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The book of Acts documents the start of the Great Commission Jesus gave His disciples before ascending to heaven. It is the earliest record of church history we have and is an account of the continuing work of Jesus Christ in establishing the first early churches and spreading the Gospel, which has now spanned over two thousand years into our present day. The Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts were written by Luke, a physician and historian in New Testament times.

Acts, Chapter One records a beautiful transition of Jesus being with His disciples, but after His ascension to heaven, their relationship is about to change dramatically. For three years Jesus was in their midst, and they travelled together wherever His ministry took Him. On the Day of Pentecost, their relationship changes from a physical one to a spiritual relationship in which they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and experience Jesus in the deepest most innermost parts of their being.

But just before Jesus’ ascension, He tells His disciples to go back to Jerusalem and wait there for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. There is usually a little uneasiness in seasons of transition, particularly in the waiting period. As we look at the account of the disciples, they were in great distress and turmoil. Fourty days prior to Jesus telling them they would be His witnesses, they entered Jerusalem with Him for the Feast of the Passover. Great crowds greeted Jesus, hailed Him as king and laid palm branches before Him. They were met with a hero’s welcome, but a few days later, Jesus is arrested, tried in a mockery court and nailed to a cross. The disciples had fully anticipated that Jesus would free them from Roman oppression and re-establish Israel as a mighty nation. Much to their anguish and dismay, Jesus was crucified, died and buried. Instead of triumph and victory, the disciples experienced fear and panic. But then joy and excitement again as Jesus, having risen from the dead, appears to them.

In the interim between the resurrection of Jesus and His ascension, He spent 40 days in the region of Galilee with His disciples, teaching them about the Kingdom of Heaven. The disciples would certainly have had their confidence back, but very likely it was short-lived. Just before Jesus ascends to heaven, He tells them to return to Jerusalem, the last place they wanted to go. Jerusalem had been the scene of their most awful failure. After the arrest of Jesus, they all deserted Him for fear of their own lives. There were those in Jerusalem who wanted them to meet the same fate as Jesus, so they remained in hiding behind locked doors. Why would Jesus send them back to a place so dangerous for them?

Particularly in North America, we want a Jesus that is safe, a Jesus who sets us up with a nice, comfortable life, free of danger and turmoil. Nowhere in Scripture does Jesus tell us that obedience to Him will mean a safe, comfortable existence. In fact, He said to His disciples, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves” (Matthew 10:16). This was true then and is still true today. The reason God so confidently sends us where it may be unsafe is because Jesus, our Good Shepherd, goes with us and He is the means to accomplish God’s work. When we are obedient to the will of God in a way that is counter-intuitive to our safety, we need not fear, because our security is in Christ Himself. In dependence on Him, we can rest assured Jesus will be to us what we need in the time we need it.

In obedience to Jesus, the disciples went back to Jerusalem, the most dangerous place for them, and waited to receive power on high as Jesus had promised. What were they doing while they patiently waited? Acts 1:14 tells us, “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” Constant communion with Jesus is imperative. It aligns our will with His will, enables us to hear His voice and deepens our faith in Him and commitment to serve Him. After ten days of waiting and praying, Acts 2-4 says, “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”

The book of Acts is picking up on the continuing work of Jesus Christ through His disciples who became the apostles. Added to them was the Apostle Paul, God’s chosen instrument to bring the Gospel into pagan territory and establish the first Christian churches throughout the Mediterranean. This is vitally important as it reminds us that it is not about us doing work for God, but about Jesus and the work He is doing through His church. Every Christian is a member of the body of Christ, which is His church, and to this day, Christ continues His work through us. Sometimes we can get so preoccupied with our day-to-day living that we start to drift from the fundamental truth of the Gospel in Jesus being our direction and empowerment for the work God has called us to.

The word Jesus uses when He tells His disciples to “wait,” is a Greek compound word, which means to “abide”. The key to waiting is to “abide” in Jesus. He has something for us to do, but even in the best of times, it is a difficult thing to wait. Scripture holds many accounts of people having to wait. Abraham and Sarah had to wait 25 years for their promised son, Isaac. Moses had to wait 40 years before leading His people out of Egyptian slavery. David waited some 15 years after being anointed by the prophet Samuel as Israel’s next king and taking his rightful place on the throne. The Apostle Paul waited about 14 years after his conversion in Damascus before his first missionary journey, and even Jesus had to wait 30 years before the appointed time to begin His ministry.

There is a biblical principle in God having us wait as it is a period of time meant to foster our trust and dependence on Him. The danger is we can start to go into cruise control in our relationship with God and can unwittingly start to drift from dependence upon Him to dependence on us. We then become bigger and God becomes smaller. We do not receive power from on high to do things our way, nor to stay in a safe, comfortable place, but so that we can reach out in obedience to the command of Jesus in being witnesses for Him. Witnessing is a dominant theme throughout the book of Acts and is mentioned 39 times. We have been clothed with power as a church community. We have been reconciled to God so that we, being the church, will put ourselves at His disposal and be used to reach out to countless people who have never entered a church door.

The book of Acts is about the Spirit of Christ guiding and leading to establish His kingdom on earth in the hearts of His people. Just as Jesus worked through His apostles and many disciples, He works through us today in expanding His kingdom and spreading the love of God in a world that so desperately needs Him.