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. 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” (Acts 1:6-8).
As a pastor, someone once accused me of having “ulterior motives.” The definition of ulterior is “beyond what is seen or revealed, something kept secret on purpose.” His accusation was that as a pastor, I was only nice to people because I was trying to get someone to go to my church. And our church only had events (open houses, health fairs, VBS, summer sports camps) in the community because they were trying to trick people into becoming members.
I understood his point. He had a bad experience with religion once, feeling like he was tricked into attending church. He wanted one thing, and the church wanted to give him something else entirely. He reasoned that the only reason why pastors and churches cared about anyone is because they wanted something, so their care wasn’t genuine.
He was half right. I wanted something, definitely, and I will never apologize for wanting it. But my motive definitely was anything but “ulterior.” In fact, the primary mission of every pastor and every Christian in every church everywhere should never be ulterior. It should be the opposite: expressed, known, public knowledge. We want people to be in heaven forever. Period. And without faith in Jesus Christ, that can never happen. Why would we ever be ashamed of inviting someone to hear about Jesus? We will never want anything more or anything different for every person we meet!
In our section of God’s Word for today, the disciples had witnessed Jesus’ death and resurrection. He was alive and standing in front of them! And their question for him? “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
Like the man I mentioned above, they were looking for Jesus to give them one thing, but Jesus had something greater to give. They were thinking so small, wondering about a kingdom on earth, while Jesus wanted to give them the kingdom of heaven. And what Jesus did next is anything but “ulterior” in nature.
“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.’”
It was as clear as day: Don’t concern yourself with the small things. You will be my witnesses. And the power of the Holy Spirit will give you what you need to be my witnesses.
It’s no accident that the word for witness in Greek is the same word as martyr: someone who is willing to die for his faith. Telling people that the way to heaven is through faith in Christ Jesus and that more than anything at all, you want them to be there, is not a message that is always easy to proclaim. It brings people face to face with a reality that they may not want to face. It may bring you angry reactions, false accusations, or even persecution.
But it won’t make us stop. Because we truly do care, and because we do want people to be in heaven forever, we continue to be witnesses for Jesus. And our comfort is that the same Spirit who was with the disciples and our Christian ancestors and missionaries of long ago is still with us. His power has not diminished or disappeared. When you share Words of God, it will be there working.
God bless you as you continue to be His witnesses!