“Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment ‘as to the Lord.’ It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.” —C.S. Lewis, from The Weight of Glory
PRAYER: (from the Lectionary)
“O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before, AMEN.”
SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)
“Men of Galilee—why do you stand here looking into the sky?” Acts 1:11 NIV
PRAYER FOCUS: Call of Duty.
At different times in our lives we will have different calls of duty. In school we have a sense of duty to our studies. In marriage we have a sense of duty for our family. In our work we have a certain sense of duty to our employer. And as followers of Jesus Christ we have a duty to share God’s gospel with the world. Sometimes we forget the urgency for this calling.
The author of Acts, presumed to be Luke, is a master storyteller. He uses a broad vocabulary to record what happened. He captures the drama and the sweep of events. For example, he narrates the Ascension without stopping to make theological points. Luke is also a top-notch historian, citing vivid details that have permitted subsequent verification by modern archaeologists.
In the Lectionary passage from Acts, the Ascension of Jesus, Luke makes three claims that demand our attention.
The first is that the Ascension confirms beyond any doubt, beyond any other possibility, that Jesus is the Risen, Resurrected Son of Almighty God. In Luke 24:47 Jesus told his disciples that “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in my name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Then in Acts 1:8, just before He ascends, our Lord reminds them, “You are witnesses of these things…”
The second point is that the stage is now set for the giving of the Spirit. Previously, Jesus had told them that they would be witnesses, but that they must wait to be clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:47). Now, in Acts 1:8, he confirms that they shall receive power from the Holy Spirit and shall be His witnesses to Jerusalem, and to the ends of the earth. The order of precedence is intentional—receiving power precedes, and leads to, being effective witnesses.
The third point is about the absence of Jesus. How will they all live without his visible, physical presence? The Disciples are called once again to believe in something that was promised. They are called to see with their hearts a Lord they can no longer behold with their eyes. Clearly He had risen in victory. The question was, would they? Could they?
Two angels bring them back to their senses. Excuse me, gentlemen of Galilee…don’t you have something to do….?
Note that the angels speak gently to the Disciples. They address them, not by their names, but by their region (Men of Galilee). They express knowledge of who they were and where they were from, not in order to remind them of their lowly, common point of origin, but acknowledge the lofty, exalted, world-changing calling now on their lives.
This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.
As the Disciples take their first steps in obedience to their Master, as they set out to do what He has told them, something very important happens. Their faith begins to take form. Faith is born in obedience. Very soon that faith will take flight…
They returned to Jerusalem (v 12). They gathered together with the others, including the women, and ministered to each other (v 13). They prayed constantly (v 14). They did what they had been taught to do. And while they waited, obediently, their faith grew. As their convictions solidified they gained a courage, a boldness, they’d never had before. The Disciples would emerge from their time of waiting as changed men, a force to be reckoned with.
They would wait, as Christ had directed, until they received power from the Holy Spirit. Then they were to give witness to a crucified Christ, who had risen from the dead, and had gone up to heaven, and who would return in glory to judge the living and the dead.
At that time, the number of Believers was about 120 (v 15). On the day of Pentecost, three thousand would come to saving faith (v 41). The Disciples’ faith, so carefully nurtured in adversity, and born in obedience, was going viral. It would spread like wildfire.
Sometimes the Church needs a jolt just like this. Indeed, why are so many of us standing around looking up at the sky? Yes, sharing the Gospel is hard work. Ministry is messy. And it is also unrestrained, incomparable joy that the Church seems to have forgotten.
Billions still live in darkness, Christian. How many will die there, without the light of truth that now flickers in your heart? We have to get the word out. And our time is short. Like C.S. Lewis said, “The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.”
It’s Monday Morning. After witnessing the Ascension of Jesus the Victorious Christ, God’s angels asked the Disciples why they were still standing around when they had been given instructions. How long do you intend to stand there?
“But if I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9)