What was the purpose of that? Why did that happen? What am I here for?
These questions, and many more just like them, seem to constantly roll around our mind as we try to figure out reason and purpose. So many times, we think we finally have it figured out, only to have something else happen that makes it clear we don’t really know. How often do we turn to God and simply listen? Not listening for the “why?”, but listening for the “what’s next?”. Listening in order to trust more than to understand. As we listen, more often than not, we will find that our feeble attempts to make sense out of, and explain, a situation falls short of being what really is.
I see this in today’s text from Acts 1:6-8,
“So when they met together, they 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.'”
The disciples had been on a roller-coaster of emotions following Jesus. They had experienced the highs and lows of learning and ministering. They had been there when Lazarus was raised from the dead. They had watched the crowds hail Jesus as their king and messiah. They listened to the words of Jesus about His purpose on earth, and often just didn’t get it. They fought and they argued. They loved and they served. They slept as Jesus prayed and they ran as He was arrested. They heard the crowds cry, “Crucify Him!” They watched as He was led up the hill and nailed to a cross. They hid in fear and they doubted they would ever see Jesus again.
Yet they did see Him again! They walked with Him. They talked with Him. They ate with Him. They rejoiced with Him. And in the midst of all that, they tried to figure out the “why?” — the purpose behind all Jesus had gone through. And so we come to the first chapter of Acts, to the last physical meeting of the disciples and Jesus here on earth. The disciples come to Jesus asking about their take on what had occurred and what was to happen next. And so they ask, I believe anticipating a yes answer — the only answer that would make sense out of what they had seen and heard. “Jesus, is now the time you will restore Your Kingdom here on earth?” “Do we finally get to see the fruit of what You’ve gone through, the results of all we have worked for?” “The cost was so great, this has to be why!”
So, the response of Jesus probably comes as a surprise. It shouldn’t have. It is what Jesus had been saying throughout His ministry. It was why He had invested time and energy into making disciples. Jesus says, “No, this isn’t about restoring the kingdom here on earth, it is about you being my witness throughout the earth!” There it is. We know the ultimate purpose of the death, burial, and resurrection was to bring salvation to mankind, but did He really need to have disciples like He did to accomplish that? The purpose — if the disciples were asking, “What am I here for?” — was made clear. All that they had seen and heard, all they had endured and experienced, was to prepare them to be witnesses for Jesus to the ends of the earth. Jesus had accomplished what He had come to earth for. Now it was time for the disciples to begin doing the work they had been prepared to do.
How about you and I? When life is full of joy, sorrow, challenges, fear, excitement, and everything else life throws our way, what do we do with it? Often times, like the disciples, we try to make sense out of it using our own logic and wisdom. Many more times, I think God would give us the same answer that the disciples got — you’ve gone through what you’ve experienced so that you can be My witnesses throughout the world. Each experience we have in life gives us an opportunity to see Jesus at work in us personally. Every incident has the potential to prepare us to be a better witness. Our trials and our joys are not about us — it is all about Him!
Whatever we go through — when you and I try to figure it out, may the question constantly be at the top of our mind, “How does this help me be a more effective witness for Jesus?” When we’re in the midst of life asking, “What am I here for?”, may we hear God saying clearly and directly, “You are My witness!”