With an imperfect understanding of the timing and nature of the coming kingdom of heaven, Jesus’ disciples approached Him forty days after the resurrection to ask Him a question. Having learned about the coming restoration of Israel from many of the Old Testament prophets, they wondered if it was time for Jesus to establish His kingship over the Roman Empire and all the world from David’s throne in Jerusalem.
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:7-8 NIV
In saying this, Jesus refocused His disciples onto what would now be their most essential task – spreading the good news of the kingdom of heaven with all people throughout the entire world. This would done through the spiritual power and divine guidance of the Holy Spirit, whom they would receive not many days afterwards. Upon saying this, Jesus ascended into heaven to assume His role as Lord, mediator, and Good Shepherd for all believers. In God’s good timing, He will one day return to earth to establish His global kingdom here.
12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives… 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying… 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. Acts 1:12a,13a,14 NIV
Jesus had given his 120 disciples an immediate task – pray and wait together in Jerusalem for the gift of the Holy Spirit to be given to them there. Their prayer meeting would last for ten days, until the feast of Pentecost had begun.
1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Acts 2:1-6 NIV
God’s plan all along was to grant these believers the Holy Spirit in this unique and remarkable way. In God’s perfect timing, He waited until thousands of faithful worshipers were gathered in Jerusalem from all over the known world to be witnesses to it. These devout people had come in obedience to the Lord’s law given to Moses, to celebrate and honor God at the feast of Pentecost. Thousands would later leave Jerusalem and return to their home countries as believers in Jesus Christ and as participants in the New Covenant. These, too, were recipients of the Holy Spirit, and God’s first fruits in the establishment of His global church.
Jesus’ strategy for growing His church was laid out in His last instructions to His disciples, right before leaving them. First, begin where you are. Share the message of the good news in Jerusalem, right where you are planted. Next, move out into the surrounding area, Judea, of which Jerusalem was the former capital.
From here, move into neighboring areas that are culturally different, such as Samaria. It is more difficult to share the gospel across cultural boundaries, but with God’s help, bridges can be found, and trust gained. Finally, go into the farthest reaches of the globe to let people know that God loves and cares about them, and that Jesus Christ died and rose again to atone for all of their wrongdoing and to grant them His purity, holiness, and eternal citizenship in heaven. If we are willing to do the tasks that God sets before us, the Holy Spirit will do the work to draw these citizens to Jesus from every nation under heaven.
Jesus’ instructions to His disciples still apply to us today. We can share the love of Christ and his kingdom wherever we are, beginning in our own “Jerusalem”, our homes, neighborhoods, jobs, and schools. We can step out from here to our “Judah’s”, such as local mission projects, hospitals, nursing homes, soup kitchens, charitable construction, or community gatherings. Our “Samaria’s” may include any type of cross-cultural work, such as homeless shelters, short-term mission trips, work projects, visiting jails or prisons, or anywhere we are out of our normal cultural comfort zones. Finally, going into all the world is an extension from here. It may be as an in-person missionary, on-line, in the form of intercessory prayer, or through granting financial support. We all have a spot in God’s kingdom where He wants to place us for His service. May we find and assume our role to help Him make disciples from every nation, including our own.
Where does God want me to work in His kingdom today?
Lord, show me the role that You want me to fill for Your kingdom. Empower me to be faithful and effective in this work through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Grant me direction, energy, wisdom, strength, and perseverance so that I may be of useful service to You in each and every task. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.