This is your last chance…
Being mortal humans – while part of the eternal Redeemed – carries with it some tendencies that are important to recognize and segregate. Some of them are positive, and warrant protection and preservation. There are also aspects of our human experience that deserve to be confronted and challenged. An example: though we have direct access to God, we’re prone to come to Him with our suggestions rather than to come in search of His directions.
We’ve spent these weeks – post-Easter – zeroing-in on the key encounters that Jesus had with His key leaders before He wrapped-up His mission on Earth to return to His throne in Heaven. Today is the last of these conversations; it will end with His Ascension, back to the dwelling place of God.
Eleven of the original Twelve – with Judas gone, there’s an empty chair that’s filled later – are present for the final huddle. This is their last chance to talk – directly – with the Son, while He was within their visible circle. One question would be allowed; what’ll it be?
“Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).
Some background is in order. Since the earliest days of Jesus’ public ministry, He had been focused on a particular message: “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people” (Matthew 4:23). Matthew breaks to cover in depth the Sermon on the Mount, and then picks up where he left off: “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 9:36). The crowds were coming to get what they were after – to receive, or to observe, miracles – but Jesus’ message was the principle distinctive of His earthly ministry: He was “proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom.”
How would Jesus respond to their inquiry? “He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 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’” (Acts 1:7-8).
For three years, Jesus had been inspiring God’s Chosen People – Israel, the people of the Covenant first extended to Abraham – by reiterating the promise of the restoration of the earthly Kingdom over which the heir to David’s throne would one day reign. God’s Messiah would fulfill the prophesies given over centuries to the people who lived in faith that God’s promises were solid: “…they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:16).
The Eleven had an understandable question: “God, what’s next? Are you going to do what only You can do – right now – to bring the end to this era and unveil the next? Is this the time that you’re going do to your part, and establish Your eternal Kingdom?”
Jesus’ answer took them by surprise: “The next move isn’t mine; it’s yours. If you want to see my Kingdom come… here’s what you need to do: start here – in Jerusalem – and become global. As I told you a few days ago, in Galilee: make disciples from every nation. Go in the Spirit’s power; go with your own stories (‘be my witnesses’), and leave the timing to my Father. Now… get going!”
Then, as now, we’re tempted to use our access to God to challenge Him about our agenda; we’re anxious to see Him keep His promises, which will ultimately benefit us.
He’s still responding in the same way: according to Jesus, the next move is ours, not His.
Get moving… and don’t expect His Kingdom to come until we’re finished going, to the ends of the earth.