About the Journey 1 - from Kerry

About the Journey - Acts 1:1-12 - from Kerry Flemington

In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit. During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.

Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”

He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”

Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, a distance of half a mile.
Acts 1:1-12

I was tempted, as I typed the above verses, to add in my own response to the disciples’ question, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” After all that had just happened, they were still waiting for Rome to be overthrown.  It leads me to wonder, what happened in those forty days between Christ’s resurrection and his ascension?  I imagine that the conversations Jesus had with his followers during this time were actually all the same conversations he had with them that are recorded in the gospels.  I am guessing that there was a lot of Jesus saying, “Remember when I said this…” or “remember when I told that story? Do you understand now?” And then he would go on to illuminate for them again, what that actually meant in light of his death and his resurrection; in light of the ultimate proof that not only was he who he said he was but that he also fulfilled all those old prophesies/hopes that they had been hanging on to.

And yet, just one last time, they squeak in a doozy of a question, “So now, Jesus, are you finally going to get rid of the Romans?” Jesus, in his tireless patience with them, gives them a gracious answer of “don’t worry about that right now, you’ve got other work to concentrate on.”

We know that, in deed, they did finally drop the question and get on with it.  We have the rest of the New Testament that documents that for us.  The fact that they did gives me hope.  When Jesus died, they were inconsolable.  Their hopes and dreams for redemption, for a purpose filled life, died on the cross with Jesus.  They were devestated and in complete disarray.  But then Jesus rises from the dead.  Not only does he rise, he sticks around for a bit.  Had he ascended right away, I think they would have remained in disarray, unable to move beyond their grief.  And who would blame them?  But God, in his mercy, in his all encompassing desire to be with us, among us, stays on to help them make sense of it all.  He stays on because he knows that’s exactly what they need to make it stick enough so that they will be so firmly grounded in the truth of who he is, that they can face whatever might come their way.

So yes, they ask one last, dumb question.  I’m not sure we’d do any differently.  But this time, when he leaves them for good, they get on with it.  They figure out who will replace Judas, and they go to Jerusalem and wait, just as they were told.  They pray, they gather together, and then day after day, they put one foot in front of the other, relying completely on God to guide their steps, their words, their actions.  They realize their finiteness and surrender completely because they are not only in the hands of the Living God, but that those are the hands of a good God.

They finally understand that God completed what he had always intended to do after the Garden of Eden: reconcile his creation to him, through the ultimate sacrifice of his son.
What changed?  Forty days where once again, God proved to them how much he loved them, proved to them that he was on their side, championing them, prepping them, leading them, guiding them.  He was deeply invested in their character.  Could the Gospel have spread anyway?  Well, God is God after all.  I can’t say it wouldn’t have.  But you and I, every day, ordinary people just like those fickle first followers, are the folks he’s interested in using, shaping, molding.  Not just for his glory, but also for our good.  He is so unlike us; we are interested in the metrics of success and use people and methods to that end.  However, his success IS the people.  His interest IS us.  When we recognize who our maker is and posture ourselves to follow him and worship him, we become the people we were created to be, and that’s when he truly rejoices.  That is both his victory and our victory.  How good a God is he that not only does he bother with us, but we aren’t just a means to an end - we are the end!  All of this was so that could be reconciled to him.  The Biblical narrative is our narrative. That’s how much he loves us.

you can contact Kerry directly at kerry@arnuthill.com

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