Today we’ll try to explore the transformation in the disciples who saw Jesus risen, then ascending, and were given a mission. They were told to wait for the Holy Spirit before they set out on that mission, though.
Look at the list of names in yesterday’s reading. Some biological brothers are separated in the list, perhaps to indicate they are all part of one big brotherhood now. Peter is listed, who denied even knowing Jesus. The other disciples are there, even though they deserted Jesus as well. Their pioneer story – Jesus being raised from the dead – brought them back together.
In other surprises, Judas is missing – he broke his relationship with Jesus, committed suicide, and hence his community link.
But also, Jesus’ own brothers and mother are mentioned – the same brothers who doubted him and thought he was crazy during his ministry on earth.
These people are all together now, in some kind of upper room – perhaps the upper room from the night before Jesus died, but we don’t know. Either way, they stay there together and are “with one accord” – they have one purpose.
Prayer: They were devoting themselves to prayer. There’s an energy in how this is described. They’re actively preparing for something, something much larger than themselves, and they can’t do it alone. So they’re nurturing their relationship with God the father, who’ll be the source of their strength and courage. And that project is God’s.
On Mission: As they stare up at the sky where Jesus left, the angels redirect them. Your job is to pay attention to the Earth, not the sky. Get out there, you have a story to tell.
Common Story: All of this change comes from their common experience. Jesus, the pioneer’s teaching would be in their minds, and their experience of his ascension. For example, his brother James. James is specifically named as having had an encounter with the risen Jesus. Why else would he, as one of Jesus’ concerned brothers, realize his brother wasn’t throwing his life away but sacrificing it for James and every other human being?
Jesus’ ascension into the clouds was not showing us heaven is “up there” in a physical sense in the clouds – he’s gone to be with his father in heaven, the dimension of life where the kingdom of heaven is already present in its fullness, simply because of God’s presence being there. Clouds aren’t a bad way to show that he’s gone from the disciples direct presence, they had no way to get up there! Someday the whole kingdom will “descend” and transform this world as well, as Jesus “descends”.
Imagine the disciples’ anticipation. Telling the stories amongst themselves, realizing how it all fits together, and anticipating the next stage – the Holy Spirit of God is coming…to us!
Question: Consider your group. Do you focus more heavily on unity, on prayer, on mission, or on the story? If you’ve not started a group yet, who can you start sharing these challenges with, in the pattern set by these pioneers?
Meeting with a Group? Your discussion questions are in this week’s Group Study Guide[permalink append=”#comments”]Discuss the Challenge[/permalink]