“Not many days from now” were the words of Jesus to the disciples about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is now concluding His earthly ministry and about to ascend to the Father. He has spent an extra 40 days on earth painstakingly explaining the Kingdom of God to His disciples and giving them the promise of the Holy Spirit. Then one of them raises their hand to ask Him a very disappointing question in…
Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Now the question of the disciples, if Jesus would now restore the Kingdom to Israel is a perplexing, revealing and quite annoying one. Hadn’t Jesus just spent 3 ½ years repeatedly going over this? Didn’t He just spend 40 days teaching them in greater detail the nature of the Kingdom of God? Had I been Jesus, I would have been ready to throw up my hands. I am so glad that we serve a patient and longsuffering God. Jesus simply and graciously redirects their focus. Jesus knew that, left to themselves, the disciples would have remained fixated on Israel. They wanted Him to re-establish Israel as a temporal earthly Kingdom. Yet Jesus was trying to lift their vision from a temporary earthly fixture to a larger Kingdom reality. Jesus wanted the disciples then and He wants us to know now, that if we want to see Pentecost repeated we need to…
Focus on Spirit-filled Mission
It is quite easy for us to get distracted. My wife will tell you, I get easily distracted by people. I am a people person to a fault. I just love people and if I’m talking to you, I want to look you in the eye and see your nonverbal ques.
Deedre will tell you, it is the worst when I am driving. I believe that I am a better driver when I am driving alone. When people are in the car with me, I get caught up in the conversation. I have been known at times to even turn to look at someone in the back seat or the passenger seat while I’m driving. And Deedre would often say to me, “CJ, focus on the road.” You see, the mission is to get everyone to the destination safely. There are people all around you that Jesus wants to use you to get home to Him safely, but He needs you to stay focused.
You see the question of the disciples was a very Adventist question. Here is Jesus at His first advent, getting ready to send the Holy Spirit in early rain power and they were fixated on events related to time. As we near the soon second advent of Jesus, we face the same temptation to make end-time events the main focus. Jesus basically said that is not the main thing I need you to focus on. We are to watch and pray as the events unfold, but fixation on the events themselves is not to be our focus. Today we are now on the eve of the second advent of Jesus, and he wants our focus to be latter rain in filling of the Holy Spirit for mission. Aunty Ellen, comments on this when she says, “It was not necessary for them to see farther into the future than the revelations He had made them enabled them to see. Their work was to proclaim the gospel message. Christ’s visible presence was about to be withdrawn from the disciples, but a new endowment of power was to be theirs. The Holy Spirit was to be given them in its fullness, sealing them for their work.” Acts of the Apostles p.30
Our focus is to be on Spirit-filled and Spirit-led mission. Jesus even gave them the strategy for the mission. He said, “…you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. This one statement by Jesus is very significant for two reasons. For one, it provides the outline for the rest of the book of Acts:
The disciples will be witnesses in Jerusalem (which is Acts 1-8:3)
In all Judea and Samaria (which is Acts 8:4-12:25)
And to the end of the earth (which is Acts 13:1-28:31)
Secondly, it gives us a model for how we can fulfill the mission today:
Begin in Jerusalem - which is your own home, right were you are
Then Judea – your neighborhood, city, job, school, etc.
Then Samaria – a neighboring city or state
The end of the earth – Foreign mission
Friends, Jesus is calling us to fulfill His mission in ever widening circles, beginning at home, in the power of the Spirit. This kind of mission is best experienced in the context of loving community. Commenting on the experience of the disciples after Pentecost, Kim Allen Johnson says in his book The Team, “Those years of learning how to love were the primary preparation for Pentecost – not just ten days in the upper room. Jesus accomplished His purpose so fully that after His ascension, similar Trinity-like communities developed rapidly from Jerusalem to Rome.” The Team p.97 This is the type of New Testament community experience Jesus is calling us to now. At RPC we have small groups meeting in the neighborhoods where our members live called Grow Groups. In these groups we experience the thing as Jesus is calling us to... deeper community and Spirit driven mission.