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. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 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.” Acts 1:4-8
There is a figure of speech that we sometimes use when something isn’t understood correctly. We say that it was “lost in translation.” When we read scripture, we sometimes miss details because we literally lose them in translation. That is understandable, especially for those who can’t read the text directly from Greek and Hebrew. Still, I suggest there is a much more common and preventable interpretive mistake. We often miss the point of a text because it’s lost in a lack of imagination. An unimaginative and cursory reading will cause one to miss the tension in texts like these.
Imagine what is going on in this text. In the weeks before this text, the disciples had watched their leader die on a cross. They mourned his death and the death of the movement they had hoped for. They then became witnesses to his resurrection and were filled with new hope. Now Jesus begins to prepare them for his departure (ascension) and give them instructions, but they seem deaf to his word. Their response is to ask, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
You see, they can’t imagine him leaving again; he just came back to them. Their vision for the future was to be by his side as he ushered in their vision for an independent Israel kingdom. These were the men who most closely heard Jesus’ teaching, and they still didn’t understand what he was up to.
Maybe we do the same thing from time to time? Could we also be missing God’s actual plan for his Kingdom on earth? God’s Kingdom is counterintuitive; that is why it’s so easy to misunderstand. It’s not a kingdom concerned with any given local church rising in prestige or fame. It’s not a kingdom concerned with achieving some level of moral superiority among its citizens. It is not a kingdom concerned with having Christianity rise to power in the political systems of America or any other nation for that matter. It is a kingdom that focuses on goodness and love towards God and neighbor.
This week, help yourself surrender your ideas about God’s Kingdom. Ask God to give you his vision for His Kingdom. One way to do that is to pray the Lord’s Prayer each morning thoughtfully. You can find that prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. Especially focus on the line, “let YOUR kingdom come, and YOUR will be done.” Remember it’s his kingdom, not ours.
By Aaron Bjorklund