Hello again, fearless readers! I trust we are all beginning to find our footing in this new year of ours, and it seems time to get something shaking on this blog. Starting in the next two weeks you can expect a few posts a week by me on a few different topics:
Monday: General Update or a “fun” series
Wednesday: I’ll post a brief devotional following up on what we discussed in our microchurch, Pancakes and Prayers.
Thursday or Friday: I’ll post a brief bible study connected to our core discipleship group. (We’ll be working through the book of Acts first.)
My goal will be for each of these posts to be accessible, regardless of whether you are part of that group.
Today we will get started on Acts… this will not be an exhaustive study; we will not deal with every verse or even every chapter, but will simply pull out some key themes and I hope some practical takeaways.
In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Three Key Points:
1. The Kingdom of God . . . Whose job is that, again?
In 1:6 the Apostles are asking Jesus if it’s finally time for the Kingdom of God to arrive in its fullness (which coincides with their hopes for the restoration of Israel). Given the fact that Jesus was just resurrected, it’s not a bad question to ask. However, Jesus essentially redirects them to the task at hand (1:7). Since it’s not their job to bring about the Kingdom (“It’s not for you to know the times and periods…”), they’ll just have to trust God to make that happen when the time is right. This is a key point for today, as many followers of Jesus believe it is within our power to bring about the Kingdom, or “build the Kingdom.” Nothing in this exchange would lead us to believe that the Kingdom is in anyway dependent upon our work or our success. Further, it is the belief that we must succeed for the Kingdom that leads to compromise and “the ends justifies the means” thinking. Since it doesn’t depend on us, we can focus on being faithful witnesses and have the peace that comes with knowing our successes and failures will not ultimately make or break God’s Kingdom.
2. Can I get a witness?
Jesus tells the Apostles that they are to be his “witnesses,” and the Greek term Jesus uses is where we get the english term “martyr” from. This is not a coincidence! While Jesus is certainly asking the Apostles to verbally share and recount his ministry, his death, his resurrection and more, he is also asking them to go and live in the world with him as their King. Their witness then is a way life that recognizes the rule of Jesus in its entirety, and also therefore one that rejects the final authority of anyone or anything else. And, as you can imagine, that is a dangerous way to live in our world, and the consequences of that lifestyle resulted in their deaths and the birth of our english word martyr.
3. What’s with the Ascension?
The ascension of Jesus probably holds the title of “The Least Understood Extremely Important Event” in the New Testament. Usually we just treat the ascension as Jesus flying off to heaven because God is not ready for Him to establish the Kingdom. However, the ascension is actually a critical theological event, in which Jesus fulfills his messianic role and takes a seat at “God’s right hand”… which means that Jesus is the King! The resurrection shows God’s vindication of Jesus, but the ascension establishes that Jesus is in fact God’s now and future anointed king who has the power of God behind him. In the ascension Jesus also fulfills the hopes expressed in the Old Testament for God’s chosen king to rule over and restore creation:
The Lord says to my lord,
“Sit at my right hand (i.e.in heaven via the ascension)
until I make your enemies your footstool.”
I saw one like a human being (this is interpreted as Jesus in the ascension)
coming with the clouds of heaven. (note Acts 1:9, “a cloud took him”)
And he came to the Ancient One
and was presented before him.
14 To him was given dominion
and glory and kingship,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not pass away,
and his kingship is one
that shall never be destroyed.