Preparing And Anticipating
May 19, 1996
日本キリスト教団 大阪のぞみ教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Osaka Nozomi Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA, Translated January 29, 2009
1. Today I read to you from chapter one and verse twelve. At the beginning part the scripture says, "The apostles returned to Jerusalem from the mountain called 'The Olive Field [The Mount Of Olives].'" They returned to Jerusalem and were about to remain in it. If we ask why, it is because Jesus had commanded them not to leave Jerusalem. "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for that which my father promised, which you have heard from me previously," (verse four).
2. Remaining in Jerusalem should have been the [last] thing they wanted to do. Most of them were Galileans. Therefore, there should not be [any] natural necessity for them to remain in Jerusalem. What's more, Jerusalem was the place where the hostility of the Jews who had crucified Christ was abuzz in full furor. It was also a very dangerous place for them. In addition, the authority of the religious ruling class in Jewish society was tremendous. These average and powerless "Joes" were [stuck] in a reality with no changes for them, no matter what they did or how hard they tried. This fact they knew all too much. Jerusalem was the place they had once succumbed to this authority and had forsaken Christ. It was the place where succumbing to fear, they had abandoned the Lord. Jerusalem was the place where they succumbed to the individual self-interest deep within them and where their sinfulness and weakness had been exposed. Jesus told them to remain there. For that reason then, they returned and remained in Jerusalem.
3. As the Lord had commanded them [to do this], they did not obey [him] reluctantly. Going by The Gospel According To Luke, it says, "With such great joy they returned to Jerusalem," (Luke 24:52). Why is that? It is because they were given a promise from God. It is because they were given a promise worth waiting and hoping for. "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for that which my father promised, which you have heard from me previously," (verse four). The promise of the father is the promise that the Holy Spirit will be given. It is [the promise] that they will soon be filled by the spirit of God. It is [the promise] that the spirit of God will begin to work powerfully through them. Jesus said to remain and wait in Jerusalem for that reason.
4. If they had looked at just their own harsh worlds, they would clearly know that there was not one sliver of hope there. But they knew the one in whom they ought to put their hopes. They had [great] expectations in him. They were people who had been waiting long. Reality was harsh. But they were joyous because they expected a place that went beyond their harsh world. The Holy Spirit's descending, being filled by the spirit of God, and God's living and working through them clearly went beyond [any of] their experiences. But they were not bound by their own experiences. They had expectations that went beyond their experiences.
5. We must take a good look at this figure of them. People who can wait with hope and expectation do not lose to the harsh world. They can wait in it. Conversely, people who think they have experienced all there is are miserable. Even if they are Christians, [but] only able to discern the world of faith from their own small experiences, and having gotten to the point of no longer expecting anything, these believers are truly pitiful. To wait expectantly for the Holy Spirit is clearly to wait for the one who goes way beyond our thoughts. To seek for the filling of the Holy Spirit is to seek to be filled by the one who goes beyond our experiences and for him to live and work [in us]. Therefore, we wait eagerly and expectantly. "As you know though, I personally don't expect a lot. [My] practice of the faith doesn't expect a lot. [My] church doesn't expect a lot." When we think that way, The Acts Of The Apostles becomes a book that has nothing to do with us any more. This ought not be. Through their figure, first of all, we must learn to have hope in God and to wait eagerly for God.
6. Now then, what specifically came about because they had hope and had waited? Please look at verse thirteen. "When they entered the capital, they went up to the upper room of the house in which they were staying over." For what purpose did they go up? It was to pray. In verse fourteen the text says the following. "They all prayed fervently joining hearts with the women, Mary the mother of Jesus, and the brothers of Jesus." They prayed. They prayed fervently. In a certain translation it has, "They devoted themselves to prayer." Their hopes were materialized into a specific form, as prayers. Jesus said, "Wait!" But, the specific form of hoping and waiting was "prayer." People who hope pray. People who have no hopes do not pray. In order for hope to be materialized as fervent prayer, we must break apart the hard shells of [our] past experiences and [our] giving-up, which comes out of them. The reason they broke the hard shells and were able to devote themselves to prayer was that they looked up to the risen Christ who had ascended to heaven and they turned their hearts to the promise of the father. It is because they earnestly turned their eyes unto God.
7. The list of the persons who prayed with their hearts joined together in that place is simply recorded. First, the names of the eleven apostles, excluding Judas Iscariot, are recorded. The order of the names varies from it, but it is the same as the list beginning in Luke chapter six and verse fourteen. When we read this text again, we're surprised by the diversity of the selection. Simon of the Zealot party is there. The Zealot party was the militant element of the Jewish nationalists who appeared at the beginning of the first century. They were right wing extremists. But at the same time, Matthew was a former tax collector. He sold out his fatherland, became a stooge for Rome and was a traitor to his country inflicting pain on his compatriots. These were men who could never become one by any means. Yet, while these persons assembled, even though Jesus was not among them in a visible form any more, they did join hearts as one and prayed. It is an amazing figure. In that place, there was a union because of this assembly where human pride and arrogance were broken down and they had only a hope in God.
8. In addition, it is worth noting how it refers to the women there. That women joined the flock of disciples is already recorded in The Gospel According To Luke, (Luke 8:2-3). However, in the social circumstances back then, this was not common by any means. We need to see in our imaginations a society where a female's social standing was strikingly low. In most cases, females did not figure into the count of the people. And it was the same way even in the religious world. In Jewish society, females were very much looked down upon religiously. One of the prayers that a devout male Pharisee back then would offer up in life was the prayer that said, "Oh heavenly father, I am thankful that I was not born a woman." Those are the religious circumstances that encircled a female back then.
