Summary: how Jesus enabled his disciples to carry on after his ascension
1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
6 So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. (NIV)
One of the first sins ever committed in this world was the “excuse”. After Adam had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he excused his sin by blaming Eve. And then Eve excused her sin by blaming Satan. The Bible is full of people who made excuses when God called them to a line of service. You may remember the story of Moses. When God called him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses said, “I’m not eloquent.” So the Lord said, “I gave you your mouth - I can enable you to do it.” How did Moses respond? “Send someone else.” So God said, “I’ll give you Aaron as a spokesman! Now go!” God didn’t want excuses. He didn’t want people to say, “I can’t” when He called them.
Today’s text gives the same kind of scenario. Jesus had guided his disciples through some very trying times. He had taught them for three years, preparing them for their own ministries. He had died for them and given them faith to believe in Him as the Messiah when He rose from the dead. But now it was time for them to go on their own. Jesus told them, you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. The only catch was, Jesus would no longer be by their visible side to hold them by the hand. When the truth finally had sunk in, they would be overwhelmed. How would they survive on their own? They couldn’t!