According to the church calendar, Easter Sunday ushered in 50 days of Easter Season, which includes Ascension Thursday 40 days after Easter Sunday (remembering Jesus’ ascension into heaven 40 days after He rose from the dead). Easter Season officially ends on Pentecost, which remembers the giving of the Holy Spirit.
I think it is quite valuable for believers to take some time to meditate on what those 40 days were like for Jesus’ disciples. They had gone through faith shaking darkness, the brutal massacre of their trusted leader. Though Jesus taught them clearly exactly what was going to happen, it’s obvious from the Gospel accounts that the disciples had not understood and were still painfully ignorant of much Jesus had been teaching them.
Luke 18:31-34 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
Luke 18 is not the first time Jesus told them clearly of His death and resurrection. An earlier version of a similar conversation is recorded in Matthew 16. There Peter rebukes Jesus for even suggesting such a thing.
Matthew 16:21-23 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Even though Jesus had told the disciples in clear words multiple times that the crucifixion and resurrection was coming, they still seemed completely unprepared for it, scattering when the soldiers came, cutting off the ear of the soldier arresting Jesus, and denying Jesus as He was tried and killed.
After His death, it is the women who first discover that Jesus’ body is missing.
Luke 24:1-10 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles,
These women are the first, I think, to finally fully understand (though it seems in John 12 that Mary had some understanding the week before Jesus’ death).
Once Jesus rises from the dead, suddenly – CLICK – it all makes sense to them. I’ve watched that look go on in students’ eyes when it comes to understanding a difficult math concept. They take in information with their eyes glazed over. It’s obvious from their eyes that it makes no sense to them. Then something happens, perhaps a well placed illustration or an activity demonstrating a concept with manipulatives, and – CLICK – the lightbulb goes on. Their eyes light up as things that were previously confusing and disconcerting suddenly make sense.
On Sunday, we celebrated the moment of that CLICK of understanding for the disciples. But that season of growing understanding of all Jesus had been teaching them went on for 40 more days. On the road to Emmaus scales fell from their eyes as they came to understand the Law and the Prophets through the lens of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Peter comes to understand Jesus’ heart for the church sitting at a fire pit beside the sea. And who knows what other conversations happened that were not recorded for us?!
Chocolate bunnies may be on clearance and our Easter finest in the laundry to wash, but Easter Season isn’t over. There is much on which to meditate during the next five and a half weeks until Ascension Thursday. What concepts were the disciples coming to see clearly? What were they newly understanding of the Old Testament? What vision were they gaining for God’s kingdom? What all was on the long list of things misunderstood by them previously that suddenly became clear? That little band of Jesus denying, fearfully scattering misfits went on to change the world. I think those 40 days were profound.