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Acts 1:1-1:11
Key Verse: 1:8

The Bible today’s passage is unique. This is about what Jesus did during the period of forty days between his resurrection and his ascension. It is a short passage with eleven verses, but the contents are so big, including his suffering, resurrection, the kingdom of God, the Holy Spirit and his coming back. These are essentials of Christianity. May we especially accept Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit and power.

First, the assurance of Jesus’ resurrection and the kingdom of God (1-3). Look at verses 1 and 2. “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.” The gospel of Luke is the record of Jesus’ messianic ministry on earth. It is the record of three years of Jesus’ public ministry of teaching. The story is forever beautiful containing Jesus’ humble birth, healing of all kinds of sick people, preaching the kingdom of God, and his death on the cross and his resurrection. This is the beginning of Jesus’ whole ministry, which continued in Acts and has been going on up present age.

In Luke’s gospel, just before his ascension he said to his disciples, “…repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:47-49). This promise was given by Jesus through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. This promise is reiterated in this passage of Acts.

Look at verse 3a. “After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.” Jesus’ resurrection was so new in history with no precedent and so significant that he gave many convincing proofs for it. The resurrection of Jesus is hard for anyone to believe. The tomb had been the final destination of all people on earth. But Jesus rose again from the dead. Although it was a fact, it was not easy for people to believe the resurrection of Jesus. So Jesus made every effort to convince them that he was indeed alive. He appeared to them in his resurrected body again and again. And he showed his nail marks in his hands and his wounded side (Jn 20:17). He also ate a piece of broiled fish in their presence, proving that he was not a ghost which has no flesh and bones. One time he appeared to more than five hundred of brothers at the same time. On top of the physical proof of his being alive, he showed his unchanging and unfailing love for them. He visited his failed disciples in the Sea of Galilee and particularly helped Peter to restore from his failed life through a great catch of fish and make a new confession of love, and reinstated him as a shepherd of God’s flock of sheep.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundation of Christianity. He suffered and died for our sins and rose again from the dead. Christ’s resurrection is victory over sin and death and Satan and all evil power. Through his resurrection we are assured that our sins are forgiven, death is conquered, Satan’s head is crushed, and victory over all evil power is guaranteed. Because of his resurrection we can be certain that the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of Christ and he will reign for ever and ever (Rev 11:15).

The fact of Jesus’ resurrection was so frightening to the enemies of God that they fabricated a story on the very day of his resurrection that the disciples stole the dead body of Jesus, and spread the lie paying a large sum money for advertising. The battle between the truth of Christ’s resurrection and the falsity has been going on up to this present time. But we cannot lose this battle because we have ample proof of his resurrection in the Bible; in addition the Risen Jesus in our hearts speaks to us each day.

Through his death and resurrection Christ Jesus opened the door to the kingdom of God. Look at verse 3b. “He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” We know that when Jesus came to this world, his first message was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Mt 4:17). Now he would soon go back to the kingdom of God. In those times he could have said of many other things to his apostles whom he had chosen, but for forty days he spoke about the kingdom of God. Why forty days? Forty days is quite a long time. Why did he speak about the kingdom of God constantly such many days? It is because the kingdom of God is so real and because believing and knowing the kingdom of God is so crucial in the lives of his people on earth. The resurrection of Jesus and the kingdom of God cannot be separated. We have a living hope of the kingdom of God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This world and all things in it are perishable and will be gone in a matter of time. But the kingdom of God can never perish, spoil and fade. It is kept for you and me (1 Peter 1:3,4). This is the home of righteousness, the home of those who have been redeemed through Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:13).

In this part we should remember that Jesus gave many convincing proofs of his being alive and spoke about the kingdom of God for forty days.

Second, the promise of the power from the Holy Spirit (4-9). Look at verses 4,5. “On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’” Here we see the Holy Spirit is the gift from the Father in heaven. Parents are eager to give precious gifts to their children. The gift of the Holy Spirit will be given to those who wait for it. John baptized with water those who repented of their sins, turning from this world to God. The baptism of the Holy Spirit comes from Jesus (Lk 3:16).

How did the apostles respond to this command of Jesus? Did they say, “Yes, Lord, we will wait for the gift. We are excited to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” No. They said of something quite different. They seemed to be going in a different direction. Look at verse 6. “So when they met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” They connected their baptism of the Holy Spirit with the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. Their question showed that the kingdom of Israel occupied their minds, not the kingdom of God. Still, they wanted to defeat the kingdom of Rome and stand above it. The kingdom of Israel represents all earthly kingdoms, and the battle among them has been ongoing throughout history with constant blood-fighting. Also, each individual has an unceasing desire to establish his or her own kingdom in this world. The disciples’ response looked so discouraging.

