You Will Be My Witnesses

Acts 18 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Acts 1:1–11 (ESV)

1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “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, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Yesterday, we finished our look at the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts. However, there are a few more verses that tell us about Jesus’ final days on earth. We find that information recorded in the first chapter of the Book of Acts.

Acts is the second book written by Luke, which is why he begins in the first verse saying, “In the first book.” Jesus had told his disciples that when he departed that he would send the Holy Spirit to them. Therefore, they were not to depart Jerusalem until that had taken place. They were called to be witnesses throughout the world, but they would not be properly equipped until the Spirit had come.

In the last moments of Jesus’ time on earth, the disciples were still confused over Jesus as the Messiah. They asked him if it was not time for him to set up his kingdom. After all, Jesus had been through so much. It must finally be time! Jesus’ response is one that we need to hear today also. He told the disciples, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The disciples were wondering about the future and the timing of the end. Jesus told them not to concern themselves with such things. God did not intend for them to know the details of such. Instead, they needed to concentrate on what they had been called to do. They were to be witnesses. They were to go into the world, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and proclaim the gospel. That is our task as well. We must not let other things distract us from the main task at hand. The world is lost and in need of Christ. We are the ones who are called and equipped to carry the message of salvation to all.

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The Ongoing Influence of Jesus

Luke 2452–53 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 24:50–53 (ESV)

50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

Understanding and Applying the Word

With today’s reading, we come to the end of our time reading through the life of Jesus Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts. After Jesus’ resurrection he spent forty days on earth revealing himself to different individuals and groups and making final preparations for the future of his followers. At the end of those forty days, Jesus departed and ascended into heaven.

We might think that with Jesus no longer in the world that his teaching and influence would fade and disappear. However, nothing could be further from the truth. After Jesus’ departure, his fame and influence spread quickly. His original followers went throughout the known world proclaiming all they had seen and heard and many believed. Even today, the name of Jesus is known and discussed throughout the world. There are many who still hear the news about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and believe. It is amazing to think how influential Jesus has been on our world. There is none like him!

The Bible tells us that those who hear the news about Jesus, repent of their sins, and turn to Jesus in faith, will be saved and have eternal life. He came into the world to give his life as a sacrifice for sin. He died. He was buried. And he rose from the dead in victory over sin and death. That is the Good News. He came to save us. Have you trusted in him?

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I Have Seen the Lord

John 2018 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 20:11–18 (ESV)

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Mary stood weeping at the tomb wondering where Jesus’ body had gone. She was in such distress that she did not even notice the presence of angels. When they spoke to her, she simply answered without regard to the fact that they were heavenly beings. Then Jesus spoke to Mary, but she failed to recognize him also, thinking he was the gardener. Mary was in deep grief over the death of Jesus and now the disappearance of his body. She was unable to really see what was going on around her.

Jesus then said, “Mary.” At that point, she recognized Jesus and responded, “Rabboni!” In English, she said, “My Teacher!” Jesus was risen and was standing before her! Her grief was turned from sorrow to joy. Surely Jesus would be with her from now on. However, Jesus told her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.” Jesus was with her now, but it would only be temporary. He would soon ascend to heaven and the Holy Spirit would be poured out in his absence. Things were changing. Now was the time to gather the disciples and let them know that Jesus was risen and that he would soon be departing and they would take the message of the resurrection to the world.

Jesus’ ascension marked a major change in how God works in and through his people. Christ had been physically present with his people, but now he would soon be gone. In his place, the Holy Spirit would be with the people of God to empower them as witnesses and to lead them into all truth. This means that you and I, fellow Christian, have this same Spirit working in us as we live in this world. And this means we are equipped for everything that God has called us to do, which is centered on proclaiming the Good News that Jesus is alive again!

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