A Sermon Preached at the ACK St. James Church – Buruburu on Sunday 28th May, 2017 during the first Service (Kiswahili Holy Communion).
- Psalm 68:1-10
- Acts 1:6-14
- 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
- John 17:1-11
On Thursday, this week ending, we celebrated the Ascension Day; the day we remember the ascension of Christ into heaven. Today’s passages of Acts 1:6-14 and the gospel of John 17:1-11, gives us a recap of the event while 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11 focuses on life after the Ascension and the implications of the work Jesus commissioned the believers to do.
The crucial questions which we must grapple with after the Day of the Ascension are: what happens after the departure of Christ from the earth – with his physical presence? How was life going to be with the disciples in the absence of Christ? Luke tells us that:
Acts 1:10-11 “10They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “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.”
The disciples received comfort from the two men dressed in white; whom we can guess were angels. After the comforting words of the angels, the disciples returned to Jerusalem. There are three things to learn from Acts 1:6-14
- The Disciples’ Lack of Understanding
For three and half years that Jesus was with His disciples, it seems that the disciples followed Christ with the sole expectation that Christ will fulfil the Messianic expectation in a political manner; that is, to politically defeat the political power of the then colonising Romans and restore the kingdom to the Israelites – granting them independence from the Roman dominion:
Acts 1:6 “So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
For the disciples, now that prophesies about the suffering of Christ were fulfilled, the new promises of the kingdom of God to be established could now begin. Hence “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
The disciples might have been disappointed, that after leaving their professions and followed Jesus for about three and half years, He was just leaving them unceremoniously, without promotions and powerful posts. They had waited or thought that when Jesus will politically defeat the Romans, they will be at the centre of the new kingdom of Israel. The disciples had positioned themselves to be at the centre of the independent Israel. Yet they failed to understand that Jesus’ mission on earth was first and foremost a religious revival; the Messianic expectation was more of priestly as opposed to political.
Therefore, as the disciples looked up as Jesus disappeared into the sky, their hearts must have been very heavy; seeing Him go with all their hopes and expectations was too much to bear.
- The Promised Holy Spirit for Missions
The final charge or commissioning which Jesus had given His disciples was world evangelism. This world evangelism mandate was modelled to the promise given to Abraham that through him, the nations of the world will be blessed:
Genesis 12:3 “3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
However, in order to embark on the world evangelism, they needed the empowerment from the Holy Spirit.
Acts 1:8 “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.”
Without the Holy Spirit, the disciples were just a mixed up religious people with lack of understanding for spiritual matters. However, with the Holy Spirit, they will be revolutionised and empowered for the world evangelism.
Jesus’ final words to the disciples came as a commission outlined by geographical parameters. They will need the power:
- First to be bold enough to start from where their Master was crucified, in Jerusalem.
The first leg of the mission activity in Jerusalem would not be easy but required men and women who have been empowered and revolutionised by the Holy Spirit. In Jerusalem they could remember how the Jews treated their Master; in Jerusalem they could remember that they, themselves deserted their Master for the fear of the Jews who had arrested their Master. How could they succeed in the first leg of their evangelistic work in Jerusalem without the power and boldness from the Holy Spirit?
The second leg of the missionary activity was to take them to Judea, where the other Jews lived. The third leg of world evangelism would take the disciples to the region of the Samaritans; the mixed race of the Jews and Assyrians. How could they move against the barrier of hostility that existed between the Jews and the Samaritans without the enabling power of the Holy Spirit? The barrier between the Samaritans and the Jews was based on the religious, political and ethnic / race differences.
- Secondly the disciples would need the power for the third leg of the world evangelism which will enable them move outside the borders of Israel to the ends of the earth; to counter other cultures.
When the gospel goes beyond the Christian boundaries, it encounters conflicting or opposing cultures and beliefs. The disciples needed power to help move the new movement from outside Palestine to regions beyond the boundaries of Palestine / Israel.
- The Waiting for the Holy Spirit.
The disciples had been told to go and wait. The waiting, from the Ascension Day to the Day of Pentecost would take ten days. Luke tells us that the disciples returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives and:
Acts 1:13-14 “13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
From Ascension Day to Pentecost Day, there is the waiting period; a period of ten days. The waiting period requires:
- Constant prayers
Sunday after Ascension Day, 2017
The Rev. Simon J. Oriedo
Curate at ACK St. James’ Buruburu
P.O. Box 14814 – 00100, Nairobi Kenya
Mobile: +254 – 722 838 023 / 772 838 023 / 735 62 11 72 / 752660620