6 When they were together for the last time they asked, “Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?” 7 He told them, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. 8 What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”— Acts 1:6-8, MSG
I don’t know about you. However, I can’t wait until this pandemic is over! Notice I did not say, “I can’t wait until the State of Emergency is lifted,” because that will not necessarily mean the pandemic has ended. At the national and state level, our political leaders have made it clear: Re-opening is not about the virus having run its course and protecting people’s lives. It’s about making sure shareholders’ profit margins remain high and top executives’ bonuses remain large. Profits over people.
Still, the questions abound: When will the Lord step in and speak up on all this?When will Jesus show everyone he is alive and on top of things? When will believers receive some sign, however barely perceptible and seemingly insignificant, that the Lord is still behind the scenes working things out for our growth, the good of the world, and for his glory?
Luke 1:6-8 checks our impatience and corrects our ignorance about such matters. We are not the first believers to wrestle with similar types of issues. The original disciples did, too.
The eleven disciples have been waiting for a while to ask the Resurrected Jesus when God would be making changes. For fifty days after the resurrection, they simply have listened intently to and learned eagerly from the Lord. Then, the moment they have been waiting for arrives — at least, so they think. It’s unclear what characterizes that moment to be “the moment.” Perhaps they are simply tired of waiting. Or, perhaps they intuit Jesus’ departure is imminent, so they had better ask him now before he leaves them again — and this time, for good.
Luke does not say whether all eleven ask, some combination of the eleven, or if Peter, like on so many other occasions, asks on behalf of everyone. Luke simply said, “They asked.” (Vs. 6a) Addressing him by his most elementary title as “Teacher/Master,” they question, “… Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now?”
It’s not so much their question which reveals both their impatience (Why not continue to wait on Jesus to broach the subject?) and their ignorance (After all this time, they reveal they still do not understand Jesus’ vision of the kingdom of God.). Rather, it’s how Jesus answers them, which is most instructive and interesting for them and us as disciples. What can we learn from him and them?
1. We may ask the Lord out of impatience and ignorance about his timetable for making Kingdom-changes, but expect the Lord to respond in ways which are frustrating, yet instructive. We may expect specific details, but sometimes God will answer us only with a simple, implied promise. Some matters of when and what the Son of God will do are tucked away in the head and heart of God. Sometimes,he reveals his plans in advance. At other times, he surprises us with them — after the fact (Vs. 7).
2. We may ask the Lord out of impatience and ignorance about what God intends to do to usher in Kingdom-changes for which we have hoped and prayed, but expect the Lord to tap us to assist in the process of change (Vs. 8a). God will never do for us what God can do with and through us. God wants and requires our cooperation in the process of transformation.
3. When we ask the Lord out of impatience and ignorance about when he will do what he promised to change things, expect the Lord to reveal to us that making kingdom-changes will be gradual and incremental, not instantaneous and complete (Vs. 8 b-e).
In short, we may want to know when, who, how, and what. Yet, the Lord will only tell us to continue to trust the Father on the timetable for making Kingdom-changes, prepare to work further with God on making changes, and watch God’s plan for making changes unfold over time and in time.