So when they had come together, they asked Him, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. And when He had said these things, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as He went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.”
What would we do if we had all the power in the world? That question can tease out the best of our generosity and the worst of our ambition. It feels like an exercise in imagination for us, but it wasn’t for Jesus. After His resurrection, He tells the disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me” (Matthew 28:18). He could look at sin and death and say, “I conquered that.” He could look at the world and say, “I own that.” Jesus Christ possesses an authority we can scarcely comprehend. Acts 1:6-11 reveals what the disciples think Jesus should do with that power…and what Jesus decides to do instead. The disciples are hoping for the immediate and full restoration of the kingdom to Israel. No matter how they understand these pregnant promises from the Old Testament, they know that Jesus has the power to fulfill them. Most likely, the disciples are hoping that Jesus will do the work, and they can just enjoy the show. But the one who possesses all the power in the world refuses to hang around and wield those powers for an adoring audience. When the disciples ask Jesus, “Will you?” He responds, “[No.] But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses.”
Have we pondered the glory and the humility of Christ in His ascension? The glory of ascending to His throne; the humility of leaving behind His ministry on earth. The glory of reigning in heaven; the humility of sending the Spirit to indwell us on earth. The glory of His mission to gather a people from around the world; the humility of His plan to entrust us to be His witnesses. The glory of making all things new; the humility of inviting us to work toward this restoration. Left to ourselves, we would be overwhelmed by the need for restoration in our lives, our families, our neighborhoods, our city, and the world. But Acts 1 reminds us that Jesus is the risen, ascended King over every realm. He promises that the Holy Spirit will empower us to live as witnesses of His restorative reign. The social division, physical suffering, financial ruin, systemic evil, and other challenges that could paralyze us become opportunities to witness to the Gospel of the kingdom. As the church, we are called to move toward the world as Christ’s witnesses. Will we live close to Him so that we can hear His voice and share His story? Will we live close to people so that we can know their pain and bring them hope? How might our lives change if we believed that the one who had all the power in the world has empowered us to be His witnesses?