The weeks following Jesus’ resurrection must have been an exciting time of transition for his followers.
“After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).
The Bible doesn’t give us a lot of details of that period, but we can imagine how they adjusted to the stunning fact that death was beatable. The 2016 film Risen shows their joy and fearlessness while being questioned by Roman authorities trying to prove Jesus’ followers have hidden his body. It seems Jesus is invincible, and if they stick with him, they reason, they probably will be, too.
Jesus promises more is coming but tells them to wait in Jerusalem. At least some of his followers are still thinking in terms of an earthly kingdom. They ask, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus tells them they will receive power from the Holy Spirit to be his witnesses around the world. Then he is taken up into the sky and hidden from their sight.
Now they have nothing to do but return to Jerusalem and wait. What a challenge that must have been! We can relate to times of waiting for something exciting we know is coming, but we don’t know exactly what or when. We just know we can’t move forward quite yet. Waiting is often a trial in itself.
What did Jesus’ first followers do?
They constantly devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 1:14). Communion with God through prayer is particularly essential during times of waiting and discernment.
They also did some housekeeping, trusting God’s appointment of Matthias as a leader to replace Judas.
They spent as much time together as possible. When the holiday of Pentecost came, “they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1).
The time had come. Signaling his presence by fire, the Holy Spirit enabled his prayerful people to relate the good news of Jesus’ victory over death in languages they did not know, so that the international visitors for the holiday could understand it.
This power birthed the church and continues to grow and renew it today. Prayer for God’s Spirit to act remains essential for the church renewal we seek.