Jesus was crucified on the day of the spring Feast of Passover, and three days later he appeared alive outside his empty tomb during the Feast of Unleavened Bread on the day of First Fruits.
After the resurrection, Jesus spent forty days with his disciples, giving them many demonstrations that he had indeed defeated death, and teaching them about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:1-3). As the apostle John wrote, “There are so many other things Jesus did. If they were all written down, each of them, one by one, I can’t imagine a world big enough to hold such a library of books” (21:25 MSG).
Luke, who was a gentile, a medical doctor and a follower of Jesus, authored the gospel of Luke and the book of the Acts of the apostles, which tells the story of the birth of the Church.
He wrote that he had chronicled “…all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen” (Acts 1:1b-2 ESV). Matthew wrote that Jesus had charged them to fulfill the Great Commission, instructing his followers to “…make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” (28:19b-20a ESV).
However, Jesus knew that even though he had commissioned his followers to carry the good news of the gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth, the group of men and women who had accompanied him during his earthly ministry were not yet ready to carry out their task.
He also knew, and had warned them, that he was leaving.
Before his departure Jesus instructed them to wait in Jerusalem. He said, “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49 ESV).
Jesus told his disciples that he had a huge job for them to do, but that they shouldn’t start out on the project until they were fully equipped.
The promise that they were waiting to receive was the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5).
But before he could send his Spirit, Jesus had to return to the Father:
“He told them, ‘You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.’
These were his last words. As they watched, he was taken up and disappeared in a cloud. They stood there, staring into the empty sky. Suddenly two men appeared—in white robes! They said, ‘You Galileans! —why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky? This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly—and mysteriously—as he left’” (Acts 1:7-11 MSG).
After they recovered from the surprise of witnessing Jesus’ ascension into heaven, Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the zealot and Judas the son of James – along with Jesus’ mother, brothers and other disciples – men and women - totaling 120 persons, went to Jerusalem, returning to the upper room where Jesus had eaten the Last Supper with the twelve apostles; and “…all these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together…” (Acts 1:12-14 ESV), for ten days.
This timing is very important.
Remember that Jesus, our Passover Lamb, was crucified on the day of Passover. His substitutionary death for us on the cross is the fulfillment of the “type” in the book of Exodus of the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. The remission of sin was represented by the unleavened bread that God instructed the Israelites to carry with them out of their bondage in Egypt (Exodus 10:21-50; John 1:29).
After the resurrection, Jesus remained with his followers for forty days. Four, forty and four hundred are numbers that carry specific meaning in scripture. For example:
On the fourth day of creation, God said, “…Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth” (Genesis 1:14b-15 ESV).
And Moses wrote that Noah’s family and all the animals “…went into the ark with Noah…And the Lord shut him in. The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth…and the ark floated on the face of the waters” (Genesis 7:15-17 ESV).
While Israel suffered in slavery in Egypt for four hundred years, waiting for their deliverer: “Now there arose a new king over Egypt who did not know Joseph…Therefore they set hard taskmasters over them…so they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves.” (Exodus 1:6-14 ESV).
These are types and shadows illustrating our need for Jesus as the Light of the World and our Kinsman Redeemer.
Jesus was crucified and died on Passover. He rose again as a fulfillment of First Fruits (Deut 26:2-4; 1 Cor. 15-20). He remained with his disciples for forty days. Before ascending to heaven, he instructed his followers to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father.
They waited for ten days, gathered together in one accord, praying in Jerusalem. Those ten days represent the ten plagues that God visited upon Egypt while Moses petitioned pharaoh to release Israel from slavery. The final, convincing plague that Almighty God brought upon Egypt was the death of their firstborn sons, as a type and shadow of the death of God’s only begotten Son on the cross of Calvary.
The disciples waited together in the upper room and they prayed, until the day of Pentecost had fully come…
(Continued in Part Five)