Someone is coming…..
Why doesn’t God step in and do something?
It’s what we hear often when people are suffering. Or expressed in the other way, the way which drains us of all hope ‘if God really existed he would not have allowed this to happen’.
It is the question ‘when’ ‘When God will you step in and restore justice, stop the wars, free the captives, heal the injured and stop the evil in the world?’
Its the same question that the disciples were asking of the Risen Christ in this first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles: ‘Lord is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ ‘Is this when you will take away our suffering our suffering at the hands of the Romans?’ Is it now?
They had good reason to be asking that question. They had had the incredible three years of Jesus’ ministry: the sick were healed; the blind had their sight restored; the lepers were cleansed.
He had taught the most incredible teaching that the world had ever known, with authority way beyond that of their religious people; way beyond that of their leaders.
What an incredible leader! What a wonderful teacher!
Of course, he was also saying slightly odd things about someone called ‘the son of man’ being raised from the dead after three days, but they could not understand this at the time…
And then the religious people and the Romans captured him flogged him and put him to death on a cross.
The disciples scattered. Terrified they took refuge in an upper room and barred the door. This seemed to be really the end. Jesus had turned out to be just another charismatic leader who had come a-cropper when the Romans wanted to let people know who was boss. A wonderful leader, but a dead one now like many charismatic religious leaders of the time. He was dead and everyone, including the disciples, expected that it would now be over.
But then their women described an empty tomb and an encounter with the risen Christ. Then they met him themselves and there was a wonderful period when they knew that Jesus was not just a religious leader but was actually then Son of God. He had been restored to life by God and that everything that he had ever said had the endorsement of the Creator of the universe: That it was truth, a more fundamental truth than any human knowledge; than the works of the Greek philosophers; than the wisdom of science.
And he was with them: the death defying, authority overcoming, wonderful loving friend that they had got to know. He wasn’t just a ghost: he gave them (verse 3) ‘many convincing proofs’ that he was actually alive, resurrected physically….extraordinary!
But now surely the kingdom would be restored. Now surely, Israel’s suffering would be brought to an end!
But Jesus said to the disciples as he says to us….verse 7 ‘it is not for you to know the timeor the times that the Father has set by his own authority’. We don’t get to knowwhen the suffering of the world will be over.
But we have a task to do in the interim while we wait for Jesus to return again. We are to be his witnesses, all over the world. In our community, amongst our friends, we are to be his witnesses.
We are to be his witnesses by how we live, by what we say by what we email even….by the way that we treat our neighbours (and as a prison governor said at the Leadership Conference we went to earlier this week ‘every encounter matters’, every single time we engage with our neighbours, matters) and in the way we speak of Jesus, the way we speak of the hope in our lives.
Its not for us to know the time when God will step in to take away suffering, when Jesus will return but we have a task to perform while we are waiting, while we are suffering, while we are free from suffering….
And we have a friend to help us: we have the Holy Spirit poured out on the disciples at Pentecost; poured out on us now enabling us to do things that we cannot do in our own strength; that we cannot do by ourselves because of our weakness of character, perhaps because of the way that we have been damaged by our experiences as we grew up.
We have the Holy Spirit to help us to change: we don’t have to do it alone!
Someone is coming!
He is the Holy Spirit
Come Holy Spirit; change us; change the world
The Promise of the Holy Spirit
1In 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.”
The Ascension of Jesus
(Mk 16:19–20; Lk 24:50–53)
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.”