Goodbyes aren’t easy, especially if the one leaving will be gone long. Lou Gehrig, one of the all-time great baseball players, said goodbye at Yankee Stadium in June of 1939. His body was being ravaged by disease, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease that would later bear his name. With tears in his eyes, he said good-bye and only a couple years later, at the age of 37, he passed away. If you’ve ever said a final good-bye to anyone, you know how bad good-byes can be.
In Acts 1 Jesus is saying goodbye to His disciples. For 3.5 years they have been intimately intertwined, thru good times and bad! He had changed their lives! They’d never be the same. They spent 40 days together after the Resurrection and now it’s time to say goodbye. He’s leaving, He’s going home and He tells them to do His work in the world. He gave them His great commission, to go into all the world with the gospel.
He left the earth and ascended into heaven in Acts 1. He left the disciples some tasks and promises to guide them going forward. Jesus said in John 19:30, “…it is finished…” He was saying that the atonement for sin was finished. That tells us that nothing more is needed to be done. Salvation is complete in Christ. But the first thing He left behind was an unfinished task for His disciples to accomplish.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are all on a mission. We are called to go into the world and make disciples, sharing the Good News of Jesus and teaching them all He commanded. This message is full of hope and grace where all effort necessary to get to heaven was accomplished by Jesus on the Cross. But like many of our home “to do” projects, Jesus’ mission for us remains unfinished
This plan was to bring the message of hope and salvation to a world trapped in darkness. It begins with our families, our neighbours, our co-workers and friends. Jesus tells His disciples to start in Judea, in their neighbourhood; then to Samaria, the nation they lived in and finally to the uttermost part of the earth. This is God’s mission for His Church.
The message Jesus left us to share was one that describes His unquestionable love for humanity. John 3:16 says, “For God so love the world that He gave His one and only son…” You cannot question the love God exhibited by His Son. He gave His life that you and I might live forever. He suffered at the hands of soldiers and ultimately gave His life for a world that rejected Him and wanted nothing to do with Him. That’s unquestionable love. Who among us could say, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” There is no one reading this would do that for a world of people who do not care. Unquestionable love. He died for you. He loves you.
This love fuels us and makes His Church an unstoppable force in the world. When you think about who Jesus called to follow Him, in human terms, they were insignificant. Their backgrounds and professions were not esteemed. But they changed the world through the power of the Holy Spirit. This group of men returned that day to the upper room, and there with some of the other saints began to call upon the Lord in prayer, and then we see them in Acts 2, where 3,000 got saved. In Acts 4:4, 5,000 more got saved. In Acts 5:14 it says, “And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.”
Nothing could stop them. Throughout history, people have tried and failed to stop the Church and its mission. They were persecuted. They were martyred. How did this happen? When the Spirit of God is calling and empowering, nothing can stand in our way.
All of this is predicated on the fact that God has given us an unfailing promise. With all the things Jesus tasked us to do, the one promise we continue to wait to be fulfilled was Jesus’ promise to return. One of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s most well-known movie phrases is, “I’ll be back.” Even more certain is the promise that Jesus will return. We read in Acts 1:11. “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
It has been about 2000 years and we still wait for Jesus’ return. Some question it, but for those who know Christ and have faith in His words and promises, He will be back. Jesus said in John 14:1-3, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
I know the battle gets tough. We are not to be discouraged because one day soon that trumpet is going to blow, and as 1 Thessalonians 4:17 tells us, “we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” That’s an unfailing promise. If it wasn’t so He would have told us so. I believe it. I am holding on to it. I am looking for Him to come today. Are you ready? If He comes today, will you go with Him? Until He comes, you are part of what He left behind to do His work!
For many of us, saying goodbye is extremely difficult. We often say something like, “Until we meet again…” But even in saying those words, we say them with a bit of uncertainty because we have no control over the future. But when Jesus says goodbye, we have an assurance that it truly means, “Until we meet again” because He holds the past, present and future in His loving hands. May that assurance gives us the confidence to boldly take His message of hope and salvation to a world trapped in darkness.