Formations 04.25.2021: How Much Farther?

Acts 1:1-11

How much farther?

What child hasn’t asked that question on a trip? What parent hasn’t dreaded that question, knowing that the trip has barely started?

How the parent answers depends on the mode of transportation. Are you in the car heading to grandma’s house a hundred or more miles away? In that case, your answer might be something like, “It’s a long, long way, sweetheart. Just read your book or play with your toys for a while.”

But what if you and your child are taking a half-mile walk to the corner store for a few things? Your answer in that situation might be something like, “It’s just a little farther, honey. Let’s keep walking. You can do it!”

In the book of Acts, Luke recounts how the risen Christ taught his disciples for forty days before his ascension to heaven. These followers of Jesus must have had a multitude of questions. One of these is recorded for us in verse 6, where the disciples ask, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”

In other words, “How much farther?” Or perhaps, “Are we there yet?”

Jesus has conquered death itself. He now walks among them, presenting himself alive to them “by many convincing proofs” (v. 3). What else was left to do? Surely the kingdom of God that Jesus had so passionately spoken about was just around the corner!

What will the risen Lord tell his closest friends about the journey that lies ahead? Will he tell them to sit back and find some way to occupy themselves? No, he tells them to keep pressing on: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (v. 8).

Jesus gives his disciples a job to do and promises the supernatural power they’ll need to do it. Then, at last, he is lifted up into heaven in a cloud, leaving the others dumbstruck and staring at the sky.

“How much farther?”

Don’t worry about that, Peter. It’s none of your concern. You and Mary and John and the rest are going to have your hands full doing the things that Jesus has called you to do. Jesus is gone, at least as you have known him before. But you yourselves are now going to be his presence in the world. Just keep walking—to Judea, to Samaria, to the ends of the earth. Just keep working. God will give you the power.

Discussion

• What can we learn from the disciples’ misunderstanding of Christ’s work, even at this late point in the story?
• Why are they still focused on the restoration of the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6)?
• How does Jesus’ answer to their question redirect their focus?
• What is the nature of the “power” Jesus promises? How is it manifested? For what purpose?
• What does this passage say to us when we feel powerless or overwhelmed by the tasks God calls us to do?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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