This week Pastor Kathy challenges us with a classically Pentecost scripture, Acts 1:1-11. As you’ll see below, it’s not just about a specific time of year, but about all kinds of beginnings. Read on to delve in!
Text: Acts 1:1-11
1 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me;
5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 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.”
9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “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.”
Background notes on the text:
- Acts is part two of the Gospel of Luke. Part 1 was the gospel, about Jesus and what he did. Part 2 is about the disciples trying to imitate Jesus and establishing a community, waiting for the return of Jesus. (Do we ever talk about this?)
- Luke was interested in presenting a non-threatening view of the new Christians to the Roman Empire.
- The gospel ends with the ascension of Jesus, and it is repeated here.
Exegesis (close reading) of the text:
- The first verse connects the two books: what Jesus did and taught in the first book, and his ascension (like Elijah?)
- Gave instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles (sent ones)
- Reiterates that Jesus was resurrected, and stayed a long time.
- Jesus spoke about the kingdom of God (challenge to the Roman Empire).
- Orders the apostles to stay in Jerusalem until waiting for the promise of the Father (intimate relationship with God). For they will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
- Apostles ask: when will you restore the kingdom to Israel? That is their focus, political freedom from Rome. Jesus doesn’t say anything against this idea, but ignores it.
- Jesus: Only God knows. But you guys get power from the Holy Spirit to be witnesses (to what?) locally and globally.
- Jesus was lifted up, (passive).
- While going the apostles stand there staring up. 2 men in white robes (angels or martyrs) (a reference to Luke 24:4-5.) They say what are you looking at? Jesus will come again.
Questions the text asks us:
- This is about the start of the church. How did we get started?
- Do we feel chosen by God?
- Do we have specific instructions from God about what to do?
- How do we talk about the Holy Spirit? How do we understand God as Spirit?
- The book of Acts is full of miraculous events. What do we think when we read about these miracles? Do they make us uncomfortable? Reassured? Left behind?
- When have we felt that God was leading the church?
- What does it mean to witness? How do we do it?