Time has the most beautiful way of sieving out the fluff from the important things. That is why, even if a ten-year-old knows how to drive, they have to wait until they’re at least 16 to get a driving license. Because driving is more than getting behind the wheel and making that car move. It involves a lot more that can be learned between the time one gets the car moving successfully and the time one can be declared safe to drive, both for themselves and other road users.
Waiting is one of the most difficult aspects of our lives in general and not just the Christian life. Although, of course, people don’t like to wait. But we do, nevertheless, because it’s part of the process of getting what and where we want.
The Risen Christ
The book of Acts is a continuation by Luke from where he left in the book of Luke. He begins by addressing Theophilus, a Roman official whom he held in high regard. Next, Luke introduces the risen Christ to Theophilus and the promises that Jesus had made to his disciples. Finally, he presents a continuation of Christ’s works after his resurrection.
In Acts 1:1-11, Luke says to Theophilus; In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 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. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command:
“Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Then they gathered around him and 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 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. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? 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.”
In verses 2 and 3, Luke reminds Theophilus of the last works of Jesus before his ascension. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, gave his disciples commandments and infallible proof of life. He taught them things about the kingdom of God during the 40 days that he was with them after his resurrection. It is important to note at this stage that this is the resurrected, glorified Christ. Still, even with the authority and sovereignty that was His, he chose to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to direct the instructions he was about to give the disciples.
Before He even got to the point where He would tell them to wait upon the infilling of the Holy Spirit, He himself exemplified the role of the Holy Spirit in the mission they were about to embark on. There could be no better example to show that we cannot do the work appointed us without the anointing of the Holy Spirit if our Lord Jesus was bound to the Holy Spirit for the power of His ministry.
In verses 4 and 5, we see Jesus giving His final command to the disciples. They were to do nothing else but wait for the Holy Spirit. This was the promise of the Father, and without which they would not have done anything meaningful for the kingdom of God. It was a gift promised by God Himself, which meant it was bound to be fulfilled that it was something worth waiting for. Something that they would have to have faith and patience to receive.
This was a promise that was woven into the fabric of the Ministry long before it began. Jesus told them that they would be baptized WITH the Holy Spirit. And this brings out the concept of baptism as we know it, and as had happened with Jesus during His baptism. The concept of total immersion into and absolute covering by the holy spirit.
This was the condition that had to be fulfilled before anything else. This is what would give them the power to perform miracles. The Holy Spirit would enlighten them, sanctify their souls, and set them on the divine path. Even though Jesus did not give the disciples the exact date when the promise will be fulfilled, they knew that they had to wait until when it was God’s time.
On hearing the words of Jesus, the disciples must have thought that He was speaking apocalyptically and thus their interest in knowing if the time had finally come for the kingdom of Israel to be restored. We see Jesus rebuking them, albeit gently, and focusing their attention back to the Holy Spirit and their mission to be His witnesses in the world.
The conclusion of the dialogue is a rather interesting one if you’re careful with details. It ends with a declarative statement, or rather a prophesy, that we see fulfilled in Acts 1-7 as the apostles preach through Jerusalem. Acts 8-12 is a record of the gospel in Judea and Samaria, and 13-28 is the gospel to the world. Just like Jesus has said,
“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.”
Unlike the way Jesus appeared and reappeared after the resurrection, we see Him in the last of the verses we have read today, being lifted to the heavens. This was so designed that the disciples would know He was good for good this time, and the next phase was about to begin because it was only after He was gone that the Holy Spirit, the Helper, would descend.
For the second time, the disciples appear distracted by yet another event, and it’s only after the angels have appeared and asked them why they stand there staring at the sky that they remember their commissioning and go back to Jerusalem to wait upon the Holy Spirit.
We have just begun a new series on the OUTPOURING, and as we said at the beginning of today’s sermon, waiting is part of the process of getting what we want. The Biblical sense of waiting, especially on the promises of God, is not passive waiting. It is a process of becoming what God intends for us to become.
Even after the ground has been prepared and readied for the seed, a farmer knows to wait for the outpouring of the rain. It requires patience and the understanding that God is in control of His promise and its fulfillment. The period between when the promise is given and when it is fulfilled is the time for us to set our priorities right. It teaches us to persevere and train our focus on the promises of the Father, whose word is YES and AMEN.