Summary: Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus has provided the church everything we need to accomplish His Will in this world.
How many of you here this morning have had someone close to you die? (raise hands) I don’t think there is another crisis in life quite like that one. When someone that you have spent your life with is taken away from you, there is a tremendous void, a gaping hole that for the rest of your life will never be completely filled. The pain of that separation might ease a bit over the course of time, but it never completely goes away. And the truth of the matter is, the more of your life that was invested in that other person, the bigger the hole and the greater the pain. Do you know what I’m saying?
When you read through the gospel accounts of Jesus and the time He spent with his disciples, you get a very real sense of how heavily invested in Him they were. They let Him turn their lives upside down. They left their businesses and their homes. They severed ties with their families and friends in order to follow Him. They invested their entire lives in Him. But in a rapid sequence of events, Jesus, the one they had so completely invested themselves in, was gone. They watched as He was tried, convicted, and hung on a cross. Even though He had told them it was going to happen, I think it is impossible to completely grasp how devastating that must have been. It has been said that the fundamental crisis of the first century church was how to deal with the departure of her leader. What do you do when someone your life is completely invested in is no longer there? (Pause)
Even after the resurrection, Jesus certainly wasn’t around much. In the contemporary church we celebrate Easter as if it solved everything, and in the big picture it does. But in the day to day routine of the disciples, their lives were radically different. An appearance to the women at the tomb, a brief appearance on the road to Emmaus, a couple of appearances in the upper room to the disciples, a few random appearances to larger groups but always a week apart. Realize how it must have been for those first disciples. For three years they enjoyed a daily, hourly, moment by moment chance to ask Jesus a question or share a laugh with him. For weeks after the resur-rection they must have hoped for a glimpse of Him, anxious to ask Him the questions on their mind. We don’t know much about what went on during that time, but in the opening verses of the book of Acts we get a brief look at it.
(Read Acts 1:1-11)
Somebody said that these first verses of Acts are kind of like the time between lightning and thunder. You know what I mean, that time between the flash in the sky and the peal of thunder that results. Jesus’ resurrection was the strike of lightning, that moment when God acted in a powerful way to raise Jesus from the dead. Those three days, the days of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus are the central point of all history. But after that strike of lightning there was a pause, 50 days between Passover and Pentecost. On the day of Pentecost all heaven broke loose and the church was born. The apostles spoke in all sorts of languages, 3,000 people responded to the invitation and were baptized. Since that day, the peals of thunder have been rolling across the globe. Do you understand that we are living in the days that those apostles were anticipating? We are so fortunate as to live in the time when Jesus is doing His work through us! Jesus’ ministry to the world is going on through us, His church (Notice v. 1 “began”).
Contained in these first few verses of Acts, I want you to notice what Jesus promised for those days when the thunder rolls. You see, the reality that the book of Acts is going to point out to us is that no matter what the world believes, and no matter how difficult things might get, the Church is unstoppable. Local churches will come and go, dynamic leaders will rise and fall, but the Church, the group of believers who are following the living Christ and willing to live by faith, there is no end to that group of people. The reason isn’t because we are so powerful or influential, but because the God who controls the history of the world has provided the church with everything we need to accomplish His Will. Notice the tools that the church has been given.
Just hours before His death on the cross, Jesus sat down with His apostles and prepared them for the fact that He would soon not be with them physically. But in the 14th chapter of John, He told them that he wouldn’t leave them alone. He would give them the Holy Spirit to be their constant companion. The Holy Spirit, Jesus said, would guide the church into all truth, would provide direction for the work that Jesus wanted done. Here in the book of Acts once again we see Jesus telling the disciples “Wait for the Holy Spirit, and once He comes there is a big job for you to do, tell the whole world about me.”