40 Days After Easter
A Post-Easter Message
April 11, 2021
The US Postal Service made a lot of money off the stamps from birthday cards sent to my house on my 40th birthday. For 39 years, I loved opening birthday cards. But this one, not so much. And here’s why: the extra volume of cards in my 5x5 metal box on August 26, 2014 let me know this was a particular birthday my friends, family and church members would not easily let me forget.
The first one I opened was handwritten and came from parents. It read: “Dear Son, you are not 40 on this day. You are 39.95 plus shipping and handling.”
The next one I opened originated from my next-door neighbor. It said: “Happy 40th Derrick. It’s the year that your body gives your brain a list of things it’s not going to do anymore.”
But the worst, by far, came from one of my college roommates who now happens to be a Medical Doctor: “Derrick, happy birthday old man. Don’t forget to schedule your first colonoscopy.” With friends like these, who needs enemies?
40 in the Bible
The number 40 plays an integral role in moving the story of the Bible along. So important is this number to the unfolding of the Word of God that it becomes the time framework of 146 different narrative scenes in the Bible. Most of which are not positive.
God sent a flood lasting 40 days and 40 nights. Moses fled to Midian for 40 years after murdering an Egyptian. A Philistine giant taunted the people of God for 40 straight days. Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights as Satan as whispered in his ear on each and every single one of those days.
I want to speak to you today on an issue I’m willing to bet you’ve never even thought about. That issue is this: 40-day time frame between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. Here’s why: we often assume, wrongly, that Jesus ascended to heaven right after the resurrection. He didn’t. That means what happened for 40 days after Easter was just as important is what happened on Easter. Today, we’ll find out why. Let’s turn to Acts 1:1-3 and read together:
1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.
In the Bible, 40 Is:
(1) A Universal Problem for People
The Number 40:
(1) 146 times in the Bible;
(2) Denoting: Testing and Judgment
(3) And Also: A Generation
The First Use of 40: Judgment of Humanity (Gen 7:17, 21)
17For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth…21 Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind.
The First Use of 40 Within the Context of the People of God: Judgment and Wilderness Wandering (Num 14:32-34)
32But as for you, your bodies will fall in this wilderness. 33 Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the wilderness. 34 For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.’
Humanity and the People of God failed their tests. So God appointed prophets to speak to them. Priests to represent them before God. And Kings to lead them. Maybe they will pass the 40 test?
(2) A Universal Problem for Prophets.
The Greatest Prophet in the Old Testament: Moses
(1) Lived 120 years;
(3) Life divided into 3 forty year periods: 40 years in the Egyptian Palace; 40 years in Midian after killing an Egyptian; 40 years leading Israel out of Egypt.
The Greatest Prophet Had A Unique 40 Day Experience (Ex 34:27-28):
27 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.
But the Greatest Prophet’s Punishment for Disobedience Foreshadowed Israel’s Problem (Num 20:12)
But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”
The greatest Old Testament prophet, Moses, ultimately failed the 40 test. So Israel had to turn to one of the greatest priests. He would pass the test, right?
(3) A Universal Problem for Priests
Aaron, The First High Priest of Israel (Ex 28:1) -
“Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests."
Aaron’s Unique Calling –
(1) Brother of Moses;
(2) A Levite;
(5) Go Between
Aaron’s 40 Day Failure (Ex 32:1)
When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”
Aaron, the first High Priest of Israel, failed the 40 test. So Israel had to turn to their kings for hope. Would their first monarchs pass the test?
(4) A Universal Problem for Kings
Israel Was Only a Monarchy for a Period of 122 Years (1 Sam 13:1; 2 Sam 5:4; 1 Kgs 11:42) –
(1) Only Three Kings: Saul, David, and Solomon;
(2) All reigned for a period of 40 years (Saul = 42);
(3) 1 Sam 13:1 -Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty- two years;
(4) 2 Sam 5:4 - David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years.;
(5) 1Kgs 11:42 - Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel forty years.
First 20 in All Three : Yertle the Turtle, King of Pond:
(1) Saul – 1st King; Unified Israel; Repelled their Neighbors;
(2) David – Expanded Israel; Moved Capital to Jerusalem: City of David;
(3) Solomon – Builder and Writer and Philosopher and Trade Genius (Queen of Sheba)
Last 20 In All Three: Yertle the Turtle, King of the Mud:
(1) Saul – Samuel removed his anointing; pursues David; goes crazy;
(2) David – had Uriah the Hittite killed because he wanted Bathesheba for himself; Nathan – “the sword will never depart from your household;
(3) Solomon – Didn’t follow his own advice; began to play the harlot with concubines from other nations; “vanity of vanities.”
The Kings of Israel failed the 40 test. Would any man on come worthy of passing the tests the prophets, priests and kings couldn’t.
(5) One Particular Solution: Jesus
Wilderness Test Passed (Matthew 4:11)
Man shall not live by bread alone, but every word from the mouth of God…the devil left him and angels came and attended him.
Resurrection Test Passed (Acts 1:3)
3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.
No matter how many times Jesus was tried, tempted, and tested he emerged victorious. That’s why he remained 40 days. By implication, no matter how many times we are tried, tempted, and tested, we will emerge victorious. Not because of our effort. But because he lives. And that’s something we can experience that the people of the flood, the children of Israel, Moses, Aaron, Saul, David, and Solomon never got the chance to experience.