After the death of Christ, the disciples were well-nigh overcome by discouragement. Crushed by despondency, grief, and despair their Master had been rejected, condemned, and crucified. The priests and rulers had declared scornfully,
“He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He be the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.” Matthew 27:42.
The sun of the disciples’ hope had set, and night settled down upon their hearts. Often they repeated the words,
“We trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel.” Luke 24:21.
Lonely and sick at heart, they remembered His words,
“If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” Luke 23:31.
Jesus had several times attempted to open the future to His disciples, but they had not cared to think about what He said.
Because of this, His death had come to them as a surprise; and afterwards, as they reviewed the past and saw the result of their unbelief, they were filled with sorrow.
When Christ was crucified, they did not believe that He would rise. He had stated plainly that He was to rise on the third day, but they were perplexed to know what He meant. This lack of comprehension left them at the time of His death in utter hopelessness.
They were bitterly disappointed. Their faith did not penetrate beyond the shadow that Satan had cast athwart their horizon. All seemed vague and mysterious to them. If they had believed the Saviour’s words, how much sorrow they might have been spared!
Crushed By Despondency, Grief And Despair
Crushed by despondency, grief, and despair, the disciples met together in the upper chamber, and closed and fastened the doors, fearing that the fate of their beloved Teacher might be theirs. It was here that the Saviour, after His resurrection, appeared to them.
For forty days Christ remained on the earth, preparing the disciples for the work before them and explaining that which heretofore they had been unable to comprehend.
He spoke of the prophecies concerning His advent, His rejection by the Jews, and His death, showing that every specification of these prophecies had been fulfilled. He told them that they were to regard this fulfillment of prophecy as an assurance of the power that would attend them in their future labors.
“Then opened He their understanding,”
“that they might understand the Scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
And He added,
“Ye are witnesses of these things.” Luke 24:45, Luke 24:46, Luke 24:47, Luke 24:48.
During these days that Christ spent with His disciples, they gained a new experience. As they heard their beloved Master explaining the Scriptures in the light of all that had happened, their faith in Him was fully established. They reached the place where they could say,
“I know whom I have believed.” 2nd Timothy 1:12.
They began to realize the nature and extent of their work, to see that they were to proclaim to the world the truths entrusted to them.
The events of Christ’s life, His death and resurrection, the prophecies pointing to these events, the mysteries of the plan of salvation, the power of Jesus for the remission of sins—to all these things they had been witnesses, and they were to make them known to the world.
They were to proclaim the gospel of peace and salvation through repentance and the power of the Saviour.
Before ascending to heaven, Christ gave His disciples their commission. He told them that they were to be the executors of the will in which He bequeathed to the world the treasures of eternal life. You have been witnesses of My life of sacrifice on behalf of the world, He said to them.
You have seen My labors for Israel. And although My people would not come to Me that they might have life, although priests and rulers have done unto Me as they listed. However, they have rejected Me, they shall have still another opportunity of accepting the Son of God. You have seen that all who come to Me confessing their sins, I freely receive.
Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out. To you, My disciples, I commit this message of mercy. It is to be given to both Jews and Gentiles—to Israel, first, and then to all nations, tongues, and peoples. All who believe are to be gathered into one church.
The gospel commission is the great missionary charter of Christ’s kingdom. The disciples were to work earnestly for souls, giving to all the invitation of mercy. They were not to wait for the people to come to them; they were to go to the people with their message.
The disciples were to carry their work forward in Christ’s name. Their every word and act was to fasten attention on His name, as possessing that vital power by which sinners may be saved.
Their faith was to center in Him who is the source of mercy and power. In His name they were to present their petitions to the Father, and they would receive an answer.
They were to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Christ’s name was to be their watchword, their badge of distinction, their bond of union, the authority for their course of action, and the source of their success. Nothing was to be recognized in His kingdom that did not bear His name and superscription.
When Christ said to the disciples, Go forth in My name to gather into the church all who believe, He plainly set before them the necessity of maintaining simplicity. The less ostentation and show, the greater would be their influence for good.
The disciples were to speak with the same simplicity with which Christ had spoken. They were to impress upon their hearers the lessons He had taught them. Christ did not tell His disciples that their work would be easy. He showed them the vast confederacy of evil arrayed against them.
They would have to fight “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12.
But they would not be left to fight alone. He assured them that He would be with them; and that if they would go forth in faith, they should move under the shield of Omnipotence.
He bade them be brave and strong; for One mightier than angels would be in their ranks—the General of the armies of heaven. He made full provision for the prosecution of their work and took upon Himself the responsibility of its success.
So long as they obeyed His word, and worked in connection with Him, they could not fail. Go to all nations, He bade them.
Go to the farthest part of the habitable globe and be assured that My presence will be with you even there. Labor in faith and confidence; for the time will never come when I will forsake you.
I will be with you always, helping you to perform your duty, guiding, comforting, sanctifying, sustaining you, giving you success in speaking words that shall draw the attention of others to heaven.