The apostles still didn’t get it. They’d been with Jesus for over three years, seeing first-hand how he ministered to people, healing the sick, raising the dead, and performing other miracles. And they’d heard His teaching—which was often in sharp contrast with the “conventional wisdom” of the day.

They’d even recognized Him as their promised Messiah. The problem was, they didn’t really understand Who the Messiah would be, and what He would do. Today’s One Year Bible reading in Acts 1:6 makes that very clear: So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”

Jesus had taught often about the Kingdom of God. The apostles, not surprisingly, were thinking in terms of an earthly kingdom, like the great kingdoms of David and Solomon—a mighty power that would send the Romans packing and restore the remnant of Israel to self-rule with the Messiah on the throne.

And now, Jesus had proven that even death could not stop him! What a powerful ruler He’d be! And they were looking forward to ruling with Him!

The apostles had been interpreting Jesus’ words and actions in the context of their own desires. But it turned out God had other plans—plans far greater than the apostles could have imagined; plans that involved the whole world, not just a small patch of land in the Middle East; plans that involved “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9), not just the Israelites.

In order for God’s plans to be realized, Jesus would have to leave the earth—what a blow to the apostles! They’d just gone through the heart-wrenching experience of His death, followed by His glorious resurrection. I can imagine they were looking forward to having Jesus with them for a good long while. But now He was leaving them!

What they didn’t really understand was that their temporary loss of a physical Jesus—who was limited to one place at a time—would be followed by the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who would be everywhere—including inside them—and would empower them to carry out God’s mission for them. Yes, Jesus’ departure for Heaven was really for their benefit.

So often we don’t understand what God is doing. We have our own plans—which He’s not following. We have our hopes and dreams—which aren’t what He’s planned for us. But the same presence of the Holy Spirit that empowered the apostles to carry out God’s mission for them can empower us today to carry out His mission for us.

by Darrel Eppler, Elder

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