Listening to Acts 1

Sermon for Sunday, 011109

Acts 1:1 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have 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, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set 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, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. 13 When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.
 
Things that stand out for me:
4 While staying with them – Several translations, including NIV & NLT, phrase this as a meal time probably in the upper room in Jerusalem?
 
4 …the promise of the Father….  5 …baptized with the Holy Spirit…. 8 … you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” — In the gospels, this power is that which flows through Jesus to accomplish miracles, including that wonderful story of the woman reaching out and touching the hem of Jesus’ robe (Luke 8) as well as given by Jesus to the disciples (the 12 and the 70) when they go out on their mission work (Luke 9 & 10). That which enabled Jesus to move and teach and do his ministry with such humble authority and power will come upon the disciples – how wonderfully frightening that must have been.
 
13 …. they went back to the upper room – a place of familiarity, comfort, security, as well as the place they had known the Lord’s powerful and prayerful presence with them.
 
14 All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer…. — Some translations read that they were constantly together, which is not actually what the Greek manuscripts suggest. Rather, that they were constantly unified in their prayer efforts, wherever they were. Often, of course, they were together, as this particular scene, and the two that follow, suggest. The upper room was quickly outgrown, so that they met together in some courtyard or other outside gathering place, and on Pentecost Day (Acts 2) which was the Jewish Spring Harvest Festival, they were together near a public place such as the market outside the Temple, perhaps? But that’s for next week.
 
One of the questions Andrew asked us to consider on Wednesday – “What do the disciples talk about as they travel from the Mt. of Olives to Jerusalem?”
 
Other questions I ask of myself:  What stirs in your heart as you think about this story? What might God be inviting you into as you wait for God’s next big move in your life? What does it mean to be of one accord in prayer? How do we enter into that and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us even there?
 
I look forward to what the Lord might speak to us together.

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