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.”
Occasionally there are people who have a great and a lasting impact on human history – people like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. However, the one man who stands heads and shoulders above the rest is Jesus Christ. HG Wells who wrote The Time Machine and War of the Worlds once said: I am an historian. I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.
The impact of the three short years of Jesus’ public life didn’t cease when he was crucified. In fact the reverse has occurred, the ripples expanding with the passing of the years.
The closing chapters of Luke’s gospel speak of Jesus’ death, his victorious resurrection and his glorious return to heaven. But, just when we think we have come to the end of the story, we realize it is just the beginning. In his second volume, The Acts of the Apostles, Luke tells us that the story of Jesus didn’t end with his physical departure. He continued to have an impact on countless lives, not through the force of arms, but through the proclamation of his Word. He was Abraham’s and David’s successor, through whom the world would be blessed.
How did this happen? In Acts 1 we read that Jesus’ first followers thought the time had come when he would be enthroned as Israel’s king, David’s successor. They interpreted his teaching about God’s kingdom or rule in political categories. They also applied his teaching about his being God’s king in nationalistic terms – Israel as a nation. They also thought that all this would happen very soon: “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”
We need to remember the comments of the disciples and Jesus’ response to them, when people today make predictions about the end time. ‘That is not your concern,’ Jesus said to the disciples. ‘I have something much more important for you to do with your time and energy.’
The agenda he set them then, and still applies to us now, is found in Acts 1:8, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. ‘Your vision is short-sighted and parochial, limited to the nation of Israel,’ he was telling them. ‘Let me give you the big picture: the waves that my life, death and resurrection have set in motion must expand, first here in Jerusalem, then in Judea and Samaria, and finally to the ends of the earth.’
Witnesses here is significant. The word signifies that he was commissioning those who had been with him during his years of public ministry to tell the world what they had seen and heard. He wanted the world to know that what his followers went on to announce about him is the truth. This is vital. The Bible makes it plain that Christianity is not a religion involving rules, ritual and regulations. Christianity involves a relationship – a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. That’s why it’s so important that we know the truth about him, because meaningful and lasting relationships can only be built on truth. Relationships within families are only meaningful where there is truth and honesty. Without truth there can be no trust.
Now it’s important for us to make a distinction here. Jesus is not expecting that all his followers down through the ages will be witnesses in the way those original disciples were. We can’t be. We weren’t there. But we are called upon to testify to what we believe about Jesus. In 1 Peter 3:15 we read, always be prepared to give an answer for the hope (or the faith) that you have in Jesus Christ. In Colossians 4:6 we read, let your speech be gracious, seasoned with salt… As we will explore another day, all of us have a part to play, looking for opportunities and asking questions, stirring others to think seriously about what the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is saying.
Most of us shrivel up with fear at the thought of talking with others about matters of faith. Or we are simply silence by a world of political correctness. Jesus understood how we feel. He encouraged his first disciples by assuring them that they would not be doing this alone, in their own strength. He would send his Spirit to enable and equip them for the task. His promise still applies today – as we will see.
You may want to consider:
- the significance of Jesus’ commission to the apostles – they were sent out as witnesses;
- the importance of the coming of the Holy Spirit – there was to be divine empowering;
- the meaning of the message – it was to touch and transform lives from the inside out.
Let me encourage you to pray:
© John G. Mason, Reason for Hope – 40 Days of Bible Readings and Reflections – 2016. All Rights Reserved.