Reflections and prayers from Easter to Ascension
“In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day He was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen. After His sufferings, He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the Kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:1-3)
The period between the resurrection of Jesus and His ascension has tended to be eclipsed by our concentration on the season of Lent. Our preparations for Easter are important, but the truths of the resurrection need to sink deep within us and take root in the days which follow Easter. Unlike Lent, the 40-day period after Easter Day carries no special name-tag and no particular traditions are associated with it. It is possible, therefore, for this period in to become a less-well-marked phase in the annual calendar of the Church.
And yet, for the first disciples of Jesus, this was a crucial time of transition. A ragged band of men and women, scattered and scared by the horrifying events of Good Friday, are moulded together into the very beginnings of the Church. Their doubts are dispelled, their fears dissolved and a new-found confidence is implanted which drives them outwards in missionary zeal. What a transformation!
Those disciples had to wrestle with the implications of a risen Jesus, who had conquered death and was about to bestow on them the gift of the Holy Spirit. They entered this post-Easter period with a tangled mass of emotions. Some were torn inside by grief, others had seen long-cherished dreams fizzle into nothing. There were those who carried guilt and remorse, and all were fearful of the future. Questions and reproaches galore must have preyed on their minds:
“If only I had . . . ?”
“What if . . .?”
“Why didn’t I . . . ?”
“How could this have been . . . ?”
Into this confused grouping the risen Jesus comes. It is interesting that in his prologue to the book of Acts, Luke does not mention that Jesus performed any miracles during this post-Easter period. In many ways, the first disciples had quite enough to cope with trying to come to terms with the miracle of His resurrection. What Luke does record is that Jesus’ main focus at this time was on teaching His disciples. It was a time of reflection, training and finally of sending out with the task of spreading the good news about Him to all nations (the Great Commission as it’s been called in Matthew 28:19-20).
In this series we will follow the journey of those first disciples, from the dawn of that first Easter morning, to the day on the Mount of Olives when they witnessed the ascension, having received the Great Commission to spread the good news about Him. As we remember their thoughts and feelings, their doubts and struggles, and witness how the risen Christ led them on, let us too meet with Him, and allow the truths of Easter to be grounded within us. Let us hear His call and be equipped and encouraged to respond to Jesus’ call to action.
The 40 readings from the Gospels and Acts follow chronologically the events of the post-Easter period. For each day there is a Bible reading, followed by a reflection and some questions to help you apply the truths of Scripture to your own life. Each day also has a prayer to pray. The series is grouped into sections relating to each of Jesus’ resurrection appearances.
Jesus led His first disciples on a journey from confusion to commission. As He takes us beyond Easter, may He lead us on that same journey, with His light consuming our darkness and His Holy Spirit equipping us to shine with that light, serving Him with renewed strength and passion.