Acts 1:6-11 tells of the risen Jesus’ ascension to heaven. It is an incredible passage! Imagine being there on the Mount of Olives, seeing the Lord lifted up and disappearing into the cloud, all the while, His words ringing in your ears: “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.”
And then as the disciples stand there, dumbfounded at what they were seeing, suddenly two men in white robes appeared and asked them, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward 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.”
Pretty stirring stuff!
Yet the passage begins with the disciples asking Jesus, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” After everything they had seen and heard, it seems the disciples still did not get it! They were still trapped in their cultural understanding of who God was, and the salvation He offered to them.
Thank God they were faithful to Jesus’ command to return to Jerusalem and wait for the promised baptism with the Holy Spirit. Without Pentecost the Way of Jesus would have been nothing more than a Jewish sect.
How are we trapped in our cultural understandings of God? It was a question I asked myself regularly when we served overseas. And now that I am back in post-Christian New Zealand, an increasingly multi-cultural, pluralistic nation grappling with our bicultural roots, I find that this question is as relevant here as it was overseas. Acts and many of the New Testament writings ask this same question, as the Way of Jesus spread north, south, east and west from Jerusalem.
May we not be those who ask Jesus if now is the time He will restore our kingdoms to us. Instead, may we be those who are Jesus’ witnesses to the kingdom of Heaven. As we look toward Pentecost on 4 June, my prayer is that each of you will seek a fresh filling and empowering of the Spirit of God. Could I ask you to pray the same prayer for those we have sent to Asia, as they seek to share the Good News in a different culture and tongue to their own.
Tranzsend Team Leader