April 17, 2015
Eastertide: Broken Hearts are Healed and Find a New Purpose
Scripture tells us very little about what happened with Jesus and his disciples between the time of the Resurrection and the Ascension. He appeared to them, and to many others, after his return from the dead. For the disciples, he breathed the power of the Holy Spirit onto them and into them. He gave them a life altering commission, or charge, and then returned to the heavenly realm. He was not absent, but he was out of physical view.
As Charles Wesley put it in his hymn, Rejoice the Lord is King: "When He had purged our stains, He took His seat above." This doesn't mean Jesus sat back and watched history unfold with caring or participating. This means he returned to the heavenly realm of honor he had before coming to Earth. Jesus always cares. If you invite him, he always participates.
Based on the accomplishments of the disciples after the Ascension, we can imagine a few things that must have happened for Jesus' followers. We can learn from their experiences, and find new paths for ourselves after our hearts have been broken by life's events.
The disciples had to rethink what was real and possible. No one, before or after, has ever returned from death to live on Earth. Jesus did. That first Holy Week had been a real roller coaster ride for them. After they saw Jesus was alive---physically, in his body---they had to accept many new possibilities for what life could mean. They were then ready to accept the Great Commission. They saw their leader was more than they had ever imagined or originally believed. When Jesus heals your broken heart, he will show you possibilities and a future beyond what you imagined in your past.
The disciples had to accept new and different responsibilities. During his ministry on Earth, the disciples expected Jesus to remove Roman power, restore the Davidic kingdom, and bring prosperity. They also expected to help him carry out that mission. It didn't quite turn out that way. Jesus gave them a new purpose and direction. The disciples carried it out very effectively. But it wasn't what they'd originally planned. They were willing to change. Ironically, the change Christianity brought to the ancient world did eventually bring down the Roman Empire, but it happened one person at a time.
Much of what God does is done one person at a time. He heals broken hearts one at a time.
The disciples found a worthy purpose: to spread a message of personal salvation+freedom from sin (sin = whatever makes us less than what God created us to be), a message of goodness defined as holiness-happiness-purpose. They found a purpose worth living for and dying for. If we have a purpose worth dying for, we must choose to live for that purpose. If we do not have a purpose worth dying for, it is time to find a new purpose. The difficulties the disciples faced were nothing compared to the eternal value of what they did. Tradition says most of them suffered a martyr's death. Have no doubt that where these disciples are now, they would not say God asked too much of them. They found a purpose to carry them past their pain. We can do that as well when we listen to God and follow him.