Sometimes, in spite of everything we have seen and heard from Jesus — even when it is absolutely miraculous — we still are completely clueless about the Kingdom.
“The Father sets those dates,” he replied, “and they are not for you to know. But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere — in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
It was not long after he said this that he was taken up into the sky while they were watching, and he disappeared into a cloud. As they were straining their eyes to see him, two white-robed men suddenly stood there among them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing here staring at the sky? (Acts 1:6-11 NLT)
During the forty days after Jesus’ crucifixion, he spent time with the apostles and talked to them about the Kingdom of God. These men had walked closely with the Lord during the entire time of his ministry. They saw miracle on top of miracle and heard him teach very plainly about his reason for coming, the nature of the Kingdom, and that being Messiah meant he had to suffer and die and be raised again. At times there were glimmers of understanding and a few profound statements of faith, but mostly they kept proving they simply didn’t grasp even the most basic concepts Jesus was teaching them.
This passage says that all through their 40 days with Jesus after his resurrection, the Eleven kept asking Jesus, “Lord, are you going to free Israel now and restore our kingdom?” Here they are, in the presence of the resurrected Lord. They could marvel in absolute wonder at the mind-boggling fact the man they saw die was spending time with them again. They had been given another opportunity to absorb what he was saying about the Kingdom that was supposed to be the all-consuming passion of their lives.
And what was Jesus getting from them? A room full of clueless children continually asking, “Are we there yet?” Jesus’ patience was nothing short of divine: “The Father sets those dates, and they are not for you to know.”
“Are we there yet? Lord, are you going to free Israel now and restore our kingdom?”
People, that’s me. It’s you.
In the aftermath of this election, in spite of all the clear teaching we have from Jesus about the nature of the Kingdom, many of us are upset the balloting didn’t bring in the kingdom we were hoping for; others of us will be wondering about that in a few months. Many of us are riveted by the chaotic circumstances about us and the deep divisions widening in our nation.
There is reason, of course, to be concerned. The election results tanked the stock market (except for firearms manufacturers), sending the Little Guy’s meager retirement fund hurtling toward Gehenna. In D.C., Tweedledee and Tweedledum are more at odds than ever. A long list of corporations announced layoffs they had delayed until they knew which way the election would go; others started reducing employee hours in anticipation of Obamacare’s punishing tax load. The war in Syria started bleeding more profusely into neighboring countries, and we learned our wise leaders didn’t think we needed to know about Iran firing warning shots at a U.S. aircraft immediately before the election. The good news is that Iran isn’t making nuclear bomb fuel as quickly as they were — because Israel warned its citizens to prepare for war.
Oh, there’s plenty to be concerned about. More families in this country are now asking themselves, “What are we going to do? Where will we find work? How will we be able to afford gas and groceries? What if we lose our house too?” I wonder if the apostles, having watched Jesus disappear into the clouds, weren’t saying to each other: “OK, he’s really gone now, and Israel’s kingdom still hasn’t been restored. What are we going to do now?”
Not long before Jesus left, the passage says, he commanded his followers to tell people everywhere about him — “in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The Almighty has to dispatch a couple of angels to remind these guys that the Lord had left them very specific instructions. They needed to quit staring at their circumstances and get busy with their mission.
This was a word I needed to hear. Jesus says, “Don’t worry about everyday life — whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? You have so little faith! Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.”
“Live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.”
The weeks ahead will be full of bad news. We will be tempted to focus on the gathering darkness and miss the fact that God has opened the door on a bright new day of witness and ministry. Your neighbors, friends, and co-workers see only the looming crisis. People who have been living in hopeless crisis for generations see even less reason for hope. You, on the other hand, know a loving Father who provides for his children and gives them every reason to be filled with confident expectation. Even I can connect the dots.
Remember the words of the unwitting prophet: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste, and what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you did not think you could do before.” Jesus’ instructions were very clear: “Tell people about me everywhere.”
I’ll let you go now. We’ve both got something we’re supposed to be doing. Let me know how it goes!