But you can see how true this became of that little band of disciples. You can say that, at the time of the Cross, these negative and dark things were in a certain sense true of them. Yes, everything was gone; the trees were stripped bare; it was barrenness indeed. In their hearts they were saying: 'What has it all been for? It has all gone; we have lost everything.' But see the change from the Day of Pentecost onwards. From barrenness to fruitfulness - again you go though this list of characteristics - from straightness, as a little band, a little handful of men, hedged up in a few miles of Jerusalem, of Judea, of Palestine, a little country - unto what? "Their sound," said Paul, "went out into all the earth, ... unto the ends of the world" (Romans 10:18). What enlargement! It was the lengthening of cords, the strengthening of stakes in resurrection. Their aloneness - the terrible loneliness that had come over them when He, as they thought, was dead - has given place to a marvelous fellowship, that is being established in relationship with an ever-growing company of fellow believers. All these things came about: this wonderful change-over was true for the disciples.
But does it stop there? No! The same thing became true in every new believer; and it has been true from then on until now. These are the things which are the characteristics of the true believer's life - a believer's life! If you are living on the other side of the Cross, or even if you are living in the day of His death, just living with Christ dead, these things are not true. But if we are living, as true believers should, on the ground of His resurrection, then all these things are true. It is a very blessed thing for us to be able to say, without any hesitation or reserve, that He has changed our life from barrenness to fruitfulness; from straightness to enlargement; from shame to honor; from forsakenness and aloneness to fellowship; and so on. This is the heritage of every true believer.
Immediate Effects of Christ's Resurrection
In the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, there is struck and sounded forth this wonderful note - a new life, a new hope, a new assurance! We see it clearly in the New Testament. It is worth noting the marvelous effect that His appearances had upon the people concerned. As far as we can see, there were about ten appearances of the Lord after His resurrection. Five of them took place on one day, between sunrise and perhaps a little after sunset; the other five were scattered over a period, in different places. But it is most impressive, most instructive, to see the tremendous change that came over the people, and over the whole situation, between the time before He appeared, and the time He disappeared. Let us run through some of those appearances.
The first, undoubtedly, was with Mary Magdalene, who came early to the tomb, with spices, to anoint His body (Marks 16;9; John 20:1-18). What a poor, sad, desolate, empty sort of person she was that morning! What a plaintive note there is as she beholds Him without recognizing Him, and takes Him for the gardener: 'Sire, if you have born Him away, tell me where you have laid Him.' Jesus only speaks her name "Mary" - and the whole situation is transformed, transfigured! She hurries from the tomb - hurries away to tell the disciples. It would seem, too, that there were other women nearby, and that, as they were going, she and they, to tell the disciples, Jesus met them on the way - another transforming scene and experience (Matt. 28:8-10; Mark 16:10-11).
And then, we are told, He appeared to Simon Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5). It does not need very much imagination to picture what kind of Simon he was when Jesus appeared to him. He was not a very happy sort of man! If ever there was a man who felt he was bereft -bereft of everything, stripped, stark, alone, forsaken, and in utter despair - it must have been Simon Peter. And then Jesus appeared to him - gave him a private interview! Ah! that changed the whole situation, completely transformed the whole outlook for Simon.
Then there were the two disciples on their way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35; Mark 16:12, 13). What sad, doleful, desolate men they were! As they walked those three miles, it must have seemed the longest three miles that two men had ever walked! But then Jesus appeared ... Their eyes were opened, they saw ... He went ... and those three miles back were the shortest three miles that ever men had run! I don't know what their time was for the course, but I m quite sure they were not conscious of those three miles! Distance and time lost all their meaning as they raced back, fleet of foot, to Jerusalem, to tell the others. And as they came in, before they could get out anything of what had happened to them, they were met with this from the other disciples: "The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared unto Simon!" They were changed men, and it was a changed scene in Jerusalem into which they came.
And He appeared to the apostles themselves, and to James, and to 'above five hundred brethren at once" (1 Corinthians 15:6, 7). His appearance - that is, His coming in resurrection - brought about a marvelous change on every occasion, in every situation. It represented a very real fulfillment of Isaiah 54 - Isaiah 54 is resurrection!
(continued with # 1 - "Can This Be A Present-Day Experience?")