What did Jesus say to them? Look at verse 7. “He said them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” Jesus wanted them to entrust the matter of Israel’s kingdom to God the Father, who is sovereign. Jesus knew that they were thirsty for power. Jesus wanted them to be truly powerful. So he gave them this promise concerning the Holy Spirit. Look at verse 8. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” They will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on them. The power Jesus talked about would not come from within themselves. The power would not rely on what kind people they were. The power would be irrelevant of their human conditions and present situations. The source of this power is from another, not from any other human being but from the Holy Spirit. We recognize that all people are hungry for power, physical power, the power of beauty, the power of wealth, the power of position, the power of knowledge, the power of technology, political power, the power of military force, etc. These powers influence others in a good way or bad way. At that time, it seemed that Rome would rule the world forever. Such power was too overwhelming for the disciples.

Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” The power of the Holy Spirit is different from all human powers. Through the coming of the Holy Spirit they would be clothed with the power. In the gospel story Peter was depicted as one who spoke loud but acted like a coward. He said to Jesus, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will...I am ready to go with you to prison and to death” (Mt 26:33; Lk 22:33). However, when Jesus was on trial, he denied Jesus, saying, “I don’t’ know him,” three times consecutively that night, even before a servant girl. When Jesus needed his help most, he could not offer it to the Lord. He was miserable because of fear of losing his life. But in Acts, when the Holy Spirit came upon him, he was not a cowardly Peter anymore. He became courageous Peter. When the Jewish authorities threatened Peter and John not to speak in the name of Jesus, they said, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:18-20). Peter the Coward became Peter the Great. They were astonished by their courage, the courage of the unschooled, ordinary men. When Peter preached, three thousand people repented. The power of the Holy Spirit worked through him.

No human power can overcome the power of evil spirits. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can prevail over the evil powers. Paul said in Ephesians 6:11, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” This is the reason Jesus wants us to be equipped with the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul also said in 2 Corinthians 10:4,5, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” We need the power of the Holy Spirit to demolish all humanistic teachings that are against the knowledge of God and to make every thought to be obedient to Christ.

Look at verse 8 again. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The point of receiving the power of the Holy Spirit is to become witnesses of Jesus, bringing the message of Jesus’ resurrection and the kingdom of God. Humanly speaking, at that time they would not be witnesses of Jesus even in Jerusalem. But Peter was martyred in Rome as he witnessed for Jesus to the end. Through the witnesses of Jesus the gospel of Jesus was carried from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. It was a gradual expansion of the kingdom of God. As for us, we can be witnesses of Jesus beginning within the place where we are and praying for the gospel being preached to all nations including Moslem countries. Thank God that this summer Paulina went to Kyrgyzstan and shared the gospel with some Muslim students there. God wants us to be his faithful witnesses for the gospel of Jesus and be ready to stay or go as witnesses of Jesus according to his direction. And the kingdom of God will come when we become faithful witnesses of Jesus.

When we think about the power of the Holy Spirit, it is easy to assume that the power is only for some special servants of God. It is true that Jesus’ promise of Acts 1:8 was originally given to the apostles. But when the Holy Spirit indeed came upon them, Peter realized that it was the fulfillment of the prophecy in the Old Testament in Joel. He cited the words of Joel 2:28-32, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy…” And when we carefully study the Bible, we learn that the power of the Holy Spirit is for all Christians. Ephesians 5:18 says, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit.” While others get drunk on wine, Jesus’ people should be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is God’s command. Jesus said in Luke 11:11-13, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven, give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” May we claim Acts 1:8, the promise of Jesus, until it becomes true in our lives.

Third, the promise of Jesus’ coming back (9-11). Look at verse 9. “After he said this, he was taken up before their eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.” He could not be taken up until he could say this. The promise of the Holy Spirit was truly his last word during his stay on the earth. Then he was taken up before their eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. It was a cloudy day. There is an emphasis of their eyes and sight, “before their eyes,” and “from their sight.” They could clearly see how he was taken up and how he disappeared. We don’t know the speed of his being taken up, whether like balloon or rocket. Anyway, the law of gravity did not work. The gravity of heaven was stronger than the gravity of the earth.

Look at verses 10,11. “They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’” Here there is continuous emphasis in these short three verses (9-11) of their looking or seeing Jesus’ being taken up into heaven or sky. Jesus’ ascension is a historical fact clearly seen by the apostles. Although Jesus was hidden in the cloud, they were looking intently up into the sky. We don’t know how long they looked up into the sky, maybe 20 or 30 minutes. They probably looked really pathetic. Then suddenly two men dressed in white appeared to them and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? You don’t have neck pain, do you? Take care of your neck. And it is wasting a time to just look into the sky in fantasy.” They added, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” He did not go to other planets. He went to heaven (sky or heaven is written 5 times in this passage). And he will come back in the same way he had gone to heaven. What an amazing promise! Who could give such a promise? Only God, who is sovereign Ruler of all, can give through his angels. He is the Alpha and the Omega (Rev 1:8).

Believing his resurrection and the kingdom of God and waiting for his coming again, what can we do? Jesus wants us to have the power of the Holy Spirit and become his witnesses for his kingdom.

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