The Forgotten Days of Jesus
The last verse of the last gospel's last book (John 21:25) tells us, "Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written."
Even more under-reported is what Jesus did during the 40 days between His resurrection and His ascension to Heaven. I have thought, and shared thoughts, about this period before, and its appeal does not let me go.
Let's visit the topic again... and imagine Palestine in those days, mysterious because we have been told so little.
Jesus walked and talked in places where His ministry had been; He was seen in His restored body by thousands; He healed many; He continued to preach, He continued to love. And then He ascended to Heaven, taken up in the sky, which also was witnessed by others.
For 40 days Jesus showed the world that He lived again. The Sanhedrin had called Jesus a blasphemer, and others claimed His miracles were of the devil -- but His 40 days in Jerusalem and surrounding areas, being seen by multitudes, was scarcely disputed. We shared, in the recent Easter message, how the contemporary Jewish historian Josephus referred to it, as did other writers, matter-of-factly. A few generations later, the writer Eusebius interviewed many people who had known people who saw Jesus during these days, told of miracles, even cited sermons and letters of the risen Jesus.
In other words, some people might not have joined the Christ-followers -- although believers multiplied rapidly, even in the face of persecution soon thereafter -- but very few people disputed that He rose from the dead.
The number 40 appears 146 times in the Bible, a number of God's significance. We think of Noah; of the years in the wilderness; of the days Moses was on the Mount; of Jonah and Nineveh; and, in Jesus' case, the number of days He was tempted of the devil... and the number of days between the Resurrection and the Ascension. Usually this number signifies testing, trials, probation, or a provision of prosperity. We must believe the last comes closest to the risen Lord's season before He ascended. They certainly were active days.
Yet as busy as He must have been, I have a picture in my mind of Jesus alone, also, maybe when darkness fell, down lonely paths, maybe through storms and cold silences, walking the dark hills, not responding to the curious crowds, but seeking out the troubled and the hurting individuals.
This is a plausible picture, because Jesus still does this today.
It was in His nature: Remember the "ninety and nine," and the one lost sheep the shepherd sought; remember Christ's words, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock"; remember His story of the father rejoicing over the prodigal son who repents and returns and is restored; remember His admonition to be "fishers of men"; remember Him weeping over Jerusalem; remember the promise that "Whosoever" believes should not perish but have eternal life.
He walks the dark hills, looking for us -- piercing the gloom with a joyful hope that may be ours.
And, continuing to reconstruct an image of what Jerusalem and surrounding areas must have been like those 40 days, abuzz with talk of the Miracle Man, let us also remember that we don't have to respond to a knock on the door -- "Come! They say that Jesus is down by the river! Let's see Him!" No... He will come to us.
And it is especially the case, I believe, if you are one of those people who is skeptical, or has "heard enough," or cannot crack the shell of hurt or pain or resentment or rebellion or fear, or all the other hindrances that prevent us from experiencing the love of Christ. He is closer than a shadow, no matter what you think, or what you might prefer to believe.
"God walks the dark hills, To guide our footsteps. He walks everywhere, By night and by day. He walks in the silence, On down the highway; God walks the dark hills, To show us the way."
The risen Savior, Lord of Creation, walks the dark hills, seeking out... me? and you? where we are? in our hurts, in our messes? That's the real miracle of the Miracle Man, to me, still - that He loves you and me. Looking for us; finding us; hugging us; loving us; healing us; teaching us; saving us. Those 40 days were a practice run for eternity -- His and ours.
A favorite of gospel music is the haunting God Walks the Dark Hills, embodying mystery in its origin. It was written by a lady named Audra Czarikow, who lived in Liberty, Oklahoma. Little is known about her; she apparently wrote no other hymns or songs. Small groups sang her song, and others recorded it; eventually it became a signature song of the Goodmans; here it is sung by the appropriately haunting voice of Iris DeMent.