Forty Days: 7. Redemption and Glory

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“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Spirit had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen. To whom also he showed Himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: and, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which saith he, ye have heard of me: for John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence.
“When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
“And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power; but ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
“And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
“And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven, as he went up, behold two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner, as ye have seen him go into heaven (Acts 1:1-111The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: 3To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: 4And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 6When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 9And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:1‑11)). “
The last of these striking periods of “Forty days” is now before us, and suitably concludes the series which scripture presents, and which we have in measure received. The opening of the passage above, from Acts 1 begins with a risen Savior in the midst of His disciples, and closes with an opened heaven; and a Man, who having accomplished redemption, passes from the earth into the glory of God. The interval between the resurrection of Christ, until He went on high, was “forty days.” In the opening of His ministry there was the period of “forty days” of His conflict and victory, in the temptations in the wilderness. In the close there was the other “forty days” characterized by accomplished redemption and glory. (We may here recall that there were also two periods of “forty days “in the ministry of His servant Moses. The first, when he returned from Mount Sinai with the tables of the law, which he broke before he entered the camp of revolted Israel. And the second, when he returned — his face reflecting the mercy of Jehovah — to place them unbroken, eventually, in the Ark of the Lord.) There is thus a certain analogy lying between the two. But in the first period the Lord came down after His conflict with the Tempter, with His title made good by obedience, as a Jew, to the land of Israel (Deut. 8; Matt. 4). And as the second Man before God, His Messiah blessings also secured by His full answer to the dependence depicted of Him in Psalm 91; and much more indeed. Then in the second “forty days” He went on high after having made atonement, and borne the curse of the law, to begin a new service, then, in the glory.
The blessed Lord, too, as well as His servant, had His “seven days” of preface to these “forty days” — that solemn work after His entry into Jerusalem; His passion and His atoning death; His tomb, and His resurrection.
It needed but three days to establish the fact of His death; forty were needed to do so as to His resurrection. “Jesus” had been revealed, and proclaimed on earth. His “resurrection” was to be coupled with that theme. These two things were the grand subject now. “Jesus and Resurrection” — His Person, and His victory over death, were to meet all the need of man, and display the power and glory of God. God had intervened, when man in weakness as a sinner, and Man in grace in Jesus had met, and when the enemy’s power could go no further, and had wrought a new thing, against which the “gates of hades” could not prevail: Christ had died and risen again: He had emerged from the tomb, into that new sphere where Satan could no more reach, or man defile. The Conqueror of death — His mighty work was done: naught now remained but to enter upon its results on high, and make good its power in all who bow to that Name, and mighty victory.
Resurrection was but little taught in the OT scriptures. Enough, that it had been spoken of, and hoped for — vaguely it is true, still it was there. But when that mighty triumph of God had entered the scene and the Son of David was declared “Son of God in power by resurrection of dead [ones],” either in those He had raised to human life again, or in His own (Rom. 1:55By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: (Romans 1:5)), then it was the constant theme of His Spirit by His chosen witnesses; and the New Testament is lighted with the glories of resurrection. If Satan had his ready tools, to oppose Himself in life and ways on earth, in the Pharisee, full of his superstition, and his tradition, which made void the word of God; he had his fresh tools ready to his hand, when Jesus rose, to oppose His resurrection, which was the triumph of God over all that under which man had fallen, in the infidel, freethinking Sadducee.
But not merely was the resurrection of Jesus, and the resurrection of His people, and of those who had died in their sins — “both the just and the unjust” to be the preaching now, when the Lord had gone on high, but a resurrection, not of — but from the dead was to be the theme. One, of which Jesus was the “firstfruits,” from among the dead. No small wonder was it when the disciples heard for the first time of this, and “questioned one with another what rising [not “the rising”] from among the dead should mean” (Mark 9”9, 10), a resurrection which taking place for some, would leave the mass of men behind, who had died in their sins.
The resurrection was the divine proof of the accomplished mission and work of the Son of God. It was the foundation on which all was now to rest. “If Christ be not raised your faith is vain,” said the apostle, “you are yet in your sins.” “Yea,” he continues, “and we are found false witnesses of God, because we testified of God that he raised up Christ; whom he raised not up if the dead rise not” (1 Cor. 15). Satan, in the last days too, would seek to deny this, and find fresh instruments to say, “The resurrection is past already, and overthrow the faith of some” (2 Tim. 2).
