And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
In their minds, their Savior is dead. But here’s the thing, Jesus just wouldn’t stay in the ground. What is death going to do with a man who won’t stay in the ground? That makes me smile and I have a sneaky suspicion that Jesus wore a similar smile that very night. For reasons that remain His own, He appears amidst them without the slightest warning. They thought He was a ghost. Can you imagine that? Nobody comes back from a crucifixion… nobody. But here He is, bold as life and bigger than death. Only two short verses later, and Jesus is ascending out of their site. Y’all, this merits another journal entry all by itself, but the thought that took shape for me at the Forge today is the Savior’s last command. First, He makes sure they know it’s really Him (and not a ghost) to the point of showing them His scarred hands and feet. Apparently, there’s still some reticence, so Jesus, of all things, eats with them. I guess there’s nothing like a good meal between friends to seal the deal, O yeah, and to prove that you are, in fact, the risen Son of God. What a notion. Again, that makes me smile.
Anyway, Jesus has just molly-whopped hell, stole the keys to the grave, and now He’s back from the grave having one last resurrection meal with this small band of world changers. And what would His final command be, you ask? Is it to “rally the troops?” Not really, at least not in the way they’re thinking. Is it to call all of the churches together so they could storm Lucifer’s hideout? No, the Savior pulls a classic Jesus move, which is usually the complete opposite of what His disciples are thinking, and this is no exception. In essence, Jesus tells them to wait. Yep, that’s right; the last command of the resurrected Savior, before His feet left the planet, wasn’t exactly the nail-biter of all commands. This guy just whipped death with both hands, not tied behind his back, but nailed to a cross. You’d think a battle cry would be in order. Of course, Jesus does things a bit differently than most. It does make you wonder though, doesn’t it? Why in the world would Jesus leave them with that command? Could I suggest that it’s because His calling for them was simply too big? In fact, I think it’s safe to say that the endeavor of changing the world for this small band of Jews was downright impossible.
Ironically, that is the endeavor that God has set before us. Not a simple missions statement for our ministries, not a pithy quote to market our new ministry direction. God has tasked us with an endeavor so fiercely big that it requires one-third of the Trinity to accomplish it. Ok… I’m sorry, but I can’t help but notice some irony that’s too good to let pass. Think about it. Jesus appears, and His disciples think He’s a spirit. Jesus says, wait here for awhile, and I’ll clothe you with My Spirit. The Ghost they feared was the exact Ghost they needed. Classic Jesus move. So good. But all fun aside, there is a real danger here. On their own, their world-changing endeavor was doomed to fail. And just like the disciples, on our own, our ministry endeavor is flat out impossible.
But notice what happens when the Holy Spirit enters the fray. (Acts 2)When the Holy Ghost rested on them, everything changed—everything! Isn’t it interesting that then, and only then, were they sent out, and not before. This little band of believers was about to turn the world upside down, but they were not to step one foot outside of that city… until they were full of God. You see, without God, callings and cities are too big. With God, one city could never contain the power of God unto salvation. It’s simply too small.
I can’t help but see a contrast here. Jesus’ high standard for changing the world seems distinctly different than what I see in some of our churches today. Jesus’ one requirement for His small band of world changers was to be filled with His very own Spirit. It wasn’t a new discipleship program that took the world by storm. It wasn’t a brand new small group approach that was the game changer. It wasn’t all about relationships either. Don’t get me wrong, those endeavors are great. But what was the power that enabled the disciples to change the world? It was a Ghost, not an endeavor that clothed these believers with world changing power. Moreover, how could any endeavor, even with the best of intentions, ever empower a believer to change the world? Frankly, our good intentions can sometimes lead to powerless endeavors.
Undoubtedly, God is more concerned with our obedience than He is with our good intentions. And clearly, the Holy Spirit is more concerned with clothing us with power than He is with working us harder.
This is from one of my favorite commentaries (MacLaren Expositions Of Holy Scripture):
“Dear friends, do not bind yourselves to the slavery of Endeavour, until you come into the liberty and wealth of receiving. He gives first, and then says to you, ‘Now go to work, and keep that good thing which is committed unto thee.”
Have I been doing this backward? Have I been spending years with busy endeavoring, without first, receiving? No wonder our churches are exhausted. No wonder many ministries grow weary in well doing. I cannot imagine a more subtle, but sneaky attack from the enemy than this: An entire church ministry that does not hold first to the filling of the Holy Spirit can actually be enslaved to its own good and worthy mission endeavors. This should not be. God has called us to more than this. He has called us to receive! We are called to hold the hope of Glory inside of us. We are called to receive and hold this treasure in earthen vessels. We are called by God to be filled by God! And if we are to fulfill God-callings, then God-fillings must occur first.