He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.Acts 1:3
Jesus could have simply risen from the dead and gone directly to heaven. After all, the work of redemption was complete. He had made full atonement in His death, and He had triumphed over death. Why not just return directly to the Father? Because Jesus did not intend to leave His followers with their final memories of Him bloodied and beaten, hanging on a cross. Rather, their last memories were to be of a resurrected Christ.
It is a mark of His grace and kindness that after His resurrection Jesus “presented himself alive” to His disciples. He answered their questions. He banished their fears. He “opened their minds” to better understand the Old Testament Scriptures (Luke 24:45). He prepared them for the coming of the Holy Spirit. And then, and only then, did He leave.
How glad doubting Thomas must have been that Jesus did not leave immediately! Had Jesus done so, Thomas would have been unable to meet his Savior and to have his questions answered and his fears dispelled (John 20:24-29). Surely Peter, too, in all of his discouragement and in his disgrace, was equally glad of the opportunity to spend time with the risen Jesus. He had denied Christ repeatedly at the crucial hour. But then Jesus came and met him on the shore, made him breakfast, and gave him the opportunity to be reinstated as he gave a threefold affirmation of his love for Christ (21:15-19). And don’t you think the mother of Jesus was also glad for these 40 days? She who had laid Him in the manger had witnessed the brutality that was meted out upon her son, her boy, on the cross. But Mary’s final vision of Jesus was of Him resurrected and ascending—a vision that prompted her and those with her to worship Him and return to Jerusalem “with great joy” (Luke 24:52).
This final vision of Jesus as the resurrected, all-powerful, ascended King is the answer for those of us who have been looking in other places to find an antidote to doubt, shame, fear, or grief. The cross is empty, as is the tomb. King Jesus is in His heavenly dwelling place, and He is coming back. Until then, lift up your head, know that your Savior lives and His kingdom is open, and encourage your soul as you praise your King:
Jesus, hail! enthroned in glory,
There forever to abide;
All the heavenly hosts adore Thee,
Seated at Thy Father’s side.
There for sinners Thou art pleading;
There Thou dost our place prepare;
Thou for saints art interceding
Till in glory they appear.