These “forty days,” then, were used of God to bring out, by the most incontestable proofs, the great and stupendous fact that Christ was risen. Without that, all the testimony was, we may say, worthless: with it, all would flow easily, and as a consequence. The disciples themselves were but slow to believe it: they looked upon the story of it as “idle tales, and believed it not”; Jesus, as it were, forces it upon their acceptance, in the most tender and gracious way, till every heart was convinced; and all were made bright and living witnesses of this new thing. He appeared to them in various ways, and at various moments, about twelve times, during those “forty days.” He did not seek to convince them by miracles; for there was but one enacted while He remained on earth: if indeed everything He did was not a miracle (compare John 20;21). But He took up His pledges given in His lifetime, and made them good in resurrection. What as a ministering Christ He had promised, as a risen Christ He performed. “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you,” said the Lord, when He would assure their hearts and say, “It is I myself: handle me and see.” He would eat, too, before them, assuring them that He who had been their human yet divine Companion, was still the same. Yet not the same, for since He had left them, and they had fled from Him in His hour of need, He had made peace with God, and the proof that it was made was a risen Savior in their midst — its first and blessed Preacher!
Let us look now at some of these appearings of the Lord to His disciples after His resurrection. The most touching one, and full of blessed teaching for our souls, is that to Mary the Magdalen. We find how the risen Christ is the answer to every condition of soul. Is there an ignorant but devoted heart? The risen Jesus will meet it in fullest sympathy and instruction. Is there one who has denied His Lord, when he had the opportunity of confessing Him? The risen Savior will restore. Are there ignorant ones, whose hearts are under the power of unbelief, and false hopes as to their own aggrandizement? He will correct and instruct and reveal Himself afresh, and fill their souls with joy; proving thus to each and all how truly he would meet every heart, with suited and needed instruction.
See this in Mary of Magdala. She was one who proves to us that the Lord does not teach us through the intelligence merely (while using it), but teaches us through the conscience or the affections. How often has that verse in John 14 (vs. 21) been used amiss! Have we never thought His meaning was that all His own have His commandments, and they that love Him keep them, and thus show their affection? Nay. Let us be clear in this — that all His people, alas! have not His commands. They live too far from Him; their affections are not stirred in love to Jesus. Does this not challenge our hearts, beloved? Nay, He means that, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, that is the one 5 that loveth me.” Yes, but the love to Him came first, and thus he received His commands! So it was with Mary. Her ignorance is plain to all; but so is her affection: that of a true heart which had lost its all, as she supposed, when Christ had died. The world was His tomb for her, and the shadow of death shrouded the scene. Angels may speak to her, she heeds them not. Others might go to their homes: she now had none. The night and the day were both alike to her. There was no dawn on her soul, for the Light of her life had been quenched, and all was darkness and tears. That heart loved Christ with deep, though ignorant affection. Once it had been the abode of seven devils; now it was the shrine of a crucified Savior. To such He will reveal Himself — the risen One: He will remove the sorrow, dry the tears, and make her a blessing to others, while blest herself. He would “bless her, and make her a blessing.” And He gives her His commands, for her own soul, and she kept them, and brought them to others that morning, and has done so ever since that day. The finest message that ever passed through mortal lips, first came through those of Mary! “Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God (John 20:1717Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. (John 20:17)).”
What awakening of hopes was here, which seemed buried forever, in His grave! What beams of resurrection flowed in upon her soul — taught through its deep affections. In that new sphere all His own were to stand on the same platform of resurrection with Himself: His Father, their Father; His God, their God.
Look, too, at those two poor ignorant disciples on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus (Luke 24), as they walked and were sad. They were full of reasoning among themselves as they communed together. This had to be rebuked and corrected; but their hearts were sad. This the risen One would meet and comfort. He would draw their eyes away from self and its earthly hopes, and fix them on Himself — His sufferings and His glory. He was now, though, ‘The hope of Israel, the Savior thereof in time of trouble,” but “a wayfaring man, that turneth aside to tarry for a night” (compare Lev. 14:88And he that is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean: and after that he shall come into the camp, and shall tarry abroad out of his tent seven days. (Leviticus 14:8)). They thought of themselves as yet, and not of Him and His glory; thus were their blessings hindered. They had built their earthly hopes on Him, and now He was gone; the cup was rudely dashed aside, and they were desolate, “We hoped that it had been he who should have redeemed Israel.” But the Author of scripture, and the Subject of scripture was there, beside them on the road, in the darkness of that night of their sorrow. He was there to make their hearts “burn within them by the way.” To create new hopes; impart fresh energy; unfold His glory; and make scripture tune with Christ Himself: “O fools, and slow of heart, to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” Would He send a message to His disciples that He was risen, and not think of one whose soul first wandered in self-trust and fallen — oh, how deeply; and forget to couple the name of “Peter” with that general message to all? To do so might be just: but He who had seen His poor servant’s bitter tears when no other eye beheld, and saw the right moment for a loving message to reach his heart, couples that name, which He Himself had given him, with the rest, in special recollection. A risen Savior meets and restores His warm-hearted, though erring disciple. Every heart is met; every ignorance instructed; every soul which erred restored, at the suited moment, in the suited way; and by those ways of grace which would be least known to each one personally. What splendid proofs were these, that “he himself” was there! Proofs which none could analyze for another. Such proofs that make us feel even now, in these poor cold days, that we still have to do with Him and He with us, by ways which are known best and only by him who has received them yet all tended to one great point Jesus the Lord is risen!
