Americans hate jury duty. And our fellow citizens have concocted these timeworn excuses to sidestep their responsibility: Request a trial in December, the month when most cases are rescheduled. Mention “jury nullification” to the judge, the legal right of a jury to refuse conviction because a law is deemed unjust. Or announce during the selection process that, “you’ll make a great juror because you can spot a guilty person just by looking at them” (George Carlin).
Perhaps, it is not just that people don’t want the inconvenience of interruption or the meager $20 a day paycheck, but that Americans mostly don’t want to participate in anything of significance, don’t want to take their turn testifying to the truth.
Acts 1:1-11 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After 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. While 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; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But 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.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They 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.”
Why does Jesus have to ascend?
If Jesus stays, we won’t take responsibility for our Christian mission.
Jesus was just one man in one place. The Spirit can use all of us to further Jesus’ work.
Because the prophets of Old told us so.
To remind us that the Trinity has three persons, even though most of us focus only on the first two.
Fred Craddock recounts his time as pastor saying, “We can chat about the weather and everything under the sun but bring up a sacred subject and most of us get quiet… If I say, ‘Let’s redo the building,’ everybody comes. But… when I ask for talkers, no one comes. [Church] volunteers- they cut down trees, they mow grass, wash the windows, serve, fix the table, decorate, bring flowers, but the one thing I hear most [as pastor] is… ‘I’ll do anything, but don’t ask me to say anything.’ [The] …most difficult and most effective and most profound thing you’ll ever do for Jesus Christ is to say something.”
He needed Mary’s womb for his birth and John’s baptism for his beginning, the fishermen to drop their nets and paralytics to pick up their mats, Simon to carry his cross and the angels to roll away the stone (William Quick paraphrase). And now Jesus needs us to say something about his presence in his absence.
Why does Jesus have to ascend?
The summons notice is waiting in the mailbox, addressed to every citizen in the kingdom and there’s no excusing this Christian duty. Jesus goes up and the Holy Spirit goes down, so that we can receive the power to speak about the holy. Just as the Word was made flesh in his voice, now the Word is made flesh in our voice.
Those who haven’t heard don’t need another street corner preacher screaming judgment, don’t need another bold printed track affixed to the windshield, don’t need another fiery question about burning in hell. But what the world is leaning in to listen for most is the sound of an authentic testimony about what God has done in your life.
Can I get a witness?