While posing for these pictures and feeling my all-too-light purse carelessly dangling at my side, I realized that my Bible was still in our car and we had to make a mad dash to get it before the service started! Just another hustle-and-bustle Sunday morning, am I right?
Watch the Sermon This Post is Based on Here:
Read the Scripture:
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he had said this, he was taken up as they were watching, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going, they were gazing into heaven, and suddenly two men in white clothes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen him going into heaven.” Acts 1:6-11 CSB
The book of Acts is inarguably the greatest sequel of all time. The best stories in the world should always leave us wanting more, and the story of Jesus Christ, of miracle after miracle, does just that. Even the disciples were wondering what would come next after the wonder of the Resurrection. So, we were given the book of Acts, the most action-packed follow-up to an already groundbreaking (literally) original.
Around this time of year, we tend to focus solely on the Easter holiday and the many celebrations that occur concurrently with it. It's sort of like Christmas in a way; we spend weeks talking about it, planning for it, picking out our outfits for Easter Sunday, taking family pictures, making a traditional meal and... Then what? The decorations come down, get stowed away, and we move on with our lives as if we aren't living in the aftermath of a miracle?
That may be what comes next naturally in our society, but it's actually very counterintuitive. The celebration of Easter is the celebration of the biggest possible victory. What normally happens when we experience a victory? Some examples that immediately come to my mind are the hoots and hollers of happy bystanders on Super Bowl Sunday; the buzz of D-Day; the pictures of people celebrating in the streets after WWII; someone excitedly blowing out the candles on the birthday cake after another good year; the little ways my husband and I have celebrated his promotions at work by having special dinners; the party I had after my debut novel came out.
The list goes on and on, but sports victories, work victories, everyday victories can't even compare to the victory we have in Christ! In His resurrection, have experienced an enormous victory, but we aren't always as eager to celebrate it, share it, and shout about it from the rooftops as we are with other victories. We are so often too quick to move on to the next thing, but the thing about Acts is that it is a story of what happens after a victory and about what happens when you commit to celebrate.
The disciples were very eager to know what was coming next. They were thrilled about what they'd seen and the resurrection filled them with energy. Their first question was, "Are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?" (CSB). This was in reference to the coming of the kingdom of God. At this time, their understanding was still that Jesus' main goal was to establish His kingdom in their lifetime. Let's be honest, how many of us have ever flipped to the back of the book to see how it ended? Looked up spoilers for a movie or a TV show because you just couldn't wait to find out what would happen? I know I have. That's sort of like what the disciples were asking.
But Jesus said to them in more or less words that His resurrection wasn't their final victory. It was just one piece in God's much larger plan to bring His kingdom not just to Israel, but to the entire world. Jesus Himself said in John 8:12, "I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life" (CSB). Anyone. Jesus replied to the disciples question in Acts 1, "It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (CSB). That was when they were given their mission, the mission to celebrate, that would turn into one of the greatest adventure stories in the Bible.
I consider this another one of God's "Now go!" moments (meaning, moments throughout Scripture when God tells us/his people/specific figures to GO and get His work done). At this point, Jesus is telling the disciples to go and get His work done. At this point, Jesus was telling His disciples to focus on celebrating the victory at hand, and to get to work on sharing that news. The kingdom of God was coming, but it wasn't coming right away. Furthermore, it wasn't just coming to Israel. It was coming to Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Rather than jumping ahead, taking down the decorations, and resetting the store displays for the next holiday, Jesus was telling His disciples in verses 6-7 to celebrate the current victory. To not lose sight of how amazing this is, this victory of Easter that we must still be celebrating today. That's what it means to be a witness—to be continually celebrating and proclaiming that victory.
We are living in the aftermath of the resurrection, in the aftermath of that victory, but are we still celebrating it daily? The same commission that applied to the original believers applies to us also. We, the people who believe in Jesus are the people He wants to use to further His kingdom. Matthew 28:18-20 tells us, "Jesus came near and said to them, 'All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age'" (CSB).
Now, I know that can be frightening. I know that's nerve-wracking and scary. That calling is full of questions like: what will people think? What will people say? How can I celebrate? How can... someone like me be used to further God's kingdom? What is my role in all of this, and can't I just lead a "normal" life?
Remember that in addition to that command, God also gave us the covenant of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will help us and guide us. Romans 8:14-17 tells us, "For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father!' The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him" (CSB). Each of us has a story to tell, and by telling that story, we can become a piece of somebody else's story of how they came to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. Galatians 5:25 tells us, "If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit" (CSB). The promise of the Holy Spirit will give us everything we will ever need to be His witnesses, and will be the answers to all of our "What happens next?" questions if we commit to following its leading.
With a victory like this, we have to proclaim it. Each of us has to be a witness because of Jesus. Because of what He did on the cross, and what He did in the tomb. The chains are broken. This is no ordinary victory. It quite literally changes the world. So how will you start being a witness? How will you celebrate?
This is the day the Lord has made; rejoice and be glad in it.
If you're wondering what happened after the Resurrection, read the book of Acts, the greatest sequel of all time, and know that the story of Easter doesn't begin and end on Resurrection Sunday. The rest of the story is still being written.