I woke up early this morning to begin my study in the book of Acts. Beginning in January I will be walking our High School students at Mars Hill through the book of Acts over a 20-week period. I’m pretty excited about it as our Student Ministry is experiencing some of the challenges that I think the Apostles experienced in the beginnings of their ministry. So many questions and fears, the feeling of inadequacy, constantly asking the questions, “Am I really supposed to do this, and if so, how?” I don’t think we’ll face things quite on the scale that the Apostles did, however, we will face some similar questions.
This morning I read the first 8 verses of Acts 1. Most of us have probably read this before, the words of Jesus commissioning and encouraging the apostles, reminding them of the purpose in which he came, died, and will come again. One thing that I have often missed reading this passage is the rebuke that Jesus gives them. Usually when I read this passage I think of “nice Jesus” encouraging those who followed him that they weren’t in it alone. While I think Jesus is still “nice” in this passage I can’t imagine how upset, maybe even frustrated he was when the apostles asked what they asked in verse 6. Luke records in Acts 1:6 that the apostles asked the following question, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom of Israel?” AHHHHH! What had Jesus been teaching them for the last three years?!? It’s about the Kingdom of God! Come on guys, you’ve been walking with the guy for three years, every day. You know him better than anyone else around and you saw him die on a cross and rise again three days later just like he told you, and you’re still asking the same question you asked before his death?
I must say, I would probably do the same thing. I say this because I know my tendency today. “Jesus, when will you restore my kingdom?” When Jesus taught his disciples to pray he said, “Your (the Father’s) Kingdom come, Your will be done” (Matthew 6:10). It has always been about the Kingdom of God. It has never been about the kingdom of Israel. Even when Israel was in its prime, it was still about the Kingdom of God. This was clearly demonstrated through the life of Jesus. If it was about any kingdom on this earth then Jesus would not have come as a humble Jewish boy from Galilee born in a manger. He would have come as a ruler, warrior, general, or something other than a servant.
How many times do we ask Jesus to restore our kingdoms? Our kingdom at work, home, on the ball field, with our friends/family, our country, or even at church? I am the worst about having things in order. I have a tendency to lead if no one else will, and I will am really bad about taking control when I think things can be done better. In other words, I have a terrible tendency, maybe even addiction, to make it all about me. As a Pastor, I’ve seen this in other people as well. Most pastors have their “dark years” in their ministry. I’m only 28, but I’ve experienced a few “dark years” of ministry as well, and I’m sure I will experience more in the future. I’ve been on staff at churches in the past where I constantly asked, “Seriously Jesus, is this where you want me to be?” All the while, Jesus’ answer was, “Yes.” Jesus used the things in other people to point out the things in my own life. Selfishness, greed, pride, disobedience, selfishness, addiction to power, selfishness (I may have already said that one). It’s always been about my kingdom.
The challenge I receive in Acts 1:1-8 this morning is that it’s about Jesus’ Kingdom. How frustrated Jesus must get with me when I complain about being busy, annoying people, even traffic. How everything I complain about ultimately screams, “Jesus, when will you restore my kingdom!” In Revelation, Jesus finally returns and declares one last time, “it’s my Kingdom that matters, not yours. Your kingdom will burn, My Kingdom will last forever.” What’s great is that Jesus lets us rule with Him in His Kingdom.
So, next time I have the tendency to restore my own kingdom, I pray that Jesus reminds me to pursue His Kingdom. A part of that is pointing people to the gates of His Kingdom.