May 18, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“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. This He did after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles [formerly disciples] He had chosen.” (Acts 1. 1-2)
“They gathered around Him in the Upper Room while they were breaking bread and asked, ‘Lord, are you going to restore Israel as the kingdom of God on earth now?’” (Acts 1.6)
Approximately forty days before the conversation recorded by Luke and posted above from Acts, chapter 1, happened, there was another one. At that time, the disciples were gathered near to Jesus and asked a very different question “Is it I, Lord?” The fear of being capable of betraying Jesus (a fear all held but one, Judas of Kerioth) was agonizing for those who remained in the Upper Room after Judas left at Jesus’ command. We can make ourselves feel better by reading and re-reading “Satan had entered Judas” and declare “Satan made him do it.” How simple it is to blame someone else for the decisions we make or contemplate making; especially if things go wrong. The popular phrasing for this kind of excusing is “JK: just kidding.” But, that was no laughing matter. It was serious business. The very idea that each considered themselves capable of being a betrayer speaks to the fact “we all have sinned and fallen short.” Do we ever stop and wonder how our smallest of sin (of commission or omission) might be a betrayal of JC: Jesus Christ? Oh sure, we have been forgiven, our sins washed white as snow and our place in the Book of Life is written in the blood of the Lamb. But, that does not mean we still do not sin now or think about sinning at some point in time or several times a day. It is a reality of our broken humanity. What sets Christ’s disciples, then and now, apart from the rest of the world is how they respond to that reality. Christ’s disciples do not allow sin to define them. Ceremonial washing, like a JK, doesn’t really dispense with the truth or the actual living out of the truth that we still sin. There is a reason why the baptism of the Holy Spirit had to become a reality. Water baptism was vital in its imagery and its call to renewal. Peter would preach on the day of Pentecost in the hearing of the Chief High Priest who was offering the First Fruits sacrifice “The man of God you knew as Jesus of Nazareth, accredited by God with signs and wonders, was handed over to you (plural to include all those who were in the Temple court that day) by God’s deliberate plan, and you put Him to death by crucifixion. But, God raised Him and delivered Him by the promised Holy Spirit making Him both Lord and Messiah, the Christ of God. It is that same spirit which has been poured out on us today.”
It is not hard to imagine that every man looked at himself and those around him and asked “Is it I, Lord?” Some asked with humility and others would ask scoffing with defiance waiting for Peter to relent by saying “JK.” It didn’t happen. Those who took to heart the word of God preached that day asked, “What shall we do then?” They feared being among the number of those transgressors, enemies placed at the feet of the Messiah as His footstool. The line was drawn in the dust of the Temple court as clearly as when Jesus had written before them three times in similar dust when the woman caught in adultery was brought before Him. The Chief High Priest stood with his sacrificial blade and bled out the lamb that was slain for a bountiful worldly harvest. Peter stood on a pedestal by one of the colonnades and declared “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in Jesus’ name. Receive the forgiveness of your sins as being washed away and accept the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you and for all generations wherever they may be; for those who are called by God to be His own.” Three thousand men responded to the call of God which Peter extended. They were baptized by “water and fire.” They were the first but they were not the last. That was the effect to the “cause” I mentioned in yesterday’s reflection. The “cause” for Christ is our reason for living. It is in answer to the question which the disciples had presented to the resurrected Jesus who was eating in that Upper Room forty days after Passover. They were not asking “Is it I, Lord” this time. Their question was directed with anticipation “Is it You, Lord?” They wondered if all of this was merely a prelude to His now taking over Israel. Was this the time He would establish Israel as God’s Kingdom on earth? He was, after all, the anointed and called by God to be the Christ, the Messiah, the Resurrected Lord and Savior. For forty days, they listened to Him reteach and remind them of all He had said and done. He was etching it in their heart, mind and soul so that on the day of remembrance it would not be forgotten. It was not with ink or keyboard stroke that Jesus made His impression on the medium of their lives. It was by the Spirit of truth with the power of faith for the sake of love as only God could make sure, that Jesus prepared them for what was about to happen.
And what happened? He was taken from their very presence in that moment in a cloud and was hidden from their sight. They were left with the command to wait for that moment when He would indeed take back all that was His Father’s and put the enemy is his final “un-resting” place. But, they were not left alone. He told them to prepare for the promised Holy Spirit which He taught them about at the Last Supper forty days earlier. It would be a comfort, a guide, a provider and a witness to them and through them for all the world to know that Jesus is Lord. There is no other. The echo of Jesus’ answer to His cousin John’s question from prison before he was beheaded “Are you the One or should we expect another?” came flooding back. “Go and tell him all that you have seen and heard: the blind see, the lame walk, the leper cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the good news is proclaimed to those who are ‘poor.’ Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” (Luke 7.18ff) It was the echo of what He had declared in Nazareth as He read the Jubilee passage from the Book of Isaiah saying “In your hearing, this word is now fulfilled.” It was the setting of our earthly priority carrying on with the ministry He started and left to us as our legacy of faith, hope and love. When He returns is the business of “our Father.” Our business is “to do the work which the Father has given me.” That work is our priority number one: prepare the way for the Lord and make straight the paths for His arrival; be prepared for His coming and faithful to the work He has shared with us; declare the truth of the gospel and extend the call to all so they may call upon the name of the Lord, be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit, gain eternal life and make a difference in this world as a glory to God.
TODAY’S PRAYER: Father God, You have favored us with good news to broadcast in word and deed into all the world. You have made it possible for us to accomplish that which You have given. We believe that You will not put more on us that we are able to do. Nothing shall be impossible for us as we commit ourselves to priority number one! We believe; help us in our unbelief. We ask this in the name of Jesus our Lord who was and is and will always be our Savior and our Friend. AMEN.