I've Witnessed It


Acts 1:6-11
6 So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”

7 He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

9 After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”


Have you ever witnessed something that you knew, right there in that moment, was so life-changing that you would never be the same? Maybe it was the exhilaration of being there for your baby’s first cry, or the heaviness of being in the room when your parent took his or her last breath. Maybe it was watching your child make a profession of faith in Jesus or watching your child drive away, bound for college and adulthood. Each of these scenarios make an indelible mark on those who witness them. As I read today’s passage, I think about how the disciples were marked by what they witnessed, and what they went on to do about it.

This passage begins with Jesus’ disciples asking him if the time has come for him “to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” This question comes after Jesus has promised that his followers would be “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5). The disciples would have known the Old Testament scriptures, and would have been familiar with promises like the one in Ezekiel 39, that says: “I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel . . . I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord God.” Their anticipation of the restoration of Israel reflects a common desire, that we can all relate to, for immediate resolution, a yearning for the tangible fulfillment of God's promises. However, Jesus redirects their focus from earthly kingdoms and timing to a divine mission, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus replies with a reminder to his disciples—and to us—that the timing of God's kingdom is not for us to determine or know (v.7). Instead, he commissions them to be witnesses empowered by the Holy Spirit and extending the reach of His Kingdom from their current city, Jerusalem, to the surrounding areas, including the outcast and hated people of Samaria, and reaching the ends of the earth. This commission is not a mere suggestion but a divine mandate, a call to active participation in God's redemptive plan. Jesus doesn’t tell his disciples that they should be his witnesses to the world but that they will be; they have been so marked by their experiences with Jesus–his life and ministry, his death and resurrection, and his teaching them about the Kingdom of God–that they will inevitably be witnesses to His Gospel wherever they go, by the power of His Spirit!

The disciples witnessed Jesus taken up into heaven before their very eyes! They stood there gazing upward, straining to see him rising into heaven (v. 10) and were met with angelic messengers who seem to redirect their attention from the sky to the task at hand. “Why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” (v. 11).  They have just witnessed the Lord returning to heaven, and now they are to be His witnesses throughout the world, until He comes again. The task must have seemed insurmountable, terrifying even. But, the power to accomplish that mission was not any they possessed in themselves, but that power would be given to them by the Spirit. Just one chapter later, in Acts 2, “there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm…what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them, and everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages as the the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.” (Acts 2:2-4). The same Holy Spirit who empowered the disciples to spread the Gospel throughout the world inhabits us as followers of Jesus and empowers us to plant the seeds of the Gospel for generations to come! 

Action Step

John Piper writes that “a witness is a person who has been so touched, so powerfully, deeply moved by the reality of the living Jesus Christ sweeping their sins away and inhabiting their heart… that they speak with the kind of confidence of one who knows, who has tasted, and seen.” Take time today to sit in the presence of God, to taste and see that He is good. Ask Him to move you deeply with awe and gratitude for what Christ has done for you, for where He has brought you from and how deeply He loves you, and to make you abundantly aware of His Spirit’s power at work within you. 


As you pray, ask the Spirit to bring to mind moments you have witnessed that have convinced you of the Truth of the Gospel and the powerful work of Christ on your behalf. Ask Him to give you opportunities to share those experiences with someone else today. 
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