D216 - Eye witness accounts were very important to the early disciples
It was the same with the Book of Acts which was also written by Dr Luke when he said,
‘He (Jesus) 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).
The Apostle John did not use the term ‘eyewitnesses’ but said that ‘Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias’ (John 21:1).
Paul testified in 1 Cor 15:8 that the Lord ‘appeared to me (physically)’ whom he called ‘the least of the apostles and not fit to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God.’
In fact, in 1 Cor 15:3-8, Paul used the term, ‘seen by’, FIVE times to emphasize the importance of the account relating to eye witnesses:
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
Being eyewitness was a most critical element. It was sufficient for all the disciples of Jesus to lay down their lives and die for the cause.
NB: A point to note is that Jesus’ disciples were devout Jews. The newly minted Christian Council struggled with the issue of circumcision even in Acts 15. The Apostle Peter felt uncomfortable about eating ‘unclean meat’ in Acts 10:9-16. He was even reprimanded by Paul for separating himself from Gentile Christians in Antioch (Gal 2:11-13). They knew that lying was considered an abomination in the Ten Commandments. They also knew the significance of having eyewitness accounts – (Deut 19:15; Deut 17:6).
These were upright men of integrity whose Judaistic foundation would make them difficult to tell a lie.
- D41 – Jesus’ supernatural actions in front of eye-witnesses established his uniqueness and credentials, and
- D145 – Believers must be ready to lay down their lives (martyrdom)
D217 - God does not follow a predictable way to act
God chose various ways to inform people about the arrival of his son, Jesus Christ. For a starter, not all were devout Jews. His methods included the following::
- Wise men from the east who ‘saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him’ (Matt 2:2). They studied the skies and God disclosed to these men who were conscientious students,
- A group of shepherds who just happened to be staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night (Luke 2:8-10). Now this group did not have any religious status; they were just ordinary folks,
- A devout man, Simeon, who was told by the Holy Spirit that ‘he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ’ (Luke 2:26), and
- Finally, a prophetess, Anna, who was ‘advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers (Luke 2:36-37).
NB: Interestingly, the chief priests and scribes of the people (the religious elites [those perceived to be devout men of God] of Jesus’ day), went back to the Hebrew Bible and discovered that the Christ would be born in Bethlehem. Yet, NONE went down to worship the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords (Matt 2:3-6).
Jesus did not have a standard method in healing either. His ways included the following:
- A woman, who had had an issue of blood for twelve years, was healed when she touched him (Luke 8:45),
- Jesus ‘spat on the ground, made some mud, and applied it to the man’s eyes’ and then told the man to ‘wash in the pool of Siloam’ (John 9:6-7),
- Jesus ‘spit on the man’s eyes and placed his hands on him …’ (Mark 8:24),
- He commanded an invalid man to simply pick up his mat and walk (John 5:8),
- At another time, he touched a man’s ear and healed him (Luke 22:51).
God is not to be locked into a method to operate; God is not in a box.
Yet, God is not a God of surprises.
Read D60 – Jesus did not want to surprise his followers.
D218 - God does not impose on believers to observe the feasts (or other festivals)
Throughout the Book of Acts, we see Paul trying to meet some important Jewish feast dates. In Acts 20:16, he was
‘hastening to be in Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.’
It was significant for him.
In 2 Cor 16:8, it said, ‘I (Paul) will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost.’
Paul was a Hebrew of Hebrews (Phil 3:5-6). He was a real zealot who persecuted the church initially, Hence, we can see his Jewishness in observing the feasts.
But did he enforce it with those he taught?
From the Book of Acts and his writings, it does not seem so. He could have laid it down quite explicitly but he chose not to.
Nonetheless, the Jewish feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles are a good shadow to demonstrate who Jesus is within these feasts.
While there is no mandate to practice them, it serves as a good reminder to Christians about how Jesus fulfilled all these feasts and how he became the perfect Lamb of God to take away our sins.
It might not be as outward demonstration as water baptism but it helps believers on our journey to know God better.