We terribly underestimate the importance of the primary job of the twelve apostles.
In fact, most of us don’t even know what it was.
It is written in the book of the Psalms, “… Let another take position.” Therefore, from among the men who have accompanied us … one must be appointed to be a witness with us of his resurrection. (Acts 1:20-22)
This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. (Acts 2:32)
The God of our father raised up Jesus … and we are his witnesses of these things. (Acts 5:31-32)
God raised him up the third day and displayed him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen in advance by God, that is, us. (Acts 10:40-41)
God raised him from the dead, and he was seen for many day by those who came with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses to the people. (Acts 14:30-31)
This last quote is from Paul, who did not include himself among those called as witnesses of the resurrection. That was the job of the twelve, those who had been with him from the beginning. (So, if you are among those who have wondered whether Paul was God’s choice for the twelfth apostle, rather than Matthias who was chosen by lot, you are wrong … like I was.)
Why does this matter? Why is this important?
The apostles were witnesses of the resurrection. Think about it. They were witnesses of the resurrection.
Is that what we think about them? Or do we think that they are explainers of the Jesus’ death?
I know the first time that I went through the book of Acts to compare the Gospel of the apostles to the Gospel of the 20th century church, I was stunned. Where were the explanations that heaven is a free gift? That we are sinners? That we cannot save ourselves? That God wants to forgive us but his justice requires him to punish sin? Where are the explanations that Jesus paid the price for our sins?
They’re not there.
Because the apostles were witnesses of the resurrection.
They were more than that … to the church. To the church they were shepherds, prophets, and stewards of the mysteries of God. To the lost, however, they were one thing: witnesses of the resurrection.
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this same Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:36)
How should the house of Israel know assuredly that Jesus is both Lord and the promised King?
By his resurrection (vv. 32-35).
The God of our father raised up Jesus … God has exalted him as a Prince and Savior. (Acts 5:30-31)
God raised him up the third day … it is he who was ordained by God to judge the living and the dead. (Acts 10:40,42)
King Jesus our Lord … declared to be the Son of God with power … by the resurrection of the dead. (Rom 1:3-4)
[God] has appointed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom he has determined, and he has shown this to everyone by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:31)
The resurrection is the proof that Jesus is God’s chosen king, appointed by him to judge the living and the dead.
The death of Jesus was our purchase price. For Christians, it is the center of our motivation (e.g., 1 Pet 1:18-19). We belong to him. His death also transformed the universe.
But the Good News that the apostles proclaimed to the world was not the mechanism, the death of Jesus. They reported the proof that he was God’s chosen King, his resurrection.
What if we, too, limited our discussion of kind graciousness of our God to those who believed that he is the resurrected King, righful Ruler and Judge of the living and the dead? What if we were to do what the apostles did and proclaim his resurrection, the proof of the that he is King and therefore foundation of the Gospel of the Kingdom?