Didn't See That Coming

God often does His best work in ways we didn’t see coming.

Acts 1
1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
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.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”


This is one of those typical weird Jesus conversations. Jesus tells them something that He’s talked about before (a promise), and they respond with a question out of left field: “Are you going to restore the Kingdom?”

Jesus doesn't answer the question directly. Instead, his response is cryptic (vs. 7-8). Remember, this is at the point when everyone was tired of Roman oppression and afraid of the future. Sometimes, we want God to come and fix our circumstances, make everything better, or take away our problems.

Jesus has risen from the dead. He’s done this big thing, but here they are with seemingly the same problems in front of them.

We sing about the power of God, we believe it and hold onto it. We pray for God to change things, show up, and then we go out the door to only find ourselves staring the same issues in the face. We see the same challenges, the same broken relationship, the same medical diagnosis in front of us.

Sometimes it seems like, what good is God if it feels like nothing changes? But what if it was about something else?

We want God to change things, but what if what God really wants to do is change us?

This sounds profoundly unsatisfying. It feels like a Christian cliché. The only way it makes any sense is if we take a very different view of life, suffering, difficulty, and even death from the world around us.

Then, Jesus does something even more unhelpful. He disappears. He says this cryptic thing and then bounces. And this is the second time He does something like this.

Before the events of the Easter story, Jesus rides into Jerusalem, and everyone thinks this is the big moment. They think Jesus is going to make the big move, things will change, and He will solve the big problem. Then, He gets himself arrested and crucified.

But the plot twisted.

He rose from the dead. He was back! So, surely, now was the time.

And then, Jesus seemingly lets them down again. He doesn’t restore Israel, leaving them with more questions than answers.

This is something they didn’t see coming.

We have this idea of how God is with us that's very comfortable and comforting. Because of this, when God moves in an unexpected way or direction, we're tempted to think He's left us when He hasn't.

Jesus’ ascension wasn’t abandonment; it was preparation.

He promised the coming of the Holy Spirit, a new way for God to dwell within and empower them. But they didn’t know that when He said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.”

They’d heard Jesus talk about the Holy Spirit (John 14-16), but like so many things Jesus talked about, it was abstract and complex to comprehend for them.

God’s perceived absence can send us into a tailspin, or we can trust, wait, and allow Him to prepare us to engage with Him in a whole new way.

This means we must walk in a way we've never walked before. What we perceive as "God is doing this TO me" is really "God is doing this FOR me." This takes a whole different mindset and incredible faith.

We need to reframe the feeling of God’s absence into the feeling of God’s preparation.

He’s doing something we don’t have the capacity to grasp yet. Understanding that takes the pressure off of the moment for God to do in the way we expect, and it allows God to just be.
They’re left with three cryptic instructions or promises:
  • Don’t leave Jerusalem.
  • Wait.
  • You will receive power.
 
Don’t leave Jerusalem.

The last time Jesus left when He was crucified, they all scattered. Staying where they were without their leader in the face of all the people who wanted to arrest them, or worse, was an incredibly insecure situation, even dangerous.

You’re left in the place next to the thing you have to face, and it feels like God isn’t there with you.

Wait.

There's nothing worse than waiting when it feels like nothing is happening. There's no timing parameter given. Think of waiting in line at the DMV and finally getting to the front of the line, only to be told you need to complete more paperwork.

Remember their question, “When are you going to restore the Kingdom of Israel?” They had an answer of what they thought that looked like and who was going to do it. Jesus did actually answer the question. He will restore the Kingdom, not a political kingdom or a kingdom defined by boundaries or place.

To understand this, we need a radically different POV. They are the Kingdom – the rule and reign of God. The priorities of God, the way of God, and the peace of God. We are the Kingdom. We bring the Kingdom.

And this is definitely something they didn’t see coming.

You will receive power.

Power for what? Power to do what?

Power to stay. Power to keep going. Not power to escape, but power to stand.

"Will you fix our problem?" He doesn't say no. He says don't leave. Stay in the place that you want to leave, and I'll empower you to be there in a different way than you've been or could even be on your own.

If we leave all the places of difficulty, it might seem better for us, but is it really better for us? Is it really better for the world around us? Is it better for the people around us in that place?

Acts 1
12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying.


Many commentators believe this was the same upper room where they had spent the Last Supper with Jesus. They went back to the last place they had spent time with Him. When things are hard, we tend to try to return to the last place that makes sense. But there's something profound that God does.

God meets us in the last place but then leads us to the next place.

If we jump forward, what happens there? God meets them with power—a power that changes them and the world—a power not to leave but to stay.
  • Where in your life do you need to go into the upper room and wait on God?
  • Where is God’s absence really God’s preparation?
  • Where do you need to trust even though you can’t see it?

Have you ever had a time when you thought you were on your own but, looking back, recognized that God was there too?

It’s a power not to leave but to stay.

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