After watching Jesus die and then seeing Him alive and well again, the disciples became new men—cowards became fearless! Man's greatest fear is death and they had now seen Jesus conquer it!
Their were two groups of men who were very important in Jesus’ life and the success of His ministry, His brothers and His disciples. Yet, these family members and close friends undergo a dramatic transformation in their attitudes about Jesus’ ministry a short time after He died.
Jesus’ Brothers Before His Death
Immediately following a low point in Jesus’ ministry when many of His followers deserted Him, the Scriptures say,
“After this, Jesus traveled around Galilee. He wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death. But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters, and Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” For even his brothers didn’t believe in him. (John 7:1-5 NLT)
This must have been a very difficult time for Jesus! Notice that Jesus’ own brothers said, “If you can do such wonderful things...” Also notice that they were telling Him to go to the area where the Jewish leaders are plotting to kill Him! And finally, the Scriptures say it very plainly, “For even his brothers didn’t believe in him.”
Jesus’ Apostles Before His Death
A short time before Jesus died and at a time when the support of His closest friends would have been expected, they deserted Jesus. In Matthew’s gospel it says,
“Then Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there teaching every day. But this is all happening to fulfill the words of the prophets as recorded in the Scriptures.” At that point, all the disciples deserted him and fled. (Matthew 26:55,56 NLT)
A Dramatic Change in Attitude
Roughly 40 days after Jesus died, the Scriptures tell us that Jesus’ apostles, His brothers, His mother and several other women were meeting together, praying constantly (Acts 1:12-14 NLT) and were now even willing to defy Caesar’s decrees! (Acts 17:6,7 NLT)
What Changed Their Minds?
Jesus’ family went from being unbelieving hecklers to committed followers and prayer warriors. His hand-picked leaders, the apostles, who were once the guys who deserted Him when He needed them the most, have suddenly changed into people who were willing to stand against a king’s decree! What made the difference in these people?
The writer of Acts explains it this way, “During the forty days after his crucifixion, [Jesus] appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3 NLT) (See also 1 Corinthians 15:3-7.)
Jesus is so confident that the radical change in their lives is permanent, that He is willing to entrust the future success of the Christian message into their hands! He tells these once-cowards that they “will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon [them]. And [they] will be [His] witnesses, telling people about [Him] everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NLT)
The Resurrection made new men out of Jesus’ brothers and disciples. They went from unbelievers to believers, from cowards to courageous witnesses. They were now new men, unafraid of death, because they had witnessed Jesus’ triumph over death. Now they would dedicate their lives to getting the word out about Jesus even though most of them would eventually die as martyrs rather than deny the Lord they had once denied so quickly.
Only God can tell the future, live sinlessly, and conquer death. Jesus did these things therefore, Jesus is God!
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