A CHURCH AT PRAYER
The eleven surviving Apostles had just been told that they would be ‘baptised with the Holy Ghost not many days from now’ (Acts 1:5). Now they were asking the risen Lord Jesus, “will you now restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). They were asking, in effect, ‘are we there yet?’
Jesus had previously taught that ‘no man knows the day or the hour’ of God’s purposes - ‘not even the Son’ (Mark 13:32). They seemed oblivious to the fact that ‘The secret things belong to the LORD our God’ (Deuteronomy 29:29). Jesus had to remind them, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father has put in His own authority” (Acts 1:7).
“But you shall receive power after the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (Acts 1:8). The “you” is plural, embracing the whole group. God’s way forward is not by the overthrow of the Romans in another Maccabean revolt, but through the witness of the church to the ends of the earth, and to the end of the age (whenever that may be).
It was at this point that the newly commissioned witnesses saw Jesus “taken up: and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). The cloud had been present at the mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:34-35); and reminds us of the Shekinah glory of the LORD which led the children of Israel through the wilderness, appeared on Mount Sinai, and which occasionally ‘filled’ the tabernacle and the Temple. Angels appeared beside the Apostles, and gently drew their attention away from their sky-watching stance with the reassurance that “this same Jesus shall come (again) as you have seen Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:10-11).
Drawn away from their sky-gazing, and in obedience to Jesus’ earlier instructions (Acts 1:4), the Apostolic band made their way back to Jerusalem (Acts 1:12). There they entered the upper room - perhaps the same room as that in which Jesus had instituted the Lord’s Supper, and perhaps the same as is associated elsewhere with John Mark’s mother. Luke takes the trouble to name the surviving Apostles at this point of church inauguration (Acts 1:13).
It is significant that Mary, the mother of Jesus was there, along with His brethren. His brethren had not always believed, so perhaps it was Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance to his brother James that changed all that (1 Corinthians 15:7). Their joining together was with singleness of mind, and with persevering prayer (Acts 1:14).
A church at prayer is a church soon-to-be-empowered.