We cannot place ourselves in the sadness of Jesus’ intimate followers – His mother, Peter, James, John, and the band of 70 or so close associates who were eagerly anticipating His political kingship over Israel. We live in a different time and place. Many of you are Gentiles who can identify very little with anticipating a Messianic deliverer. And none of us have experienced a monarchy. But these 70 crushed individuals had such hopes – very high hopes!
These people gave their livelihood to pursue a monarchy, a just monarchy with Jesus as King. They truly believed that Jesus would overthrow the Roman treachery and re-institute a thriving Israel in their lifetime. We know that they were still anticipating this until the end because of one of the first questions the disciples asked Jesus after His resurrection.
“So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel’” (Acts 1:6)?
Their thoughts were entirely earthly. They had not yet grasped the eternal dividends Jesus was gaining for them by His death burial and resurrection. They did not understand His deliverance – deliverance not just from political subservience, deliverance from spiritual subservience. Jesus’ gain was not political freedom; it was much more than that, it was spiritual freedom! If they understood they would have gladly received the spiritual over the physical. How much greater is an eternity of “fullness of joy” in the presence of God than a few years of political freedom. And so Jesus rebuked the unbelief and shortsightedness – their spiritual stupor. Listen to His instruction after His resurrection.
“And He said to them, ‘O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the [Messiah] to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:25-27).
Jesus had to turn their attention from the physical to the spiritual, from physical victory to spiritual victory, from physical life to spiritual life, from physical wealth to spiritual wealth.
When I survey what concerns the Christian church in America today I think Jesus would have the same rebuke. How much of our effort and concern is on that which is merely physical. If we were to open our eyes to the spiritual riches we have in Christ because of His resurrection, how content we would be! If our affection was truly placed on things above rather than on things of this earth we would have much less anxiety about the pressures of the here and now.
Paul often prayed that the churches that he planted would get their eyes off the here and now onto the future, off the physical and on the spiritual. Listen.
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19).
Once we know the love of Christ in God the Father, we will need nothing else. Once these spiritual truths become ours by faith, our longings can cease. Since we know God the Father gave us His most precious of possessions, then we know that He will give us all good things, and therefore what we do not have is not good for us.
“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather Who was raised, Who is at the right hand of God, Who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:32-39).
And since we know Him we know that the greatest gift He will ever give is a relationship with Himself. His greatest gifts are spiritual. Let us pray that the Lord will help us wake up from our spiritual stupor to glory in the true meaning of Easter this weekend.