Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
The last three years hadn’t worked out quite as the disciples had expected. John the Baptist had pointed out Jesus to Andrew who had brought his brother Simon to listen to what Jesus had to say. It was pretty powerful stuff so powerful that Andrew, Simon, James and John gave up their fishing business to follow this Rabbi. Indeed, when later Jesus asked Simon Peter who he was, Peter replied that: “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God.” Mat 16.16 His message was sound and the kingdom he proposed was exactly what was needed and just the opposite of the severe rule imposed by their Roman oppressors. Now since it threatened their positions within the Roman system his message upset the High priests and their cohorts. They realised that the Romans weren’t worried about how the Jews practised their religion, YHWH was just another god to them, but the idea of a Jewish Messiah or King Emperor would threaten them and bring down the retribution of the Empire. Hence their plan to get rid of Jesus.
The disciples had high hopes that things would change when Jesus assumed his rightful place as Messiah and thus ruler of Israel. His entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey that day seemed to be the time. But it hadn’t happened then; indeed he had been crucified as a common criminal. His resurrection and appearances to them in the days following gave them hope once more. When forty days after his resurrection he took them up the mountain called Olivet, they thought this must be the time for Jesus to take up his role as Messiah and restore Israel to its former glory. As Luke tells us: ‘Then they gathered round him and asked him “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”’ Jesus did not address their question directly but did say that, ‘“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” and with that he was taken up into heaven, never to be seen again. Acts 1:6-9. There seemed nothing more for the disciples to do so they returned to Jerusalem to the upstairs room where they were lodging.
You can imagine their confusion, their worries, their anxieties and their fears. For the last three years Jesus had always been with them but now they were on their own. Their days of fishing were behind them but what lay ahead? They had Jesus’ last word, his command to go out into all the world to proclaim his message ringing in their ears. What a daunting task that would be! Yes, they had been out on their own before but then Jesus had been awaiting them on their return. Now He would not be! Where was he when they needed him? He was gone now, they had seen him taken up into heaven. Jesus had promised that the Holy Spirit would come on them but when would that happen and what use would that be? So many questions and Jesus not here to answer them!
I can imagine the Apostle James saying to the disciples assembled in that room: “Jesus has promised the Holy Spirit would come and he will. We just don’t know when at the moment but Jesus has never let us down yet, and I for one don’t believe He ever will. Let us stop panicking and pray as He taught us.” And that, Luke tells us, is exactly what they did. And, as promised, the Holy Spirit did come on the disciples at Pentecost, the Jewish Festival of Weeks that celebrates the bringing in of the Spring harvest. As a result with the support and guidance of the Holy Spirit, they were able to carry Jesus’ message to all nations of the world.
So, when everything seems to be getting on top of you; when you can’t see a way out of the troubles, the darkness and gloom surrounding you, remember how the disciples reacted, 'constantly devoting themselves to prayer' Acts 1:14, and follow their example. God is there and will walk with you wherever He calls you to go and however perilous the journey.
This week, when trouble comes knocking on your door: ‘Panic less and pray more’. May the Lord be with you this coming week in all you do and say.
I am an Authorised Local Preacher in an Anglo Catholic parish church, in the Diocese of Essex UK