We Prepare And Hope
May 20, 2007
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Staying In Jerusalem
1. In today's second reading, [I] read [to you] from Acts chapter one and beginning in verse twelve. At the opening section to this is written, "The apostles went back to Jerusalem from the mountain called 'The Olive Field.'" It was forty days after Jesus was crucified and was raised from the dead. Just before the passage we read today is recorded the day on which Jesus ascended into heaven. After Jesus ascended, the disciples went back to Jerusalem. They were ready to stay in Jerusalem.
2. It's strange when you give it some thought. Most of them were from Galilee, so there was no real basis for them to live in Jerusalem. They had no reason that they absolutely must stay in Jerusalem. What's more, you'd never expect Jerusalem to be a very comfortable place for the disciples because there were a large number of people who were against Jesus there. The people who hated Jesus hated them. That place was an extremely risky one for the disciples.
3. To go even further on this, Jerusalem is the place where they flinched with fear, forsook Jesus and fled away, and it was tied to that miserable memory. It was the place that had exposed their sinfulness and weakness. By all rights, it would not be strange if they had no desire to tread that ground again a second time, but they did stay in Jerusalem.
4. Why [did they]? The reason is simple. [They did it] because Jesus told them to stay in Jerusalem. "Do not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for what my father promised, which you have heard from me before," (verse four). Yet, they did not obey reluctantly. If we go by The Gospel According To Luke, it says how they had "returned back to Jerusalem with great joy," (Luke 24:52). Why? Because they had hope. Because they had an expectant and hopeful future.
5. I will read to you once more the words that Jesus spoke. "Do not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for what my father promised, which you have heard from me before," (verse four). The promise of the father is the promise that the Holy Spirit would be given. God the Father promised [the Holy Spirit] to them. They would soon be filled with the Spirit of God. Put another way, God himself would begin to work in a mighty way through them. God was initializing a mobilization. Jesus spoke of it. Jesus told them for that reason to "Wait" and stay in Jerusalem.
6. They had not a sliver of hope there [in Jerusalem] if they were fixing their gazes at themselves only. They knew all too well how grave the situation actually was. However, they were rejoicing. Gladly did they stay in the distressful situation because even though they were poor vessels, since God was using them, it made it a whole other story.
7. To wait in hope for the Holy Spirit, to wait expectantly and to seek to be filled by the Spirit of God means to wait expectantly and to seek to become a vessel for God. Therefore, even though they could not put their hopes in themselves, they could put their hopes in God. A person who can wait and hope with expectations in God will not be defeated in reality. They will not be defeated even by their own weaknesses because God is not weak.
8. I can say the same thing in reverse. The believer is miserable who turns his or her eyes on oneself, who ends up focusing his or her attention so far on only upon his or her own situation, who winds up with no hope of any kind. As you know, I'm so like that. Every day faith life is so much like that. The church is like that. When [we] start to think like that, The Book Of The Acts Of The Apostles might become a book that is not strange to us. First of all, through their examples, we must learn how they put their hopes in God and waited in hope for God.
They Prayed Fervently
9. Well, what specifically did they do because they were expectant and waiting in hope? Please look at verse thirteen. "When they entered the capitol city, they went up to the upper room of the house where they were staying." What was the reason they went up? In order to pray. In verse fourteen the following is written. "They all, the women, Mary the mother of Jesus, and the disciples of Jesus, united their hearts and prayed fervently."
10. They prayed. They prayed fervently. In some translations, it is given as "They devoted themselves to prayer." Their waiting took on the specific form of prayer. Jesus told them to "Wait." But, the specific form of their waiting and being expectant was "prayer." Those who wait on God pray. Those who don't wait on God don't pray.
11. The list of those who had joined their hearts and prayed while there is simply recorded. The names of the eleven apostles, excluding Judas Iscariot, are recorded first. The order is different, but it is the same list in The Gospel According To Luke in chapter six and beginning in verse fourteen. When [I] read this all over, the diversity of the choices is surprising. Simon from the Zealot party is in it. The Zealots were a militant element of the Jewish nationalists who appeared at the beginning of the first century. On the other side of things, Matthew was originally a tax collector. He sold out his own country, became a stooge for Rome, and caused his own people to suffer; he was a kind of traitor. Any way you cut it, these were people who were not of the same cloth. What's more, Jesus had called them as disciples, but he was no longer with them in a form visible to the eye.
12. Nevertheless, these people still "joined their hearts" and prayed. This is amazing. But, we can also say that what was supposed to happen did happen because they should all be in agreement in that assembly since human arrogance and pride was broken down, and all they had was [their] hope and [their] waiting upon God.
