Most of us long for miracles. And Jesus’ perfect life, death on sinners’ behalf as the fulfillment of Passover, and His physical resurrection prove that He is willing and able to meet our greatest needs: complete forgiveness and a new heart to follow Him as our living King. But even in the Bible, most of the journey with Jesus is lived in the moments between miracles. In this 50-day series, we’ll consider some of those moments leading up to the next great miracle in the New Testament: the fulfillment of Pentecost and the incredible growth of the Church.
When people have come to me for counseling over the years, they’ve typically struggled with one of two problems: fixating on something in their past or worrying about something in their future. In the first situation, I often use the analogy that it’s hard to drive forward if we’re staring in the rear view mirror. It’s equally true, though, that it’s hard to drive forward if we’re daydreaming about what’s over the horizon instead of driving our current piece of highway.
That’s part of what we see happening in Acts 1:6-8. Jesus’ disciples seemed rightly eager for the coming kingdom, but the Lord refocused them on the piece of highway they were to drive: being His witnesses, starting where they were and spreading out from there. And even after He ascended, they stood there staring into heaven, maybe hoping He might come back any minute. I probably wouldn’t done the same thing.
All of us who struggle with the partial glories, regular disappointments, and inherent temptations of this world long to be with Jesus in paradise. But He has work for us to do here and now. And His specific references to “Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” probably also have specific spiritual connotations.
Jerusalem was known for the heart of worship among God’s people. That’s where the temple was, and so that’s where the disciples could expect to find people who were seeking the Lord. We, too, should share the good news with people who are already seeking Him. And it shouldn’t surprise us that many of those people who do not know the gospel will be attending our churches, visiting Bible studies, or standing in front of a religious book section. They’re not necessarily there because they know the Lord. They may be there because they want to know Him. We can find out with a simple friendly and open-ended question: “what brings you here today?” Then ask them to tell you more, and just listen.
Judea was the larger tribal area in which Jerusalem was located. And after Israel divided under Rehoboam, as you may know, it because the more faithful southern kingdom with David’s line of more faithful kings. Samaria was the northern kingdom that set up false gods under Jeroboam, fell to captivity first, and was populated by Jews who had intermarried with foreigners their mixes of false religions and ungodly ways. When the Lord calls His disciples (including you and me) to bring the gospel to “in all of Judea and Samaria”, it seems that He’s reminding us not to pick and choose our audience. It might be our natural tendency to reach out only to those who look like us, talk like us, and already believe much as we do. The Lord calls us to reach out also to those whom our culture would consider as lesser people. The Lord didn’t treat the promiscuous Samaritan woman at the well that way. (John 4) Neither should we.
And the ends of the earth reminds us to go even to people with whom we don’t have any relationship at all…yet. For…
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:14-17)
And He has made you and me His partners in spreading the gospel.
I hope today’s thought and others in this series will be helpful to you as you journey with Jesus in the moments between miracles.