Now is the Time
Now is the Time
Today is Ascension Sunday. It is also in the Presbyterian Church calendar Healing and Reconciliation Sunday. The question that the disciples have for Jesus in our reading from Acts, is one that should be great cause for reflection in our own lives. “Is this the time when…”
Scripture: Acts 1: 6-14
You can imagine the disciple’s surprise. Jesus had died, been buried, and then rose from the dead. The disciples have had a few additional encounters with him. But it isn’t what it was, Jesus isn’t always present with them. He seems to come and go. They don’t really know if they will see him again and when they do in our passage today, they ask him a question.
They have questions and I imagine you have questions. Questions we would like to ask Jesus should we ever be given the chance. Maybe we’d be polite and ask him how he was or something trivial about the weather. We might dig deeper and ask questions about life and fairness. Maybe we’d ask about suffering in the world. Maybe we’d ask about why we got sick or why someone we loved died. Whatever the question, we’d have them in spades.
The disciples have questions as well. Their question is political. “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom of Israel?” Jesus keeps showing up and they keep wondering is this finally the time when they do what they thought he was going to do. Oust the Romans and establish a kingdom in the name of his ancestor king David.
Is this the time?
That is the question that the disciples ask. The question lets us know that the disciples are probably on edge. Things haven’t gotten any better for them, perhaps things have gotten worse. And so they ask, is this the time?
Jesus doesn’t answer the question, rather he redirects it. The reason, Jeremey Williams writes is because it is pointed in the wrong direction. (Jeremey Williams – https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/seventh-sunday-of-easter/commentary-on-acts-16-14-6)
That’s interesting isn’t it. The question is pointed in the wrong direction. The disciples are asking a question of Jesus and perhaps they need to ask the question of themselves.
The reason Jesus deflects on this question is because the disciples are focused on the wrong things. They are concerned about Israel being its own kingdom and in control of its own destiny. This isn’t and hasn’t been the concern for Jesus. Or perhaps we might say the restoration of Israel as a kingdom, is dependant on the people living as God asked them to. Loving neighbours, protecting the widow and the orphan and welcoming the stranger in their midst. The landscape of the gospels seems very far from this. Far too much focus on the law, punishment and the social isolation that is created as a result.
This tells us that the disciples are still having a hard time deciphering the message of Jesus. They are still seeing things in a very nationalistic way. Scott Hozee puts it like this, “Forty days post-Easter and they are still focused on the same old political, earthly kingdom that kept them from really understanding Jesus’ mission for years in the first place.” (Scott Hozee – https://cepreaching.org/commentary/2023-05-15/acts-16-14-3/) Jesus wasn’t concerned with who was in power in as much as he was concerned about what those people did with that power. The message here is that it could be any imperial or national entity in control, however the focus is on what we do regardless of the political and social realities.
Is this the time?
Do we treat people with love and dignity? If as a nation we don’t, then as Christians we must.
In this passage Luke is setting the stage for what will happen in Acts. The broadening and growth of the Followers of Christ. As we move through the book of Acts, we leave Jerusalem and Israel behind.
The role of the disciples as they move forward into the world is to testify to who Jesus was. To clear the air about what happened at Easter and declare that Jesus is above all others. The question ‘Is this the time?’ isn’t to be asked of Jesus, this is the question we must ask ourselves. Is this the time?
Is this the time we will respond with grace?
Is this the time we will respond with patience?
Is this the time we will respond with mercy?
Is this the time we will respond in a spirit of reconciliation?
Is this the time we will respond with love?
Is this the time?
As Jesus was ascending and the disciples were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven…” We can surmise why. Jesus was central to their lives. They wondered what was next. They wondered if they were ready for the question, ‘Is this the time?’
However, the ascension of Jesus signifies a very important thing. It elevates Jesus above the land, above Caesar, above all other powers. The ascension of Jesus places him, the Living Word above all things.
The men in white ask why the disciples are looking toward heaven? I would argue that the angels there that day weren’t interested in an answer. Implied by their question is the challenge to get on with it. Why are you standing around when there is work to do. What they were saying is that now is the time.
They returned to Jerusalem, they met with the family of Jesus in that upper room, and they prayed. It is worth noting that this is the last time we will see a reference to Mary, mother of Jesus in the bible. In the opening of his gospel Luke praises Mary. Here, in the beginning of Acts Luke shows us Mary at prayer for her son.
It’s a powerful image and it underscores how central prayer is in our lives.
Perhaps the angels were telling the disciples to stop looking up and start looking inside. To pray. To look at the world around them and pray. And that those prayers would compel them towards action. To fully live out the work of the gospel, to be the good news to people just as Jesus was.
Jesus ascends and is our guide. The Way forward in life. The focus becomes what do we do with that life? How will we know when it is time?
Is this the time we will respond with grace? Yes.
Is this the time we will respond with patience? Yes.
Is this the time we will respond with mercy? Yes.
Is this the time we will respond in a spirit of reconciliation? Yes.
Is this the time we will respond with love? Yes.
Is this the time for prayerful questions about how we move forward in faith? Yes.
In the strength of the Holy Spirit, guided by Christ and trusting in God we will do so together. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.
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