Text – Acts 1:4-8:
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; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
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. 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.”
Last Sunday we celebrated or commemorated the resurrection of Jesus. By his escape from the tomb of death, Jesus demonstrated that the hold of sin and death on all of us has been once-for-all broken. A consequence of Jesus’ resurrection is how his disciples, both then and now, ask what is next. “What do we do now?”
This confusion and fear are excellently described in the narrative about Cleopas and his friend who encountered a stranger on their road home to Emmaus on Sunday evening. Recounting the story of Jesus’ death to the stranger, they said, “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” Luke 24:21. A sort of confusion was still expressed as the disciples 40 days after his resurrection – “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6.
The question they asked was a sort of “what’s next” kind of question. As well, it is a question we ask. “What’s next?” It’s clear from Jesus’ answer that he did not intend for his disciples to sit on the couch, and in his answer, Jesus gave them a to-do list of sorts. His three-fold instructions still work today.
- Quit dwelling on what you can’t know. Questions about the end times are a good example of how distracted and irrelevant we can become when we allow worry to govern our thinking. The opposite of dwelling on what we can’t know is acting on what we do know. At the center of this is the resurrection of Jesus. Nothing matters above that.
- Wait for the promise. Another way to say this is “live expectantly.” The promise, in this case, is the coming of the Holy Spirit. Today Jesus might say to us, “wait for my coming,’ Live in a prepared or expectant way.” It’s why we pray with Jesus, “may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth.” It’s why Jesus told parables like that of the Five wise and five foolish bridesmaids. Wait with expectation.
- Be my witnesses. Clearly, Jesus had a plan for the future of his church, and in this plan, his disciples are people who go about doing the work of people who expect a kingdom to come. When we get distracted and overly involved in worldly affairs we are not doing the work of witnesses.
Easter as a formal, calendrical observation is completed for 2021, however, the attentions and intentions of Easter continue in the lives of faithful disciples. Jesus said, “Wait in Jerusalem and live like expectant people.”
O Lord of the Kingdom and the One who broke open the kingdom of death and sin, we praise you and thank you for how you have made us part of your divine plans. We thank you for the work that you did through Christ, and we look forward to the day when your work, expressed in Christ, is complete and we can see the grandeur of your Kingdom. As we wait, we pray that we will, like the disciples, focus our attention and our work on being witnesses of your grace and love. May we not be distracted by this world nor give up hope as we wait. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.