The Promise of the Holy Spirit
1In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over the course of forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4While 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; 5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’
The Ascension of Jesus
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ 7He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8But 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.’ 9When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’
We recently studied the Book of Acts, so it is not my intention to continue again through the entire book, but to talk a bit about the things leading up to Pentecost as we move through this week, before Pentecost Sunday.
Luke is continuing his writing to Theophilus, his friend, or perhaps a sponsor. In his first book he had written about Jesus and all he had done, now he continues with the things that happened after Jesus had ascended into heaven. But he begins by re-telling the story of the ascension, tying the two books together.
After his suffering, Jesus had been resurrected, and had presented himself alive to the apostles over a period of 40 days. Before leaving them he ordered them to wait in Jerusalem, for John had baptized with water but they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. And they came together that last time – on the Mount of Olives, according to Luke. (Matthew says this happened in Galilee.) And the disciples, ever earthly-minded it seems, asked if now he was going to restore the kingdom of Israel. But Jesus has in mind a broader vision – he says just wait for the Spirit. The Spirit will give you power to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the whole world. This is a world vision, a vision that extends far beyond the kingdom of Israel, and long after the Roman Empire itself would have vanished. Jesus invited those original apostles and followers to be a part of this wider vision! He invites us as well to be a part of a world-wide vision for his kingdom!
When Jesus had said these things, he was lifted up out of their sight into the clouds. And they stood there, mouths open, staring at an empty sky. And then two men in white robes stood there (angels) saying what are you staring at? Jesus has been taken up into heaven but he will return. Jesus will return, but in the meanwhile, the Spirit will empower them, to do his work. The Spirit will empower us as well, to do the work of the Kingdom, until he returns.
photo is Jerusalem as seen from the Mount of Olives.