1 I wrote the first narrative, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day He was taken up, after He had given orders through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen. 3 After He had suffered, He also presented Himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during 40 days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
4 While He was together with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. “This,” He said, “is what 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, are You restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?”
7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After He had said this, He was taken up as they were watching, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. 10 While He was going, they were gazing into heaven, and suddenly two men in white clothes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven.”
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After He had said this, He was taken up as they were watching, and a cloud took Him out of their sight.
Hamlet is easily my favorite Shakespearean play. There are many famous and notable quotes from that work, but one of the ones I like most is Lord Polonius' last words to Laertes before he returns to France. The whole monologue is beautifully written wisdom. It closes with these words:
This above all: To thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell: My blessing season this in thee!
Whether it’s the final piece of motherly or fatherly advice to a child before they head off to college, move out, or get married, or the painful whisper as an ailing loved one struggles to utter before the end, last words carry a greater weight than other things a person might have said.
Perhaps it’s the circumstances of the moment that give them this gravitas, but last words are remembered and taken to heart. They’re seen as having greater importance than all the others.
The Gospels give us an account of Jesus’ life and a testimony of His words. What’s amazing about them is their harmonious quality and unique presentation of Jesus. The personality and background of the writers give us a distinct flavor to their experiences with Him and the way they recounted them.
Luke, the good doctor, is systematic and academic in his approach to writing (see Luke 1:1-4). Our passage today comes from Acts, which is the sequel to Luke's Gospel account. In the beginning of Acts 1, we see the story of Jesus' last moments and words before His ascension.
Can you imagine the scene? Jesus was brutally crucified in Jerusalem a month and a half before. He was laid in a tomb, and His disciples were left with little hope wondering what it had all meant.
Then, three days later, He arose! Acts tells us, "He…presented Himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during 40 days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3, emphasis added).
After all that happened, they were there as Jesus prepared to return to the Father. There was a pregnant pause as the disciples looked at each other, then looked at Jesus. How would this play out? What happens next?
They asked, “Jesus, is this the time that you’ll restore the kingdom of Israel?”
Jesus smiled back at them, and true to custom, redirected their gaze heavenward. He said, “It’s not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority. But you’ll receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Jesus was returning to the Father, and He selected the exact words He wanted to leave with His disciples.
In these last words, He makes two points:
- The disciples would receive power by the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would teach them all things, remind them of all He’d said (John 14:26), and bear witness because the Spirit is truth (John 5:6). Jesus reminded the disciples the Holy Spirit would empower them. But power needs a purpose, and the reason for this power was fulfill their charge.
- The disciples were to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
These are things to consider. It’s been nearly 2,000 years since Jesus uttered these words. Yet the promise of the power of the Holy Spirit and the charge to be His witnesses still stands.
- Do you really believe you’ve received the power of the Holy Spirit?
- Thinking about this power in you, how might knowing this change your perspective and how you engage a broken world?
- A witness is someone called on to testify on what they’ve seen and heard. All of us have an experience with Jesus Christ. It’s as simple as telling others. What’s your story?
- Put yourself in the shoes of the disciples on that day. Staring up into the heavens after Jesus had vanished, what would be next for you? What would you do after that?