Summary: Jesus commissions his disciples to continue his ministry and to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth.
Acts 1:6-14 “Commissioning Service”
May is a time of transition for many people. Kindergartners are promoted to first grade and will soon experience its rigors. Eighth graders leave the comfort of grade school for the challenges of high school. High school graduates will transition to college or seek employment and college grads face an end to over sixteen years of education and the start of life in the “real world.” Of course these are not the only transitions we experience. The death of loved ones force change in our lives, as does the loss of job or variations in our health.
The disciples were facing change. They had been with Jesus for three years. He had walked with them an additional 40 days after his resurrection. Now, Jesus was ascending into heaven to be with The Father. The role of the disciples was changing. No longer would they stand at the fringe of the action watching Jesus perform miracles and hearing him teach the people. The ministry of Jesus was being passed to them. We can learn many things about transitions in our lives as we read about the passing of ministry from Jesus to his disciples.
Jesus took his disciples to Mt. Olivet. Mt. Olivet is a hill across a valley and to the East of Jerusalem. The disciples sensed that something was going to happen, but they were not sure what it was. They followed Jesus with excitement and expectations.
The disciples were still hanging on to their old dreams that Jesus would establish an earthly kingdom. They ask him, when they get to the top of the mountain, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus dismisses their question off handedly saying, in essence, that it was none of their business. Obviously, the disciples needed to let go of their old dreams and goals.
One of the first things that are necessary for us as we enter into a transition is to let go of our goals and expectations. We need to remain flexible and open to the opportunities that present themselves to us. This is not easy for us to do, but it does allow us to be open to surprises.
After dismissing the expectations of the disciples, Jesus tells them what he has in store for them. He calls them to be his witnesses. Witnesses are people who tell what they have seen, heard and experienced. The disciples are to tell what they have seen God doing in their lives and in the world. They may continue to be fishermen, tax collectors, and pursue various other vocations, still at the very core of who they are is the truth that they have been called to be witnesses for Jesus Christ.
We too are witnesses. Jesus has called us at our baptism to carry on the mission and ministry that he gave to the disciples. We may have many different careers and vocations in our lives, but no matter how we use our talents and abilities to provide for ourselves and our family, we are still primarily God’s witnesses.
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT
Before Jesus ascended into heaven and left the disciples, he told them that they would receive the Holy Spirit. They understood that this would be God’s presence and power in their lives from their reading of the Old Testament stories of the prophets. The prophets could not have accomplished their ministry without the presence of the Spirit in their lives; neither could the disciples accomplish their ministry of witnessing.
The Holy Spirit was God’s presence in their lives. The Holy Spirit also empowered them for service. We might have the image that the disciples turned into super heroes with the Holy Spirit so that they were able to do supernatural things—leap over tall buildings with a single bound, and be more powerful than a speeding locomotive and faster than a speeding bullet. That wasn’t the power that the Holy Spirit gave the disciples.
• The Holy Spirit gave the disciples courage to face rejection and persecution and still continue with their ministry.
• The Holy Spirit gave them the ability to love in the face of hate.
• The Holy Spirit gave them the ability to forgive the unforgiveable.
• The Holy Spirit enabled them to be faithfully obedient.
I’m sure that it was not easy waiting for the Holy Spirit. The disciples were not much different than you or me. They were men and women of action and they wanted to be about the task that the Lord had given them. But they waited, because they knew that they couldn’t accomplish their task as witnesses without the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. We too must wait for the Holy Spirit, or we will live our lives in futility. As the Scripture states, “Unless the Lord build the house the workmen labor in vain.”