April 11 – Acts 1:6-11


This week we’re picking up right where Easter left off with a ten week series in Acts. In this series we’ll look at all the different aspects and dimensions of Jesus’ call on his followers to fulfill both the Great Commission, “go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” (Matt. 28:19) and the ancient covenant given to Abraham, the father of all who believe in Jesus, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”(Gen. 12:3)

This week we’ll look at the final conversation between Jesus and his disciples, one in which the disciples ask a question they should’ve known the answer to. At many stages of his ministry Jesus had to say, “No not yet,” to the disciples constant questions about if the Kingdom would be established right now (ex. Luke 19:11), and even after his resurrection, 40 days of visiting with the disciples, and Jesus “[opening] their mind to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45), they still asked this same question.

That’s because the Messianic hopes of Jesus’ Jewish disciples had been shaped to expect a certain outcome, that God would send a Messiah who would liberate Israel from oppression by setting up a new Kingdom in Israel, one in which God’s rule would extend to the ends of the earth. And at every stage of his ministry Jesus was correcting these expectations in his disciples (see his rebuke of Peter in Matt. 16:23 or of James and John in Matt. 20:23). Jesus explained over and over that his Kingdom was a spiritual one, that it was both already here and still on its way, that it wouldn’t spread by governmental rule and force but by the work of the Spirit. Nevertheless, his disciples kept expecting Jesus to give Rome the boot, set up his throne in Jerusalem, and rule as a literal king.

But despite their short memory Jesus patiently explains here that the Kingdom of God would spread through them not by force but by witness. Specifically Jesus said they would witness “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” That would’ve been their immediate context, Jerusalem, then the surrounding regions of Judea and Samaria, and then the rest of the planet. So Jesus sends his witnesses everywhere, but also right here. Jesus also specifically mentioned Samaria, a region Jews despised because they considered Samaritans to be religious and racial mongrels. Jesus specifically says, “Them too.”

These commands most certainly extend to us as well. We’re called to be Jesus’ witnesses right here, right next door, and everywhere else. And note that Jesus specifically has in mind a verbal testimony of the gospel to non-believers so that they might believe in Jesus and have life in his name. “Thus it is written…that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are the witnesses of these things. and behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you.”(Luke 24:46-49) This is what it means to be Jesus’ witnesses: to proclaim.

We tend to imagine evangelism like an extracurricular activity for Christians, or that actually doing so would be horribly embarrassing or costly. But reading this passage you’ll see that proclaiming Jesus’ name is just what it means to follow him. Thankfully this passage serves as a helpful reminder of our tiny role as witness and the real heavy lifting of the Spirit, since the Spirit empowers our testimony and awakens dead hearts through it, something we could never do.(Eph.2:4-5) Thus we are emboldened and nourished by the same message we proclaim, that we aren’t made right with God by our religious effort but by Jesus’ infinite, sufficient work. SO we don’t have to evangelize to make God pleased with us. It’s because Jesus has made us his own that we make him known—reverse that statement and it will rob your witness of any hope, but keep it in order and it will renew your hope.

Questions for Discussion

• Would someone read Acts 1:6-11 for us?

• What stood out to you in this passage?

• What does the disciples’ question reveal about what was on their minds?

• What does Jesus’ response to their question reveal about his priorities?

• When you think about “spreading the gospel” or “evangelizing,” how do you typically feel?

• Why do you think you typically feel that way?

• How does the gospel itself help us deal with our fear or reluctance about being Jesus’ “witnesses”?