He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
Now there is a bit of a problem with the ending of the Jesus story. Matthew and John end it in Galilee with the disciples being sent out into all the world. Luke’s is a very different ending with the various disciples, followers and companions still in Jerusalem. No-one is exactly sure how to put the two endings together but for what it’s worth here is my best guess.
After Jesus speaks the great commission to the eleven on top of the mountain I don’t think it will have been the time and place for them to just set off into the great ‘blue yonder’. I don’t think they will have been in the right frame of mind either. Suppose they decided to first go back to Jerusalem, bring the others up to date and talk the whole thing through with them. There were about another hundred or so Jesus followers or ‘companions’ still in the city and it seems natural to me that the eleven would feel drawn back to them.
Then as the full company were gathered, talking and sharing, Jesus appears to them all. There in the midst of his people he again talks about proclaiming to ‘all the nations’ but he also tells them to wait.
The concept of power, once so appealing, has got difficult connotations today. The ‘Black Lives matter’ movement points to power being used to supress and exploit black people. The environmental movement reminds us continually of how technological and economic powers are coming to destroy our world. We have a recent history of demagogues and dictators rising to power and then manipulating their power for evil doing.
However, power can be used for loving and good purposes. Love, truth, beauty and peace can be empowered. And it is this sort of power that Jesus talks to his followers about:
‘You will be clothed with power from on high.’
I have always had a great sense of mission in my life. I am not very good, however, at waiting and contemplating; at slowly, patiently receiving. I am really good at jumping up, rushing out and doing. Jesus talks about a three-step process: pause, receive and go. I have a tendency to skip the first two and move straight to go. Others do a lot of pause and receive but never go.
I quite like listening to motivational talks. The Americans are especially good at this while we English are very restrained and buttoned up. My favourite is Oprah Winfrey, she has the power to encourage, to turn people to their ‘good side’ and to bring out all their hope and potential. This is all wonderful and empowering, but it is basically operating on a human level. It is about me and my power.
Imagine a power, a Holy Spirit in fact, that can do all that I can do and then can add ‘power from above’. Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit, the one who can bring the heavenly level down to the human level and clothe us.
The story of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 is the story of their being clothed:
‘Suddenly, from Heaven, there came the sound like the rush of a mighty wind’.
Here then is the Holy Spirit question:
How good are you at pausing and being clothed?
Help me to stay and wait.
To hear the wind,
To be clothed,
To be empowered,
And help me to go out.