Impossibility in Perspective – Acts 1

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In Acts 1:8 Luke records Jesus’ last words to his disciples:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

I have often read those words and never thought that seemed like too difficult a task. They are just supposed to go to Jerusalem and wait. What I had never stopped to consider was each place Jesus mentions is potentially threatening to the health and well being of these disciples. The other day I was thinking about the places Jesus mentions:

  1. Jerusalem – less than 2 months prior Jesus was killed
  2. Judea – faced oppossition there
  3. Samaria – not a favorite destination for Jews
  4. “ends of the earth” – Gentile country – again not a top destination for Jews

Some point to Luke’s structure and how he reverses the structure of his gospel here in Acts 1:8:
Gospel of Luke:

  1. “birth in the context of world history and Roman rule”
  2. Jesus in Galilee
  3. Samria/Judea
  4. Jeruslaem

Book of Acts:

  1. Jerusalem
  2. Judea & Samaria
  3. throughout the Gentile world (preaching by Paul all the way to Rome – which is probably the reason we never find out what happened to Paul in Acts. Luke was trying to show the reader that the message did in fact reach the “ends of the earth” just as Jesus said in 1:8 with Paul’s arrival at Rome.)

See Blomberg Jesus and the Gospels 143

While I do think this is significant in Luke’s structure I also think there is more here than a structural marker. Jesus has told them to go back into those strongholds of opposition and tell their opponents that they have just killed the messiah. Now that is a difficult task! We often look at Elijah’s showdown with the prophets of Baal and marvel at the odds and the results. This is a far more precarious mission with larger implications and even more opposition. They are told to preach it all over the world with no modern technology or transportation! Impossible! From Jerusalem to Rome is at least a 2 month walk in one direction and that is just one-way not to mention to the “ends of the earth!” “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

When the whole world is turned against God – he can still pull it off. He can still come through to accomplish his purposes. There is no nation that can withstand his power. There is no ruler that can undermine his authority. There is no principality or power in heaven or on earth that can outlast his divine will or exempt themselves from his judgment. When it is God’s plan, it will happen.

Isaiah does a nice job of putting the power of God into comparison with the nations Isaiah 40:12-15:

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? Who has understood the mind [a] of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding? Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.”
The nations are just a drop in the bucket. They appear as nothing before God. When it is God against the rest of the world, God wins!There is no place so far away it cannot be reached. God even brought the converts to the disciples! They had not even taken the first 100 steps of Jesus’ commission and representatives from all over the world came to their doorstep! We often speak of the providence of God at the coming of Jesus and the start of the church in terms of good roads, a common language, etc but here God provides the travel and even the language!

That is the God we serve and he can still do it today. Who has he sent our direction hoping we would give them a word from God? How many nations have been by our congregations or our homes or our places of work needing the life saving message of Jesus? We just need open eyes to see the spiritual harvest that God is sending our way every day. Some will say, “But isn’t that awkward to ask someone if they know Jesus or have a deep spiritual conversation with someone who is lost? How about we ask Peter and see how easy it was to talk to people guilty of the death of Jesus to let them know they killed the Messiah. Too often the focus of our mission becomes us and not Him. When he is the focus of all we do the impossible becomes reality. Let’s never be afraid to dream bigger and to rely on him more and ourselves less. Let us focus on what he can do and not on what we can do and open up our lives to be instruments for his purposes. Let us not be afraid of the opposition because nothing can oppose God’s purpose and plan.

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