Today we begin in Acts of the Apostles chapter 1. The letter was written by Luke around 62-64 A.D. It is written to Theophilus. In Greek, the name means “dear to God; loved by God,” from theos “god” (see Thea) + philos “loved, beloved” (see -phile). Theophilus is to whom Luke dedicated both his Gospel (Luke 1:3) and the Acts of the Apostles. While it is a proper name and could be addressed to a specific person, it may also be a general reference to those who love God.
The Book of Acts forms a bridge between the 4 gospels and the New Testament and records for us the response of the apostles and the early Christians to ascension of Christ.
When Jesus walked the earth, many were disappointed in Him because He did not look or act the part of the long awaited King. The Jews anticipated the coming of their Savior who was to redeem them from bondage, who would lead a revolution, who would save them from their enemies. But Jesus did not fit their mold. Jesus went against their expectations. He wasn’t interested in power. He wasn’t interested in subduing Rome. Even after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when the people hailed Him as King and laid their cloaks and palm branches at His feet, instead of grasping for power, he took off his outer garments , tied a towel around His waist and embraced the role of the lowliest servant by washing a bunch of dirty feet.
The very first thing I noticed as our family began to study this chapter, was that Jesus appears to the apostles with a different tone than in the gospels. He has gone from training them to commanding them. In verse 2 we see Him giving commands to the apostles. In verse 4, He is ordering them. When He is asked a question in verse 6, He tells them “it is not for you to know.”
Gone is the Suffering Messiah. Here is the Conquering King.
Jesus, after His resurrection is behaving in a way that is much more characteristic of a powerful ruler. There are no more parables. There isn’t more time to walk with Him and train with Him. Rather Jesus is giving orders and direction with the full expectation that they will be carried out.
His interactions with the disciples in this chapter remind me of the military. I personally know two Marines. I know from them what it was like to go through boot camp. And I know what it was like for them to be in combat.
Basic Training or boot camp – prepares recruits for all elements of service: physical, mental and emotional. It trains people and gives them the basic tools necessary to perform the roles that will be asked of them in combat. The purpose of this training isn’t to “break” recruits. Instead it is designed to make individuals strong and capable – prepared for battle.
Combat is a wholly different scenerio. When the call comes for deployment, there is a flurry of activity. There is a sense of urgency. There is a sense of dread. There is expectation. There is prayer.
And this is what we see in Acts chapter 1. Jesus is forceful. Jesus is commanding. He is preparing His people for something imminent.
But then He says, “WAIT.” Wait in Jerusalem. (verse 4)
How hard it is to wait. We’ve all been there. Eagerly expecting something, but having to wait. There have been poems and songs written about waiting. “The waiting is the hardest part…..” These are some song lyrics. But we don’t need a song to tell us. We’ve all experienced it in some form.
In these 40 days Jesus spent with the disciples before His ascension He speaks about the Kingdom of God and the promise that will be sent to them. But they must wait for the promise. They must trust. After telling them He will send them the promise of the Father, He was lifted up and taken from their sight.
It’s almost comical, isn’t it that two men appear and ask them what they are staring at? Ummm…..well, Jesus floating away in the clouds….. Wouldn’t you stare?
The angels were spurring them on…..”What are you staring at? why aren’t you moving? Didn’t you just receive orders?”
And their response?
They went up to the upper room where they were staying.
Then they fretted.
Is that what it says?
No, no, no! That’s not what it says.
This time they didn’t lock the door like they did after the Crucifixion.
Instead, Jesus’ followers., with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, …..v.13-14
We sense their anticipation and tension. The phrase “with one accord” in Greek is expressed with the word “homothymadon” which means “with the same passion, with the same zeal.” They weren’t just together in one place, but they shared a common passion.
In Greek, the word “devoted” used in this passage means, addicted, can’t go without. Think of a person on drugs. Sadly, we have also had first hand experience with people addicted to drugs. Drugs consume their lives. There is nothing more important. There is nothing more consuming. The whole being is consumed with one thought.
This is how the disciples were. They were all together in one place, with a common zeal.
And they were addicted to prayer.
When in your life have you been like this?
Personally, it is usually in times of fear or sadness. When I am afraid, I turn to God in a way and with a depth that I do not when life is going smoothly and as expected.
These disciples had a sense that something big and something important was about to happen. They experienced Jesus now as they had “thought” He should be when He first declared He was the Christ, the Anointed one. In fact, the question they ask Him in verse 6 reveals how they now perceive Him.
“Lord, will you at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?”
His demeanor as a commanding King was obvious to them. Surely now their King, their Christ, was going to lead the revolution they had long anticipated.
But then, He disappears. Into the clouds.
And they wait. And they pray. Fervently.