Acts 3:15 “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.”
“He looks as if he’s seen a ghost!” What image comes to mind when you hear that? A face drained of blood, a trembling jaw, pasty skin and thin lips, a look of terror.
Seeing a ghost doesn’t make a person stronger and more confident. The witness is usually reluctant to talk about the experience. Self-doubt attacks in waves: Was it real? Maybe I was hallucinating … It was so dark and eerie.
A Convincing Change
When Jesus showed up after his death, his disciples went through a Did-we-see-a-ghost? phase, complete with terror, disbelief and wild rumors. But it didn’t last long. In 40 days Jesus made enough undeniable appearances to convince each of his disciples—even skeptical Thomas—that he had indeed overthrown death.
As Acts shows, the disciples began acting the opposite of people who think they’ve seen a ghost. Rather, they acted like people who had just witnessed the most astounding event in all history. They couldn’t wait to tell the world about it.
Exuberance, not fear, lit up the disciples’ faces. In the streets of Jerusalem and in the temple, to anyone who would listen, they cried out the news that couldn’t be true, but was. “Jesus is alive! The man who died has come back—he’s the Messiah we’ve been waiting for!”
If you’re ever tempted to doubt Jesus’ resurrection, take a sober look at his changed followers in Acts. Consider Peter, for instance. He had cowered in the shadows at the trial scene, trying to look inconspicuous. Out of fear of arrest, he had even cursed and denied knowing Jesus. Could this be the same man, standing before the most distinguished religious leaders in the land, blasting them as murderers (see Acts 3)? Something ignited Peter that would not easily be snuffed out.
Response to a New Message
When Jesus was on Earth he mostly preached “the kingdom,” sometimes even warning his followers not to mention that he was the Messiah. In Acts, the word is out. Jesus is the theme of every speech, whether delivered in the temple square or in the luxurious setting of a royal palace, to working-class pagans or cultured Greek philosophers. Reports of his resurrection resound throughout Acts.
To those who heard, the message sounded like the first note of music to people born deaf. It was not long before five thousand believed (see Acts 4:4), then a large number of priests (see Acts 6:7) and later, many thousands of Jews (see Acts 21:20). The scanty band of followers Jesus had left behind was soon organizing and electing officers to handle the needs of a growing church.
Acts follows the core of leaders from place to place, as a remarkable drama unfolds. A few men, mostly unlearned, were setting into motion a worldwide outreach that would ultimately reshape civilization. A revolution was underway, but not one with weapons. This one was powered by the work of God in simple men who had seen a miracle. As Peter said, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
The disciples led mass conversions to Christ. What made them such effective spokesmen?