The Ascension of Our Lord

The Disciples Look Up into Heaven

Acts 1: 1 - 11
Luke 24: 44 - 53

The book of Acts was written by Luke, whom we know best from the Gospel of Luke, his story of Jesus' life and ministry. Theophilus is a Greek name which means someone who loves God or is beloved by God. It may be the name of a real person, or it may be Luke's name for a student or disciple who loved God.

Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit would come to baptize them. The Holy Spirit appeared to the disciples eight days later when the disciples gathered together to celebrate the Feast of the Pentecost.

Apostles are followers of Jesus who may or may not have known him personally. All the disciples were apostles, but all the apostles were not disciples, Jesus' followers from the early days of his ministry. Disciple means student, while apostle means someone who is sent out to do a task. After the Ascension, Luke always refers to all the disciples as apostles.

Jesus told his followers that they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. He gave them an extraordinary commission: not only were his apostles to tell their stories about Jesus in Jerusalem, in the Temple where he taught and where they met to talk about him, but they were also to share the good news in Judea and Samaria, as though they were all the same place.

"The ends of the earth" meant Rome, the seat of the government that occupied Judea and Samaria. The Romans led personal lives that were thoroughly repugnant to both the Judeans and the Samaritans, and both the Judeans and the Samaritans were tired of being ruled by hard-hearted foreigners.

Judea and Samaria were separate regions or provinces of the Roman government in Palestine which were located right next to each other. Judea was the home of the observant Jews who worshiped in the Temple in Jerusalem.

Samaria was the home of the Samaritans, who followed only the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) and who worshiped God in the high places in Samaria, instead of in the Temple in Jerusalem.

Although both the Jews and the Samaritans were descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Jews of Judea were so certain that the Samaritans were unclean in the eyes of God that they would not eat with them - or even draw water from the same wells - and the Jews and Samaritans disliked each other intensely.

The Samaritans thought the Judeans had been corrupted by their captivity in Babylon, incorporating Babylonian ideas into the Hebrew practice the Samaritans had followed since the time of Joshua.

The only two groups of people in the whole world who worshiped the One God had become strangers, and then enemies.

But Jesus told his followers to witness to both the people of Judea, who followed every law carefully, and to the people of Samaria, whom the Judeans hated bitterly, at the same time!

He gave clear instructions to witness to the know-it-alls, the self-righteous, the strangers, the enemies, the tyrants, and the oppressors - all at once. Can we find ourselves in this list?

1. Even after Jesus' death, the disciples were still expecting him to overthrow the Roman government and to establish a Jewish government instead. What did they ask him?

[The disciples asked, "Lord, is this the time you will restore the kingdom to Israel?"]

2. What did Jesus promise to the disciples instead?

[Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come upon them.]

3. What did the disciples do while Jesus was lifted up in a cloud into heaven?

[The disciples watched him rise up in the cloud.]

4. Who suddenly appeared to the disciples?

[Two men in white robes suddenly stood by the disciples.]

5. What did the men say to the disciples?

[The men said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?]

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