“To whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3, NKJV)
This week let’s explore some of the events in the Book of Acts. Within its twenty-eight chapters, we find the history and doctrine of the early church. Acts begins with the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and then lets us observe as the believers evangelized their world. Now 2000 years later we can view our beginning—our story—through the eyes of those who witnessed these events.
The crucifixion of Jesus would be meaningless had it not been followed by His resurrection. I Corinthians 15:14 (NKJV) explains it this way: “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.” The resurrection was a powerful event. It’s no wonder the chief priests and elders wanted to say it did not happen. Otherwise, it would give credence to who Jesus really was.
Matthew 28:11-15 tells how the ones guarding the tomb accepted bribe money to claim the disciples stole Jesus’ body away. It was an improbable story. As Roman soldiers, they would have suffered grave consequences, even death, had that really happened on their watch. Some believed this false story, but not everyone. The difference? Eyewitnesses.
An eyewitness is “a person who actually sees some act, occurrence, or thing and can give a firsthand account of it” (collinsdictionary.com). There were too many eyewitnesses to the fact that Jesus was indeed alive. In his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, Peter included himself among those who had seen the risen Lord (Acts 2:32). Eyewitnesses that Jesus was alive were:
- Mary Magdalene and the other Mary at the tomb
- Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus
- The eleven
- More than 500 believers at one time
- Saul on the Damascus Road
In any court of law, an eyewitness becomes a strong factor in the outcome of a case. Old Testament law required the testimony of two or three witnesses before someone could be declared guilty. “By the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15 NKJV). The resurrection had far more than the required two or three.
The Lord appeared to men, women, groups, and one crowd. He was touched, heard, and seen. They saw Him eat food. They knew Him before His death and easily recognized Him afterward. All were eyewitnesses to the indisputable fact that Jesus was alive. Death did not defeat Him. When Peter preached to the crowd on Pentecost, he could do it with authority because he had seen the risen Lord.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day did all they could to discredit His resurrection, but too many people had witnessed the risen Lord. The truth was evident. Now you and I share in “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (I Peter 1:3, NKJV). Our message today is still the same as Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost. Jesus is alive and because He lives, we have a living hope.