From Brian Mayo…
May 5th was the commemoration of Jesus’ Ascension back to heaven. The book of Acts begins with this sentence: “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach, until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the Apostles he had chosen.” (Acts 1:1-2)
The book of Acts begins with Jesus’ ascension. Luke, the writer of Acts, also says that before Jesus went back up to heaven, he told his disciples: “Don’t leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift from my Father which you have heard about from me. For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit, not too many days from now.” (Acts 1:4-5)
And finally Luke records: “And when he had said these things even as they watched him, he was taken up and a cloud took him from their eyes.” (Acts 1:9)
So, this is how the book of Acts begins, Jesus ascends back to heaven and the disciples are instructed to wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. I noticed a couple of interesting things about this passage.
First, Jesus is taken up to heaven, he does not go there on his own power. Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, Jesus walks, heals, he calms a storm, he turns water into wine, but here he is taken up to heaven by God’s power, not his own.
Secondly, I noticed that the Holy Spirit is a gift from God, the Father, not a gift from Jesus.
Thirdly, the passage also says, in another place, that the disciples “will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them”. (Verse 8). So, the power comes from the Holy Spirit, not from Jesus.
This is interesting to me. Jesus, who was the center of the story of God for so much of the New Testament, is now part of the story. God takes him back up to heaven. God sends the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit gives power to the disciples. Jesus is very involved in all of this, but he is part of the story, not all of the story.
The reason for this is that in this passage, we see the Trinity of God at work. God is One, expressed in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and here we see them working together, in a way that we do not always see in the Bible. In addition, there is more to the Trinity than even this. In the book of John, for instance, Jesus says, “the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” (John 14:31)
In the Trinity, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit work together, but, in addition, Jesus subordinates himself to God. The Ascension passage opens a little window for us to see how God operates, and, ultimately, when we look at Jesus’s whole life (his birth, death and resurrection) we see that Jesus is the obedient Son of his Father, God.
If Jesus, the first Christian, is obedient to God, shouldn’t we be also?
And what would such obedience look like in a human being?
I have an unlikely model in mind–King David!
Yes, I know that King David sinned in adultery and ultimately in murder, but aren’t we all sinners? And I wonder if we could learn anything about obedience from a fellow sinner like David?
To do so we must go back to 1025 B.C..
At that time the ruling king of Israel was a man named Saul. God had made him king by having him anointed on the head with oil. However, Saul did not obey God, so God had David made king, but the problem was Saul was still alive. Saul did not want to share the kingdom of Israel with David, so he tried to kill David on several occasions.
Here is the first such occasion:
“But an evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand. While David was playing the harp, Saul tried to pin him to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him as Saul drove the spear into the wall. That night David made good his escape.” (1st Samuel 19:9-10)
David was in danger, but he did not stay and fight, he ran and hid from Saul, on and off for five years! Even more interesting, when David came upon Saul, asleep and defenseless, David did not take revenge on Saul, he spared his life. David said, “Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless?” (1st Samuel 26:9)
David did not take revenge on the man who tried to kill him at least three times, the man who drove David to live in deserts, away from people. David acted this way because, like Jesus, he obeyed God, even to his detriment.
David’s actions here are an example to us. David let God fight his battles, he did not “take matters into his own hands.”
This Sunday I will read the whole story of David’s obedience to God. Come on Sunday ready to be shocked and inspired.