After the resurrection of Jesus Christ, He met with His followers to say goodbye before He ascended to heaven. At this meeting on the side of a mountain, He gave them some clear instructions to follow: they were to be His witnesses in their local community, throughout the region, and to the ends of the earth. He really believed that His followers could change the world.
In Acts 1:4-11, you will notice three key words:
Read Acts 1:4-11 (HCSB)
4 While He was together with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. “This,” ⌊He said, “is what⌋ you heard from Me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked Him, “Lord, are You restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority.8 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.”
9 After He had said this, He was taken up as they were watching, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. 10 While He was going, they were gazing into heaven, and suddenly two men in white clothes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven.”
Waiting on God is not a bad thing; it is a good thing. In America, we don’t like to wait – for anything or anyone! Movies-on-demand, microwave dinners, download the book to your Kindle or ipad… we don’t want to wait for anything. But, sometimes it is good to wait.
The word translated “wait” in Acts 1:4 is not a passive word, however. It is an active word. The biblical idea is that while you are waiting, you are preparing, collecting, getting ready for what happens next. Sometimes in the Bible, the word is translated “remain” rather than “wait.” Listen to Jesus’ words in John 15:5.
John 15:5 (HCSB)
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.
Did you see it? The one who remains in Him (the one who waits on Him) will produce much spiritual fruit, because without Him you can do nothing. So during your waiting time, keep reading the Bible, keep praying, keep collecting mental, spiritual, physical and emotional strength for the journey to come.
Looking up into heaven is a good thing. When we gaze at the clouds and the sun and the stars, we are reminded of the grandeur of God. We are reminded that He is big! And we are reminded that He is the in-charge creator of all things.
But if we only look up, we may miss the work that is to be done on earth. When the men-in-white talk to the disciples in Acts 1:9-11, they are essentially saying, “Move along boys, there is work to be done. Don’t forget what you just saw – because He’s coming back the same way. But get to work doing what He told you to do.”
It is good to watch for Jesus’ return. We are to be looking forward to it, expecting it at any moment. Listen to Jesus’ words in Mark 13.
Mark 13:33 (HCSB)
33 Watch! Be alert! For you don’t know when the time is ⌊coming⌋.
However as followers of Christ we are to be His witnesses, not just His watchers. So, yes, pray. Yes, gaze into heaven. But don’t just retreat to a mountain and stay there forever. Come down off the mountain and get to work telling people the good news of Jesus.
Jesus tells His disciples to be His witnesses in four locations:
- The ends of the earth
These locations teach us where we are to be His witnesses:
- Jerusalem – the area where we live
- Judea – our region
- Samaria – a nearby region that is culturally a bit different than ours
- The ends of the earth – all over the planet
Jesus tells us that He empowers us to be His witnesses (read Acts 1:8 again). And He tells us that we are HIS witnesses, not just witnesses of our church, denomination, or nation.
Furthermore, if you read Acts 1:8 closely, you will notice that Jesus tells His followers to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea AND Samaria, AND to the ends of the earth. He doesn’t say be His witnesses in Jerusalem THEN be His witnesses in other places. He directs us to be intentionally part of reaching out to all of those four locations at the same time. How? By praying for missions, by giving to support missionaries, and by going on missions yourself.
Sometimes we travel to other areas and even into our own community on intentional mission trips. Sometimes the Lord sends us places on vacations, business trips, relocations, displacements, and more.
Take a few minutes and think about and answer these questions:
- How do you “wait” on the Lord?
- What is the value of “watching” and keeping your focus on heaven?
- How can “watching” become an end to itself and keep you from other things the Lord would want you to do?
- What are some specific ways that you can be a witness for Christ in each of the four locations mentioned in Acts 1:8?
PRAYER: God, use ALL of your children to be Your witnesses from our local communities to the ends of the earth. Let us wait on you, watch for you, and be a witness for you. Help us to tell the world that Jesus died and rose again, and that He offers forgiveness of sin, salvation, a new life here on earth, and eternity in heaven!