E100: 070 | One by One

Dawn Ascension
"In today’s reading, in Acts chapter 1 verses 1 to 11 we learn that after the resurrection, Jesus gave his followers many proofs that he was alive. Jesus’ teaching continued to focus on the Kingdom of God. His followers would be able to continue the ministry and teaching of Jesus after they had received the Holy Spirit and his power. Jesus gave his followers a blueprint for ministry. They were to minister where they were, to their nearby neighbours, and to the entire world. After saying these things Jesus ascended into heaven." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Acts 1:1-11 | (ESV)

After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

... So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
Once again I find it helpful to rewind my knowledge of the Bible, back to where these disciples were when they asked the question. Once you know what happens it is hard to 'unknow' it, but I find the exercise useful in understanding the Word better.

As Jews they had grown up with the scripture (only that part we would call the Old Testament). They had heard much about a coming Messiah. They learned that the Messiah would be a king like King David had been. This Messiah would retake the throne of Israel and defeat their political enemies, reestablishing the Kingdom of Israel in their world forever.

Remember, Jesus started his public teaching proclaiming "The kingdom of God is near. Turn away from your sins and believe the good news!" He also described the Kingdom with many parables. Before Jesus was killed and just after he had predicted his death he had said to some of these same disciples "Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power." Before Jesus is killed we see the disciples have come to the belief that Jesus was the Messiah and even that he is the Son of God. However they still did not understand that the restoration of Israel as a ruling Kingdom was not the immediate plan.

They were devastated when Jesus was killed. They lost a close friend and their leader. The Messiah was dead. Their dream of a restored political kingdom was over!

But then he comes out of the tomb. He comes back to life and they see him face to face. Their hope is renewed in a restoration of the Kingdom. Jesus has come back to inaugurate the new kingdom. The time has come. Jerusalem will be free from Roman domination!

So here we are, the disciples are enjoying a meal with Jesus again. Since his resurrection he has spoken to them about the Kingdom of God on quite a few occasions. Now he is telling them "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about". He tells them that the Holy Spirit is coming. So the disciples are probably thinking, OK, fantastic, this must be the moment when he will establish the Kingdom. Finally!

All along they had assumed that they would be key players in establishing the kingdom hear on earth in their lifetime and they needed to know how and when Jesus was going to do it. So they ask "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?". Well let's just say they did not get the answer they were expecting.

As we see in this question the disciples continued to be focused on the earthly political Kingdom of Israel. The Kingdom of God right here, right now. Restoration! Freedom from domination! Their view continued to be narrow and limited.

The Kingdom building Jesus was talking about throughout his earthly ministry was a whole lot more.

Philip Yancey points out that none of them were prepared for his response. Yancey goes on to write about the response.
"He seems to brush the question aside, deflecting attention away from Israel toward neighboring countries, all the way to the ends of the earth. He mentions the Holy Spirit again, and then, to everyone's utter amazement, his body lifts off the ground, suspends there for a moment, then disappears into a cloud. And they never see him again."
They are blown away.

As I read about Jesus and what he said and did on this earth I am blown away. In many ways it is not what I would expect, even with a 'religious' background. Many times it is the exact opposite of what I am naturally thinking. Just like the disciples I want the big program now, the take over the world approach today. Let's organize. Let's plan.

Big impact here and now!

The kingdom building Jesus is talking about a whole lot more. It is one heart at a time, one person at a time, one day, one month, one year, one decade, one century at a time. He is building a Kingdom for eternity, one by one.

I am working through the E100 Bible Reading Challenge again. You can learn more about my journey and read the other posts completed so far at this link. I encourage you to stop back soon to read another passage.

Please share your own thoughts on this passage in the comment section below or on the Facebook page.

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