What Time is It?


Acts 1:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version)

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

6So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Book of Faith Devotional Questions:

  1. What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text?
  1. What delights me in this text?
  1. What stories or memories does this text stir up in me?
  1. What is God up to in this text?

What time is it as you are reading this article?  Morning?  Evening?  The middle of the night?  Are you a person who tells time by analog dial, with its half-pasts and quarter-‘tils?  Or are you the more precise digital kind of time-teller, an 8:37 type of person?  This is the driving question of the disciples in this New Testament text appointed every year for Ascension Day.  The disciples have been with the risen Jesus for forty days, and they want to know what time it is.  They thought that the end of the story came on Good Friday, and then they thought that a new age had been ushered in on Easter Sunday, but, so far, Jesus has just been appearing and teaching like he did before (albeit in more spectacular ways).  Is this it?  Is this all that’s going to happen?  When will Israel have its kingdom restored?  When will Jesus take his place on the throne, like David?

I have to admit that Jesus’ answer is one that I sometimes use when my kids are impatient; “It is not for you to know the times or periods.”  God the Father and Jesus still have more surprises in store.  Jesus gives them the promise of the Holy Spirit, and then is taken up in a cloud out of their sight.  He leaves because there is still more work to do.  We profess this mystery in the words of the Apostles’ Creed:

“On the third day he rose again.  He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.  He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”

He took his rightful place on his throne that we might day join him as co-inheritors of the kingdom of God.

Don’t get me wrong; it sure would be nice to know the time.  When will Jesus come again?  We’ve been waiting over 2,000 for his kingdom to come to us!  For now, let us wait with patience, knowing that the Father knew exactly the right time to send Jesus the first time, and will come again in exactly the same way.  Until then, we wait, in patience, with hope.

In Christ,

Pastor Breen

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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