Thought for Sunday 24 May 2020 from Pastor Gordon Hamilton

 24 May 2020 |

Read Acts 1:1-26              

Last Thursday we celebrated the Ascension of Jesus, next Sunday we will look at Pentecost. Acts 1 deals with the events after Jesus rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and the events up to Pentecost. Luke wrote this book, the Acts of the Apostles as a follow up to his gospel, and chapter 1 in just a handful of verses, 1-8, Luke covers the 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension but says very little in detail.

When Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthian church he said, 15:5-7; ‘he was raised on the 3rd day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the 12. After that, he appeared to more than500 of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.’ The teaching that Jesus gave over those 40 days is very sketchy. We are just given a brief glimpse and that one mention of Jesus meeting with ‘more than 500 of the brothers and sisters at the same time.’ But let’s come back to John 20:30-31  ‘Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.’

As we come to Acts 1:4 we see the last time that Jesus is with his disciples before he ascended into heaven. He gives them this command; ‘Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised.’ We will be looking at the fulfilment of that promise next week. What we see in 1:9 is Jesus ascending into heaven, and we can see why we look upwards when we think of heaven because that is how Luke describes it here in Acts 1, ‘He was taken up before their very eyes and a cloud hid him from their sight.’ We also know from 1:11 they are told, Jesus will come back in the same way. Suddenly the disciples are left in a quandary, what should they do? They did what they were told and went back to Jerusalem.

What we have to remember is that the disciples had been with Jesus for 3 years, Jesus had been the decision maker, Jesus was the one who decided where to go, and Jesus decided what to do. You may remember after Jesus had fed the 5,000 he sent his disciples to the other side of the lake, in a boat, suddenly they were on their own, they were used to sailing but when the wind got up, where was Jesus? They panicked, ‘help!’ they felt alone. But they only felt they were alone; Jesus knew their problem and came and sorted them out. After Jesus died, they panicked what do they do now? Then Jesus appears and says, ‘Peace be with you.’ They then had a whole week without Jesus. Dear old Thomas most probably never left their sides during that week, but Jesus did come again; ‘Peace be with you.’ Jesus kept popping up but now; ‘He was taken up before their very eyes and a cloud hid him from their sight.’ What were they to do now? They went back to Jerusalem and waited, that was what Jesus had said, so they did, but it’s a nine day wait.

Nine days is a long time when you don’t know how long the wait is to be. Let’s be honest, this lockdown, this covid19 corona virus, we don’t know how long it will be before we are allowed out, how long it will be until it will be as it used to be The disciples felt they needed to choose a disciple to replace Judas Iscariot. I guess we could ask the question, wouldn’t Jesus have done that over the last 40 days when he was meeting with them. Through prayer and casting lots, they chose Matthias. Whether that was right or not we’ll never know, all we know is, the only mention in scripture of Matthias is in these 4 verses. Matthias was never heard of before and is never heard of again, then in Acts 9 Jesus calls another disciple, Saul of Tarsus, who was to become the Apostle Paul. There are times we do what we believe to be right, we may even pray about it, but is it what the Lord wants, that is the question. Do we try to push God’s will to the way that we believe it should go? Let me ask you a question; was Jesus able not to sin? or, was Jesus not able to sin? I believe both are correct. Jesus was able not to sin because he knew the best possible outcome, and, he wasn’t able to sin because he was God incarnate. If we seek God’s will, providing we are earnest in our seeking, by prayer and by being honest in what we say, God will use whatever decision we come up with, for His glory. We are called to put our total trust in Jesus.

There is a lovely prayer by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, I remember my old headmaster reciting it at morning assemblies when I was at secondary school; ‘Teach us, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labour and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do your will. Amen.’ As the disciples met in uncertain times, not knowing quite what was laying ahead for them, they put their trust in Jesus, verse 14; ‘They all joined together constantly in prayer,’ and as we will see next Sunday, their prayers were answered.

We may feel there are times when we pray, and nothing happens. It’s not true, God hears our prayers, but he doesn’t always answer them in the way we would expect or believe they should be answered. God knows the bigger picture and when God answers it will be for His glory, His honour, and His praise. During this pandemic I know of a few who have succumbed to the virus. I don’t know why but I pray for those who are left behind. It may mean they are going to have difficult times, times when their faith maybe tested, times when our faith maybe tested. Let us be people who ask God to intervene, that all the glory can go to Him. I think it’s a lovely idea that on a Thursday evening at 8pm we all go to our front doors and spend a few moments clapping those in the NHS. and those who serve us while we are confined to our own homes. Let’s also give God the glory and pray for intervention. Amen.

God holds the key of all unknown, and I am glad:

If other hands should hold the key,

Or if he trusted it to me, I might be sad, I might be sad.

What if tomorrow’s cares were here without its rest?

I’d rather He unlocked the day

And as the hours swing open say, ‘My will is best, my will is best.

The very dimness of my sight makes me secure.

For, groping in my misty way,

I feel his hand, I hear him say, ‘My help is sure, my help is sure.’

I cannot read His future plans, but this I know:

I have the smiling of His face,

And all the refuge of His grace, while here below, while here below.

Enough: this covers all my wants; and so I rest!

for what I cannot, He can see,

And in his care, I safe will be, forever blest, forever blest.