"It Was Not For Them To Know!"

May 14, 2021​

​(From Acts 1:1-11)

Among the many noteworthy points of interest in Acts 1:1-11 there are two I would like to comment on. The first is about how the author of Acts, the one and only Luke of the gospel of Luke, described Jesus' ascension. Luke noted that Jesus was "lifted up" and "taken up." Such language strongly implies Jesus did not ascend independently of himself. Again, the language implies someone (or something) "took" Jesus up and out of sight of the watching disciples by a means apart from Jesus' own power. I certainly do not know by what actual means Jesus was "taken up."

But, it does cause me to wonder; was it a person or a thing that exercised a force of motion upon Jesus that he defied gravity and was "lifted up?" And wonder this: just how high was Jesus lifted up? Luke does tell us Jesus was lifted up to a point that the disciples lost sight of him within a cloud. (And, was the cloud a cloud as we understand clouds -- a mass of water vapor and dust?) But even more curious, just how high was “out of sight?” How high was high until it became “out” -- as in out of the atmosphere, as in out into space? 

Yes, not really important questions, not something to hang doctrine on; but interesting questions nonetheless. Just how was Jesus “lifted up” and how far did that action go?  Again, just curious thoughts.

The second point of interest in the mentioned passage in Acts 1:1-11 is what the disciples accompanying Jesus had to say to him about the reestablishment of the kingdom of Israel.  The disciples asked Jesus, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" Here, the disciples had spent over three years (three and one half  years more likely) with Jesus in his ministry, and still they were putting the cart before the donkey. And Jesus rightly informed them that the physical establishment of the kingdom of God was not their concern at that time. They had another mission that they were yet quite oblivious to. That being the matter of making disciples of Christ in the newly begun Age of Grace, an age that had, at that time, two thousand years to go before the next and last Age was to commence.

As Jesus said, "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."  Yes, the matter of the physical establishment of the actual, living kingdom of God was for a time far into the future from their time. And, at the time of Jesus’ ascension, they were still somewhat blind to the whole picture of God’s plan. But that was soon to change once they received the gift of the Holy Spirit seven days later at Pentecost! Yes, with the receipt of the Holy Spirit, they were about to be transformed from rather dim witted, confused men of the two thousand year Age of Torah into wise, articulate witnesses of the Good News of Jesus Christ, and that commencing the two thousand year Age of Grace! 

No, it was not for them at that time to know “the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.” But, have no doubt my friends and siblings-in-Christ, it is for us now!  May the Holy Spirit bless us all now with the power and awareness we will all need to carry out the mission that faces us today, just as He blessed those back then to carry out the mission of spreading the gospel that faced the disciples in their time.

Mark Johnson

NSUMC Lay Leader