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29 May 2020
The certainty of Jesus

Prepare

At the start of this series, why not ask God to speak to you freshly and powerfully through his Word? Commit to be open to all he will say.

Bible passage

Acts 1:1–11

Jesus taken up into heaven

1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them 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. 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. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’

Then they gathered round him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’

He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 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.’

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They 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.’

Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Explore

Luke gets straight down to it in his second book, wasting no time at all to get to the main point: Jesus (v 1). His reader was Theophilus – a name that can mean ‘loved by God, friend of God or lover of God’. I hope you would apply each one of these to yourself. 

Do you want to love Jesus more? Reading God’s Word is such a good place for us to start (compare John 14:24). Reading the Bible shouldn’t be so much about information transfer but meeting with God himself in his Word. Luke’s intention in writing to Theophilus wasn’t simply to add to the history books. He wanted his reader – and God wanted all of us, his readers – ‘to know the certainty of the things you’ve been taught’ (see Luke 1:4). To know with certainty that Jesus lived an extraordinary kingdom-to-earth life (v 1), after suffering and dying he rose again (v 3) and then after a further intensive discipleship course (wouldn’t you love to have got the podcast?), he left earth for heaven (v 11). And to know with certainty that he is coming back again (v 11). 

Author: James Davies

Respond

At certain times of the day, why not remind yourself: ‘I am loved by God. I am a friend of God. I am a lover of God’?

Deeper Bible study

‘Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’1

Acts begins where Luke’s Gospel left off, with Christ’s ascension. However, the two books are also linked by Jesus’ teaching. Acts depicts Jesus speaking to his disciples ‘about the kingdom of God’ (v 3), just as Luke’s Gospel shows him doing. This kingdom is not a place, but God’s reign – and it exists wherever people follow what John Drane describes as ‘God’s way of doing things’.2 Through Jesus, this kingdom broke into the world, as he brought people closer to God, but it will not be fully established until all have bowed to his rule.

The disciples expected the kingdom to be brought in quickly. They believed that the resulting submission of all to God would bring liberation for the Jews from their Roman oppressors. Therefore, they wanted to know if Jesus would now ‘restore the kingdom to Israel’ (v 6). He responded by trying to broaden their ideas. First, he widened their understanding of the kingdom’s boundaries: it was not only for Israel but would extend ‘to the ends of the earth’ (v 8). Second, he warned them not to place time limits on it by trying to work out when God’s reign would be fully established. Instead, their focus should be upon playing their part in extending God’s kingdom.

Are our ideas of the kingdom too narrow? Are there parts of our lives over which we do not want God to rule? Might working to further God’s kingdom in our world involve more than evangelism? What dangers are there in focusing on the timing of Christ’s return? There are some people who are not worried about global warming because they believe Christ will return soon.3 Finally, we are called to further God’s kingdom in a world that still resists God’s ways. This is a tough calling, so let’s not be surprised if we find it hard. 

Reflect on the questions above and spend time bringing to God any issues that come to mind as a result.

1 Matt 6:10  2 Introducing the New Testament, Lion, p112  3https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/global-warming-god-end-times/

Author: Caroline Fletcher

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year: 2 Kings 4,5; Zephaniah 1–3

Pray for Scripture Union

Please pray for the South East team as they seek to find ways to help children and young people grow in faith as they respond to Jesus.

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