After Jesus’ resurrection from the dead he spent forty days with the apostles “and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3 NET). We are not given the details of how many times he was with the apostles during this period or what they talked about. The only details we have are of the last time he spoke with them.
“So when they had gathered together, they began to ask him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’” (Acts 1:6)
I often wonder if Jesus was disappointed with this question. He had taught the disciples for several years. He had spent time during the forty days after his resurrection telling them about God’s kingdom. Yet they still had in their minds a physical restoration of a physical kingdom with a physical king. They still did not understand.
“He told them, ‘You are not permitted to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.’” (Acts 1:7-8)
Rather than correcting their misperceptions he simply reminded them what he had said earlier: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait there for what my Father promised, which you heard about from me. For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4-5). When they received the Holy Spirit they would be able to understand – recall that he had told them that the Spirit would “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).
“After he had said this, while they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud hid him from their sight. As they were still staring into the sky while he was going, suddenly two men in white clothing stood near them and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven.’” (Acts 1:9-11)
What would it have been like to have been listening to Jesus and suddenly to see him float away? No wonder they stared up into the sky after he was out of their sight! People disappearing into the sky just didn’t happen.
Why did Jesus disappear in this way? As he had been showing up periodically over the previous forty days there needed to be a way for the apostles to know that he wouldn’t be showing up again. What better way than the dramatic scene that Luke described!
The apostles returned to Jerusalem to await the coming of the Holy Spirit. The remainder of the book of Acts details what they did in proclaiming Jesus, beginning in Jerusalem (Acts 2-7), then into Judea and Samaria (Acts 8-12) and finally into the the farthest parts of the world (Acts 13-28).
As we look at our own outreach, the pattern we find that Jesus gave the apostles works. Start with where you are, in your own town. After that spread into the area around your town – your county or district. Then continue spreading into the surrounding areas. As you continue to reach more people, more will become Christians and the word will continue to spread.
If we want to reach the world with the good new of Jesus we need to start where we are. Find those we can teach and they will lead us to others we can teach. In this way we can reach the world.
Readings for next week:
6 May – John 21
7 May – Acts 1
8 May – Acts 2
9 May – Acts 3
10 May – Acts 4