- Rev Peter Chan (BPCEC)
Asking the Wrong Question
Reflection on Acts 1:1-11
1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day He was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen. 3 After His suffering, He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 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. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 So when they met together, they asked Him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. 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.”
Questions are important for acquiring information and instruction. But not all questions lead to gaining the necessary and critical information and instruction. Perhaps one reason why we ask a bad or wrong question is because we begin with a wrong basis, motive, and intent.
For the past forty days Jesus has been appearing to the disciples after His resurrection on Easter Sunday. During those days, Jesus had opportunity to further enlighten the disciples of how His life and ministry fulfills the Scriptures. The conversation with the two unnamed disciples on the road to Emmaus is a good representation of Jesus’ topic of talks with those whom He made His post-resurrection appearances.
Now, the time was running up for Jesus to remain here on earth. Very soon He would be taken up to heaven, returning to the Father.
Was it not frustrating for Jesus that after spending three-and-a-half years with the disciples, they still did not get what He came to accomplish – to bring the Good News not only to the Jews but to the nations or all peoples of the earth.
Instead, the disciples asked Jesus about restoring the kingdom of Israel. Worse, they assumed that Jesus was about to restore it NOW! Perhaps, they assumed that Jesus had just told them that they would be baptized by (filled with) the Holy Spirit. This meant that they would be filled with power to assist Jesus in restoring the kingdom of Israel.
Perhaps this explains why Jesus had to repeat the promise of the soon coming of the Holy Spirit, but with emphasis on the purpose. The Holy Spirit would soon come to fill them with power so that they may be effective witnesses for Jesus from Jerusalem to the uttermost parts of the earth! This mission goes beyond the political agenda of restoring the kingdom of Israel by overthrowing the Roman empire! To be sure, the Roman empire and every other empire would indeed be reduced to ashes, but not now and by them, the Church. The Church is called to bear witness to Jesus Christ as the Christ, the Son of God, who has come to be the Saviour of all peoples!
The disciples asked the question of WHEN because they based it on their assumption of the mission of restoring kingdom of Israel. The right and real question we should be asking is WHAT the Church (which we are all members of it) as the Body of Christ should be doing. We are called to be witnesses for Christ to the world, breaking all boundaries – geographical, political, social, racial, and economic!
The disciple-making mission of the Church through bearing witness for Christ is not just for that generation of the apostles. It is for the Church until “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.” (Acts 1:11). Yes, the Church is still waiting for the same Jesus to return to earth for His Bride, the Church. While waiting, the Church should be preoccupied with the mission of bearing witness for Christ to the world!
Easter Sunday is just the beginning for the Church, not an end, but a new milestone. Easter Sunday marks the beginning of the Age of the Church bearing witness for Christ until “this same Jesus” returns to earth from heaven!
Two thousand years have come and gone, is the Church growing weary in its witnessing for Christ? Is the Church distracted by other agendas like expanding our church-brand or little kingdoms, instead of giving ourselves wholly to advancing the kingdom, Gospel, and glory of God – Father, Son, and Spirit? Are you? Am I? Are we still giving ourselves to the unfinished task until Jesus comes again?