“Once when He was eating with them, He commanded them, ‘Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift He promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking Him, ‘Lord, has the time come for You to free Israel and restore our kingdom?’ He replied, ‘The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be My witnesses, telling people about Me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After saying this, He was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see Him.” Acts 1:4-9 (NLT)
The disciples must have lived between wonder and awe over those forty days after Jesus rose from the dead! Each one of the eleven post-resurrection appearances of Jesus solidified their faith and excitement over the anticipation of the coming Kingdom that Jesus promised. When would it happen? When would Israel reclaim their glory days and no longer live under the siege of Roman rule in their own land? When would Jesus reveal Himself to the world as the Messiah they knew Him to be? They thought that, surely, it would be soon. But, they also thought that even before His death and resurrection. Their timetable and God’s were never the same. Jesus told them,
“The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know.”
Not knowing God’s timetable enables us to live in expectation that He could return at any time! It could even be while you are reading this blog! If we knew exactly when Jesus would return, we wouldn’t walk by faith. We would be tempted to wait until the last minute to repent and miss the sheer adventure of sharing that life with Him here on earth that we will share with Him forever in Heaven! How often our timetable and God’s are different! We get in such a hurry while God is patient. Just like the disciples, we want it now!
Why does God wait? Years later, one of those disciples, gathered there among the others at the ascension of Christ, would reveal the answer. Peter wrote,
“The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” (2 Peter 3:9 NLT)
Aren’t you glad that Jesus didn’t establish His kingdom on earth back then? Aren’t you glad that Jesus is patient and waited, giving you time to repent and turn to Him? God always has a purpose in His timing. God’s timing is perfect! He is never late and never early! He is always right on time! The Bible tells us “In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son….” And, in the fullness of time, He will return as the angel said, just as you have seen Him go!
Rather than waiting around aimlessly for His return, He told His disciples not to leave Jerusalem until the Father sent them the gift He promised, the coming gift of the Holy Spirit who would empower them to be His witnesses! Then, as if His bodily resurrection wasn’t enough, Jesus was taken up into a cloud of glory while they were standing there watching until they could no longer see Him! Wow! Talk about wonder and awe! Just as they were straining to see Him ascend higher into the clouds, Luke tells us that two men in white robes suddenly appeared and said,
“Men of Galilee, why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday He will return from heaven in the same way you saw Him go!” (Acts 1:11 NLT)
I can’t imagine what these guys must have been thinking as they walked back to Jerusalem after that. What an encounter with Christ! What would they do now? Exactly what Jesus told them to do! Stay in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit. At the time, they had no idea how long they were to wait. We know, now, that the promise would be fulfilled ten days later on the day of Pentecost. Until then, they were to wait and pray. We don’t know God’s timetable for us. But, just like these disciples, we’ve been given a commission to fulfill and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are His witnesses today!