Summary: I preach expository messages, and this is the second in my series on the Book of Acts.
“Going and Coming”
Last week, we said that the very idea of a book named “Acts” would be fairly unique to Christian faith, in that many faiths, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and the like, do not concern themselves so much with history as they do ethics. But because Christianity is a historically-based faith, the truthfulness of the events that the Bible depicts is utterly critical. If God did not create the earth; if David didn’t really slay Goliath; if there was no Daniel in the lion’s den; if Jesus did not rise from the grave, then we are wasting our time, because we have nothing if those things are not historically true. But if they are true, then we have the basis for a faith that is living and vibrant, and Jesus gave gifts to the church, as we saw last week: instruction, leadership, and the promise of the Spirit. Today, we look further at Christ’s work prior to going to Heaven. PRAY
“Anticipation”, sang Carly Simon, “is making me late; it’s keeping me waiting.” The disciples had anticipated a number of different things; they’d anticipated Christ establishing an earthly kingdom, the Messiah of God come to defeat Israel’s enemies. They’d anticipated their own assistance in this project. They’d anticipated some kind of outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And even though Christ had taught them many times, still they had these anticipations, some of which were based upon misunderstanding.
Luke begins today’s text by recording a question from the twelve. “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
The question of the kingdom was so engrained in their minds that they must have missed what Jesus had been teaching them. Sometimes it’s discouraging for preachers/teachers to know that after so much time and effort has been put into the crafting of some message, so little is actually retained. One fellow in PA, a bright fellow, committed to Christ, one of my best friends in the church, told me on more than one occasion that his mind was such that he hardly remembered the things I had preached on any given Sunday! And yet, for all of Jesus’ teaching, these guys still interpreted the things He said through the lens of their preconceptions, and thus continued to miss the fact that His was not to be a kingdom in the sense that they’d come to expect. And to be fair to them, in their expectations of the coming kingdom, the renewed work of the Holy Spirit played a huge role, so when Jesus spoke with them about this new work of the Spirit, they fell back to their default understanding and tried to interpret His words through the grid they’d used for generations to understand this kingdom. But as we said last week, they were wrong.
Further, as sinful human beings, the disciples had more than an altruistic interest in the establishment of this kingdom in the way that they envisioned; on several occasions, they had even argued among themselves as to which among them would have the highest places in the “administration” as it were of Christ’s kingdom. But Jesus fixes their misconceptions:
I. Jesus cautions the disciples against misplaced priorities :6-7
Literally, Jesus was saying, “it’s none of your concern”, these dates and times specifically. “Times” and “seasons” are two Greek words, chronos and kairos, and they signify two different things. Chronos refers to a certain duration of time, while kairos refers more to some special given moment in time. The time, for instance, that a student would spend working on a college degree would be chronos, while the actual time of awarding the degree would be kairos. And the point for us is that the sovereign hand of God is working in history in both the chronos and the kairos, in both the timing of the events yet future and the actual substance of those events when they come. It’s not important that we concern ourselves so much with either the chronos or the kairos, but rather that we leave those to a sovereign God.
On date-setting, and a preoccupation with such things: we are all, as human beings, inquisitive about the future; it’s a natural thing. Yesterday was the first day of the NFL draft, and football fans such as myself begin speculating months in advance, wondering what is going to happen, who the Falcons are going to take (in my case, who the Steelers are going to take!). We want to know the future, and this prompts the disciples’ question in verse 6, just as it prompts many a Christian to spend a whole lot of time looking into prophecy. There is nothing wrong with looking into prophecy; it’s part of God’s Word, unless—and I’ve seen this happen—we get so wrapped up in things that are to some degree speculative that we miss things that are not speculative, that are both urgent and important, that God has given us to do in the here and now. And to a significant degree, I think that Jesus’ words to His followers then might be a good word to us now: don’t sweat the things that are in the control and under the authority of God the Father; don’t worry about timing and when this is going to happen or that’s going to happen. Is the antichrist alive today? He might be, and he might not be. Will Jesus return to earth in our lifetimes? He might, and He might not. Our task is not to overly concern ourselves with such things, but rather to do the things that the Lord would have us to do in the meantime; be watchful for His return, by all means, but not obsess over future events. After all Jesus, Who laid aside certain of His divine prerogatives in coming to earth, had told His followers that even He did not know the date of His own Second Coming (Mark 13).