9. Therefore, it is surprising that it says in the text that the apostles and the women joined their hearts and were praying together. It was in no wise a commonly practiced thing that these women, the same as the apostles, were seeking for the filling of the Holy Spirit, and were praying expectantly for the workings of the spirit of God. But we ought to take note here. In that time period, people were the target of various different evaluations and judgments. Others evaluated them, and they also evaluated and judged themselves. But, we must know that those evaluations and judgments of human beings were unconcerned with God's filling them with his spirit and using them. Regardless of what a Pharisee might say, the era had come when, even if a person was a female, she could be filled by the spirit of God and be used for God's work as a vessel of God. Furthermore, the same thing as that could be said regarding other folks. It could be said about the elderly. It could be said about the disabled. It could be said about persons with weak constitutions or persons with an injury in the past. Everybody, no matter who or how they are, should pray and keep having hope in God. God is able to fill any person with his spirit and use him or her. Better still, the power of God is revealed exactly at the weak spots.
10. Also, there were Jesus' mother Mary and Jesus' brothers there. They are written at the end. Their bond as blood relatives to the Christ was not in and of itself what was respected. When hearts are turned only to God, everything human related moves back into the rear.
11. Well, they gathered, they began praying and after several days, it came to the point that as many as one hundred and twenty persons had already gathered there, (verse fifteen). Then, Peter offered one specific proposal. It was that they try to select a substitute for Judas, who had betrayed Jesus and did the guiding for his arrest. Today [I'm] not giving a detailed talk on Judas. [But mention of him] is made in the place that I read to you today how they purchased a field with the reward money for which Judas had worked his injustice, and then [Judas] had fallen head first onto the ground and then he died. It comes out a slightly different story from that of Judas' last moments of life as written in The Gospel According To Matthew, (Matthew 27:5), and so in regard to Judas' last moments of life there seem to be various traditions.
12. In any case, the important thing here is the contents of Peter's proposal. Jesus chose twelve and made them apostles. Their wanting to replenish the missing apostle previously [appointed] was obviously a preparation towards the future. Jesus had chosen twelve apostles. We could probably make the case that this number of twelve persons being chosen was significant, and it evidently had to do with the twelve tribes of Israel. In short, the true Israel under the new covenant, the perfection of the true people of God in the kingdom of God, was symbolized in it. Therefore, Peter and the other disciples, who were wanting to replenish the one person here, were already looking at the figure of the people of God, who would evidently soon perfect them. It means that they were already seeing in their hearts the future figure of the still unseen church.
13. And also Peter's proposal shows that the vision of the mission had already begun to be given among them. It was being said here that as for the twelve apostles among the new people of God, they must be witnesses of the resurrection. "So then, during the time the Lord Jesus was living with us, that is, beginning from the time of the baptism from John, until the day he left us and went up into the heavens, someone from among those who were always with us, joined to us, ought to be a witness of the resurrection of the Lord," (verses twenty-one and twenty-two). Soon Christ would be proclaimed. Many would be added to the ranks. At that time the main thing was that the transmission of information would not be changed but preserved. So, as for the twelfth person, not just anybody [can] be assigned the charge, but a person appropriate for that purpose must be chosen.
14. It is truly surprising that they could sense the figure in which the people of God was perfected, and they were able to see ahead already the figure of the work of the mission going forward. As many as one hundred and twenty persons had assembled. This may seem like a lot, but it is not more than the amount of persons assembling in our summer camp for training. Meanwhile, they say there used to be four million Jews alone in the Palestinian area back then. Quite understandably, it hadn't yet entered into their minds the general notion of anything like a mission to the Gentiles. But still, if you just counted the Jews in that vicinity there were four million of them. They were the very ones witnessing for Christ and supposed to do the preaching. But in a group of just twelve ordinary men, powerless, having nothing, what in the world could they do? If thinking according to common sense, it was highly unlikely at all for them to have any outlook towards the future.
15. However, they certainly did look at the sure-to-come future and they began specific plans. Why [did they]? Prayer brings forth specific action. In other words, when they hoped, waited, and kept praying only to God, they obtained specific guidance. When they truly understood that it is not human beings but God himself who does the work as persons humble themselves and live true, then they obtain the guidance for what they should do specifically as persons. That is what the replenishment of the apostles means here.
16. The last man was chosen by drawing lots. This matter of inquiring into the will of God by drawing lots does not appear [in the scriptures] after this. Therefore, I don't think we can generalize much about this. As we all know, we moderns don't solve anything simply by lots. But even in their case, they did not practice lot-drawing haphazardly by any means. While they inquired into and sought the will of God, they chose two candidates very carefully. Then, even during the final decision, while praying, "Oh Lord, you know the hearts of all persons, please show us which of these two men you have chosen!," they drew the lots. The important thing is that even during the steps of the preparation, one [step] after the other, they sought to come to the will of Christ. Thus, a man named Matthias was chosen as an apostle.
17. This year, too, Pentecost has drawn near. In particular, we want to spend this week thinking of the figure of the apostles up to the descent of the Holy Spirit. Also, we want to reflect on how our church ought to be and how our faith life ought to be. Before we even realize it, thinking as if our power is doing something for God, aren't we always filled with self-will and obstinacy? Because of such arrogance, eventually, we lose hope, become discouraged, and end up unable to hope for anything new any more. Haven't we had an experience like that? Once again, we want to be persons, who renew their hopes in God, seek earnestly for the filling of the spirit of God, and keep in prayer. We want to be persons who obtain specific guidance while in those prayers, and who make preparations for the miraculous work of God.