Welcome to Acts 1. Written as a sequel to the book of Luke, this book talks about everything that began to happen to the church after the ascension of Jesus Christ. This very important phase of ministry is kicked off by the Great Commission from the mouth of Jesus Christ Himself.
Act 1:7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
Act 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Two things were going to happen sequentially. They were going to receive power through the Holy Spirit, and they were going to become witnesses throughout the entire world. It seems to be the case that the first one was a necessary condition of the second. A short time before, the disciples had run away from the people arresting Jesus because they were afraid of suffering a similar fate. Obviously, at this point they had met the risen Jesus, so perhaps their courage was on the rebound, but I don’t know that human determination alone would have been enough to reach the entire world.
They surely needed the power and endurance that God was able to give to them. They were arrested, beaten and ultimately martyred with the exception of John who was given life in prison. There was a power there that did not seem to be present in the disciples on the night at the crucifixion, and Jesus says that they are going to receive power from the Holy Spirit within them. That was going to be the power that would propel them around the world.
As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit within us as well. We ought to have the same kind of power, and we ought to be just as committed to this mission. Just like the disciples did what they were able to do to spread the Gospel, the same commission applies to us as well.
I think it is easy for us to be confident like the disciples in John 16. Because Jesus was explaining parts of the future to them, they were convinced that He was the Messiah. However, Jesus challenges them.
Joh 16:31 Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe?
Joh 16:32 Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
Joh 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Jesus knew what would happen when He was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane. He knew that His disciples were going to run away in fear. It was easy for them to be confident while Jesus was sitting right there with them, and none of them were really under persecution. Sure, people did not necessarily agree with everything Jesus was teaching, but there were no Christian martyrs yet. Christians were a strange minority religion in Israel following a Rabbi who was different than any other.
I bring this up because Jesus asked them if they really believed. He seemed to imply that perhaps they do not believe as strongly as they thought they did because they were going to run away in the future. I guess that is the ultimate test of belief. Is it something you are willing to die for?
The disciples did run away in the garden, but it is worth mentioning that history teaches that all of them died as martyrs. They discovered the cost of discipleship.
This is definitely one of those stories that make you think as a Christian in America. It is a lot different to be a Christian around the world where your life could very well be in danger for the following Jesus Christ.
I find it interesting in John 12 the people wanted proof of what Jesus had done. I think that we can sometimes put on chronological snobbery and assume that people in the past were incredibly gullible and willing to believe anything. However, I wrote about that two days ago, so I’m not going back there again other than to point out verse nine.
Rather, I want to focus today on the disciples regarding Palm Sunday. It stands out to me that John reports the fact that the disciples did not recognize the fulfillment of prophecy until later on. As they were experiencing the events that were going on, they apparently did not put the pieces together.
Joh 12:12 On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,
Joh 12:13 Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Joh 12:14 And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written,
Joh 12:15 Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.
Joh 12:16 These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.
I think that it shows us something about the value of memorizing Scripture as well as the value of reflection. The disciples clearly put the pieces together because they knew the prophecy. If they did not know the Bible, they would not have been able to figure that out. The obvious implication for us is that we need to know our Bible as well or we might miss something important.
Secondly, the disciples remembered this later. They were clearly thinking about their experience with Jesus, and they were then able to put together the Bible and the event. Do we actually consider our past and then reflect on where God is at work? Maybe we don’t have specific prophecies that relate to our individual lives like this one about Jesus’ life, but we do have things like the fruit of the Spirit. As we grow nearer to Christ, these qualities should become more evident. How are we doing? Are we growing? Are there things that we could be improving on?
The disciples were clearly human, and they were not perfect by any means, but I do think we can learn from their example.
I find it interesting that Jesus recognized ahead of time in Luke 9 that not every conversation the disciples had would be profitable.
Luk 9:3 And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.
Luk 9:4 And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide, and thence depart.
Luk 9:5 And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.
Jesus did not tell them that everyone would open the disciples with open arms. Rather, there would be some who would not listen, but it was not necessarily a cause for concern. The disciples were to preach the gospel to the best of their abilities, but if they people do not listen, it is not as if the disciples were supposed to burn down the city on their way out. It was not a convert or die type of situation.
The disciples were simply supposed to shake the dust off their sandals. In other words, they were supposed to brush it off, and continue preaching to people who would listen.
I think this has a lot of relevance for all of us today. We certainly try our best to show the beauty of Jesus Christ to the world around us. I write this every day in hopes that either it will reinforce the faith of those who already believe or help bring someone nearer to the family of God. However, the reality is that not everyone will listen. As much as I wish it were the other way around, it is not my job to start ripping people who didn’t listen. My job, and the job of all Christians, is to present the gospel, be faithful in that and let God do the rest.
Matthew 15 brings us to an interesting statement from Jesus.
Mat 15:10 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:
Mat 15:11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
For modern Christians, I don’t think many of us would find this controversial. We understand that while our bodies are certainly temples and need to be cared for appropriately, but it is much more important for us to be careful of what we say.
This was apparently difficult for the disciples to understand because we receive an explanation.
Mat 15:16 And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?
Mat 15:17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
Mat 15:18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
Mat 15:19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
Mat 15:20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.
We can talk about the explanation, but what stood out more prominently to me is the fact that it required an explanation to His own disciples. That tells me that this was a temptation for the people in that time as well. It was still not easy for them to understand, and it very well could have been controversial at the time.
Jesus was changing the game, and it would’ve been hard for His culturally Jewish disciples and followers to accept what He was saying. He was arguing that maybe dietary laws were not that important. It doesn’t matter nearly as much as the heart of an individual.
Matthew 10 is the commissioning of the disciples, and Jesus sends them first to the people of Israel. I point that out here because I think that is important to remember for the context of the chapter. God’s own chosen people are not going to treat Jesus’ disciples very well.
Mat 10:16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
Mat 10:17 But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;
Mat 10:18 And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
Mat 10:19 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.
Mat 10:20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
There is an interesting contrast here. Jesus tells the disciples that they need to reach only to the people of Israel at this point. Later on, the Great Commission expanded that to all of humanity, but at this point it was limited to only Israel. He then tells them what is going to happen to them while they are doing this, and He is sending them to wolves.
First of all Jesus limits the scope of operations, and then He tells them that where they are going to be operating is a highly dangerous environment. They don’t have a choice to go anywhere else. They were being sent into the fire. I don’t know about you, but that would kind of make me a little bit nervous. Yesterday at my church we had a guest speaker from Voice of the Martyrs and she showed this video to illustrate what it is like to live in an environment where Christianity can surely cost you your life.
I have a hard time thinking about this. As an American, Christianity might not always be the most popular choice. It might cost some opportunities to participate in some activities, but I know that at least I have personally never even thought that here in the United States it could cost me everything.
The obvious question then is to wonder how we would react in this type of situation. The disciples did what Jesus told them to do. Even with this information surely in the front of their minds, they knew that it was what they needed to do. They knew that being followers of Jesus made everything worth it in the long run despite the persecution that all of them ended up facing at some point in their lives.
I would like to say I could do the same, but I don’t know that I could on my own strength. It would truly need to be strength directly from God to help my weak flesh persevere. I have a feeling that is how the disciples did it, and that is how people in these tragic situations today do it.