13. In addition, it is worth noting the fact that a reference is made to the women there. The fact that women had joined the flock of disciples is also recorded in The Gospel According To Luke, (Luke 8:2-3). However, in the social situations of that day and time this was not part of the customs at all because a female's social standing was so low that there is nothing to compare it to today. It was the same way [for women] even in the religious communities in general. For example, one of the prayers of thanksgiving which a pious Pharisee male at that day and time might offer up in the course of his life was the prayer, "Oh heavenly father, I give thanks to you that I was not born female." That's the religious environment that engulfed the females back then.
14. Therefore, with this text the fact itself that the women, just the same as the apostles, are seeking the filling of the Holy Spirit, are seeking in prayer and waiting on the working of God's Spirit is stating a very important point. To get to the point, how the people in society evaluate and judge [people] is not related to the way God fills with his Spirit and makes use of [people]. Whatever the Pharisee may say, the era has come when a person is filled with the Spirit of God and is used for the work of God as a vessel for God even though one may be female.
15. We can say that same thing not just about females but about other persons as well. We can say it about the elderly as well. We can say that about persons with disabilities. We can say it in regard to persons with poor health and to persons with wounds in their past. Whatever way the people of the world see it doesn't matter. God can use and fill anyone with his Spirit. Indeed, God would rather manifest his power in the weak places. Therefore, whoever and whatever kind of person one might be, we ought to pray and keep having hope in God.
Led To A Specific Preparation
16. Well, it was probably after about several days had gone by when they assembled together and first began to pray, there would be as many as one hundred and twenty persons already assembled there (verse fifteen). Peter, then, made one proposal to everybody there, that they elect an apostle to take the place of Judas.
17. According to the place that I read you today, Judas bought a plot of land with the reward for his having sold over Jesus, and he fell headlong to the ground, and died. I won't be touching on anymore than this about Judas. It is the contents of Peter's proposal that I would like for us to observe here. Jesus chose twelve men and made them apostles. Peter's proposal was an attempt to replenish one of the men missing from among [the twelve apostles]. This is clearly a preparation with regard for the future. Peter was looking at how the work of Jesus would be continued on through them.
18. Christ would soon be proclaimed far and wide. Many would be added to the fellowship. Peter was already anticipating this situation. He was making specific preparations for that time. When the gospel is proclaimed and many new persons are added in, what would become important? It would be that the things handed down concerning Jesus (the traditions) be communicated correctly. Therefore, the twelfth person must be chosen appropriate to that [purpose]. For that reason then, Peter made the following proposal. "Thus, while Jesus was making a living among us, that is, beginning from the time of John the Baptist until the day he left us and went up into the heavens, one of those who have been with us the whole time will join us and ought to become a witness of the resurrection of the Lord," (verses twenty-one and twenty-two).
19. That they had pictured the progress of the work of evangelism and made specific preparations as well is itself amazing. I say that because it was at most no more than one hundred and twenty people who were assembling there. It might seem like a lot, but it is at most about the same number of people assembled here. What is blocking their way is a powerful religious system of rule, which governed the Jewish societies, too, which were dispersed outside of Palestine. In Palestine alone there were as many as four million Jews, [so] for them [as] rulers the fact that one hundred and twenty average kind of persons were assembled was probably not much of a number. That reality was apparent to anybody's view. As viewed from commonsense, the future outlook was a situation one could not entirely possess.
20. Nonetheless, they began specific preparations. It was not in their own power; when they hoped in and waited only on God, and kept praying, they obtained specific leadership. It is paradoxical but, when we humble ourselves and admit that it is not the human beings who do it, but it is God himself who is at work making use of the human beings, then we can see what we should truly do as human beings. In that sense, prayer leads to a specific action based on waiting on God -- a specific action we ought to do now. In their case it meant the replenishment of an apostle.
21. Jesus said to his disciples, "Do not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for what my father promised, which you have heard from me before." Thus, just as it is recorded in today's passage, waiting on God expectantly means specifically "to pray" and not to be dazed doing nothing, and also that through prayer we are to be led to specific actions that we should do now..
22. Pentecost has drawn near this year. In particular, I would like for us to spend this week reflecting on the figure of the disciples coming to the descent of the Holy Spirit. And, I would like for us to reconsider how our church ought to be and the way our day to day faith lives ought to be. Aren't there times when, before we know it, we become high minded as if our own strength does something for God? And aren't there times when because of such arrogance, eventually, we always lose hope, become discouraged, and can't wait any more for anything new? Once again, we want to be people who renew our hopes in God, who steadfastly seek the filling of the Spirit of God, who keep praying. And we want to be people who obtain specific leadership amid those prayers and keep making preparations for God's miraculous work.