When this resurrection is, “by many infallible proofs,” made known, then comes His mission as the risen One (not yet the ascended One) to His disciples. In Acts 1:66When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6) at the close of those “Forty Days, the disciples asked the Lord, if He would at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? He replied that it was not for them to know the times and the seasons: such were for the earth and Israel, not for heaven and a heavenly company. “The Father” had such times and seasons in His own power: they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit in “not many days”; and they would be His witnesses — witnesses of a Christ risen from among the dead.
But now mark well the force of His reply. When He, in His incarnate days, was presenting the kingdom to Israel, and when sending forth the twelve on this behalf, He said, in detailing their mission in Matthew 10, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles; and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Here was the extent of this mission of former days. Strictly confined to the “lost sheep” of “Israel.” But all this had been refused. Israel’s day was past, and Zion had refused her King. The old enactment ceased then when Israel “would not.”
The barriers were thus broken down; the cross of a malefactor being the answer of Israel, to Him in grace, when they exclaimed, “We have no king but Caesar.”
As in enacting fresh decrees a nation must repeal the old, which only suited another day, so the Lord, it might be said, repeals the mission of former days: His heart is free now to go beyond the narrow circle of Israel. He was then “the minister of the circumcision for the truth of God to confirm the promises made to the fathers”; now He would inaugurate a new thing whereby the “Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy,” and yet still as Israel was now on sinner’s ground, not withdraw the hand of mercy from them.
He was now passing out to the Mount of Olives amongst His disciples; leading them out to the spot where He would say His last farewell on earth As His footfall grew lighter, and as the moment for Him to be received up drew nigh, He turns to them with those words, which repeal their old mission, and extend it on its fresh basis from the risen Savior: “Ye shall be my witnesses,” said He, “both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
As the stone, dropped into the peaceful waters, sends ripple after ripple from the spot where first it entered, till they are lost in the expanse around; so does this mission, now begun in Himself, extend with its waves and ripples of mercy, embracing the world of sinners within its ever-increasing circles!
Jerusalem had been the scene of His death and shame, there they should begin, where faith was dead and a lifeless form.
Samaria lay beyond that once-holy spot, with a faith corrupted for centuries: half heathen, half Jewish in its forms and its Gerizim.
The “uttermost part of the earth” had no faith at all! but lay in all its heathen darkness under the “veil of covering” upon all its peoples.
But whether for Jerusalem with her dead faith, or Samaria with her corrupt faith, or the uttermost part of the earth where no faith was, a risen Savior would be their testimony and meet it all! And thus they went forth in the “Acts of the Apostles”; those three concentric circles gradually unfolding themselves before us in the Book. For it is worthy of note that they divide the Book in a remarkable way. “Jerusalem” was the center of testimony from the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) until she refused finally the “sure mercies of David” when Stephen yielded up his spirit to the Lord. Then came “Samaria” with Philip and Peter and John. And lastly the scene enlarged to the “uttermost part of the earth “through the great apostle to the Gentiles, and those who companied with him (see Acts 2-7, 8, 9-22). God Himself had been revealed; His grace made known. Therefore He could not now confine His dealings to the “smallest nation under heaven,” as in the day of His testing man. The cross had broken down the “middle wall of partition” on earth; it had opened up the way for God to man, and man to God, through a veil rent from top to bottom; and thus the breadth of His ways should now take in all in its scope and aspect. All “had sinned” and are “come short of his glory,” and His glory was then the measure of the grace of His salvation. What a message to a world of sinners! None were left out: His parting words declare it. His heart was unchanged, and only more deeply and fully revealed through the revolted heart of man; and thus His heart, in grace, is still turned towards man, until that day comes when “This same Jesus “will come again to “judge the world in righteousness.” Thus He blest them, and in that attitude, with uplifted hands, He passed to His glory; and they returned to Jerusalem to begin their task, “praising and blessing God.”
We have now come to the close of our meditations on those “Forty days.” May the Lord in His good mercy apply some sweet lesson, to the hearts of His own beloved people, from what we have reviewed; and lead our souls into deeper, fuller communion with Him, of whom all scripture speaks, separating us more distinctly to Himself in these our days of weakness; and preparing our souls by that education which He knows so well how to apply, while we “look for his Son from heaven,” “even Jesus, who hath delivered us from the wrath to come.”
Words of Faith, 1883, pp. 9-18.