Witnesses, Not Stargazers
Loving Lord, I praise You for the joy that comes because You are for me, with me, and within me each day.
Read Acts 1:1–11
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. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Every great challenge God gives us is always matched by an equally great enabling gift” (Alister McGrath). In this case, it was the enabling power of the promised Holy Spirit (8).
The momentous events of the crucifixion and resurrection were followed by forty days in which Jesus appeared to his disciples, teaching them further about God’s kingdom. For Galileans, the nation of Israel was as large as their earthly perspective allowed. Was God’s kingdom going to be the kingdom of Israel? Jesus’ perspective encompassed the whole world and they needed to grasp that.
Then Jesus ascended to heaven. A famous painting by Salvador Dali depicts the bottom of his feet as he ascends. Such preoccupation with the physics of Jesus’ ascension has been described as “grotesque and ridiculous” (William Barclay), but seeing Jesus ascend gave closure to his earthly presence and enabled the disciples to accept the convincing proof that he was still very much alive and powerful, albeit now in a different realm. Their task was to be his witnesses until he returned. They would not be alone. They were to wait for his Holy Spirit to immerse them in God’s power before this ministry to the world was launched—and then they would witness wherever they went, even to the “ends of the earth” (8)!
The triune God was giving them the privilege of being witnesses to the Son and his work of salvation for humanity. The work and mission were his. He set the agenda. He would supply the power. He was building his kingdom, and it was not limited by the inadequacy of their understanding. They were to be active in his kingdom. This was no armchair faith. They were to witness about their own firsthand experience of the risen Christ. This too is our mission to the whole world. In God’s power we go to the earth’s limits, showing and telling what Jesus has done for us individually and for all humanity.
Consider where “the ends of the earth” may be for you to bring witness. How will you be one of Jesus’ witnesses to others?
Sovereign Lord, make clear to me Your agenda for my world. I want to cooperate with You on Your plan, not waste efforts on my plan.