book of Mark.
  • Wrote 1st and 2nd Peter.
  • Loved Jesus with all his heart and soul.

Weaknesses and mistakes:

  • Often spoke without thinking, was rash and impulsive.
  • Denied knowing Jesus three times during Jesus’ trials.
  • Found it difficult to treat Gentile believers as equals.

Jesus will always forgive us for our shortcomings when we sincerely ask for forgiveness.

Saul to Paul

Paul was trained as a Pharisee but learned the tent making trade. He took on tent making to help be self-sufficient so he would be less of a burden to the people he was ministering to. This was again part of God’s perfect plan for Paul. No person, apart from Jesus Himself shaped the early church like the apostle Paul. He had a fierce intensity when persecuting the Christians, then his fierce intensity for the gospel of Jesus and the Gentile’s church. Paul did a 180º turn for the sake of Jesus.

Strengths and accomplishments:

  • Transformed by God from a persecutor of Christians to a preacher for Christ.
  • Preached for Christ throughout the Roman empire on his missionary journeys.
  • Wrote letters to various churches, which became part of the New Testament Bible.
  • Was not afraid to face issues head-on and dealt with them.
  • Sensitive to God’s leading and, despite his strong personality, always did as God directed.
  • Often called the apostle to the Gentiles.
  • Tried his best not to be a burden on others.

Weakness and mistakes:

  • Witnessed and approved of Stephen’s stoning.
  • Set out to destroy Christianity by persecuting Christians.
  • Needed to learn patience with people who he felt wasn’t giving 100%.

We need to learn from Paul’s lack of patience. Each believer develops at different levels and degrees depending on how much studying, time and effective they spend on it. As believers we should not be judgmental. Stronger believers should pray and offer help for weaker believers.

God did not waste any part of Paul—his background, his training, (1 Corinthians 9:20), his citizenship (Acts 22:25), his mind, or even his weakness. God, the Master Potter, uses His vessels to mold our strengths and weaknesses for His Glory. Are you willing to let God do the same for you? You will never know all He can do with you until you allow Him to have all that you are!

James

1 Corinthians 15:7 (KJV)
After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

This James is Jesus’ brother, who first did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah (John 7:5). One can only imagine the brother to brother chat those two had.

After seeing the resurrected Christ, James became a believer and ultimately a leader of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13). James wrote the New Testament book of James.

Conflicts and Squabbling

Genesis 4:1–7 (MSG)
Adam slept with Eve his wife. She conceived and had Cain. She said, “I’ve gotten a man, with GOD’s help!”

Then she had another baby, Abel. Abel was a herdsman and Cain a farmer.

Time passed. Cain brought an offering to GOD from the produce of his farm. Abel also brought an offering, but from the firstborn animals of his herd, choice cuts of meat. GOD liked Abel and his offering, but Cain and his offering didn’t get his approval. Cain lost his temper and went into a sulk.

GOD spoke to Cain: “Why this tantrum? Why the sulking? If you do well, won’t you be accepted? And if you don’t do well, sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it’s out to get you, you’ve got to master it.”

Throughout His Holy Word, there is disagreement and squabbling among His chosen vessels. God in love says to “Master it.” Why? He knows unless we control sin (our shortcomings—yeast) it can lead to ineffectiveness and sometimes spiritual death.

Jesus meant for all of His followers to be one body, the Body of Christ. This squabbling over the centuries has caused the church body to become broken into numerous independent denominations, sub-denominations, and loose-fitting groups. Thus, we have not been as effective in reaching the lost for Christ as God intended for us to be.

In 1 Corinthians 3:1–5, there was a division in the church between the followers of Paul and the followers of Apollos. God’s answer is in Verse 5 “the Lord has assigned to each his task.”

Answer:

  1. Master it!
  2. Do your assigned task not someone else!

With all God’s blessings listed in the Holy Word—Jesus’ empty tomb—promise of eternal life, we believers should be the happiest while shining with God’s light throughout the world!

Enjoy this song: ‘He Set Me Free’

Next, we are going to the Feast of Pentecost.

Until then,

שָׁלוֹם (Shalom!)