First Reading: Acts 1:1-11


Popular Translation

1 Theophilus, I wrote my first book about everything Jesus did and taught, from the beginning of his ministry 2 until the day he ascended into heaven. Just before Jesus left, he instructed his chosen Apostles with the power of God's Spirit. 3 He definitely showed his followers that he was really alive. They saw him for forty days after he rose from the dead. And he taught them about God's Kingdom.

4 While Jesus stayed with them, he gave them the following command: "Don't leave Jerusalem. Instead, wait here for the gift that I told you about, the one my Father promised you. 5 Remember, John baptized you with water. But, in a few days, you will be baptized with God's Spirit!"

6 When they were together with Jesus, his followers kept asking him, "Lord, will you give us God's Kingdom now?"

7 "You won't know when or where the Kingdom will come. God will do that in his own time," Jesus replied. 8 "But you will receive God's power when the Holy Spirit comes to you. You will tell everyone about me in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, and even to ends of the earth!"

9 After that, they saw Jesus ascended into heaven. Soon, a cloud blocked their view. 10 As they stared at the sky, two men stood before them in shining clothes. "Hey! Men from Galilee!" they said. "Why do you stand here looking up? You saw Jesus ascend into heaven. You will see him return the same way."

Literal Translation

1 Theophilus, the first book I produced concerning everything from what (time) Jesus began both to do (ministry) and to teach, 2 until which day, (JESUS,) having instructed by (the power of) the Holy Spirit his apostles whom he chose, was lifted into (heaven). 3 To (HIS disciples) HE stood HIMSELF up (as) living after he suffered (death) with many irrefutable proofs, being seen for forty days by (HIS disciples) and telling (them) the (message) concerning the Kingdom of God. 4 Staying with them, HE commanded them, "Do not depart from Jerusalem, but remain (for) the promise of the Father which you heard from ME, 5 because John baptized with water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit not after these many days."

6 Having gathered together (with JESUS), the (disciples) kept asking HIM, saying, "Lord, in this time will you restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 But HE said to them, "It is not for you to know the time (flow) or the decisive moment which the Father set in his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come down on you. You will be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, [in] all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." 9 Having said these (things) as they looked on, (HE) was lifted up. A cloud took him from (the view) of their eyes. 10 As they were staring into heaven as he went (from view), Look! two men stood before them in bright clothes, 11 and said, "Galilean men! Why do you stand (around) looking into heaven? This Jesus, having been taken from you into heaven, will thus return in the (same) manner you saw him going into heaven!"

1:4 "Staying with them..." The verb "stay with" literally meant to "take salt together." The verb, if taken at face value, meant table fellowship. But the verb could be taken in a general sense (to"spend time with"). This second meaning was preferred.

1:6 "restore the kingdom to Israel" meant to make Israel an independent nation. Of course, this question also had overtones of the end times, since the Kingdom of God came through Israel.

1:7 "the time (flow) or the decisive moment" referred to the two senses of time in Greek. The first word "chronos" referred to the flow of time (or what we call "chronological time"). The second word "kairos" referred to a decisive moment or particular event; the English phrase "right moment" captures the sense of the word.

"which the Father set in his own authority" In other words, God himself would determine the chronology and key moments of the end times.

Anticipation is a national disease. We Americans hate to wait; we want everything now! Yet, we spend more time and energy preparing to celebrate a major event than actually enjoying the event itself. The Christmas season clearly shows off our obsession with anticipation.

The first reading has an atmosphere of anticipation. The author of Luke's gospel and Acts (who we will refer by his traditional named "Luke") begins the history of the early Church with a note to Theophilus [1]. The first book, the gospel of Luke, put a light on Jesus and his mission. Now, the Church becomes the focus. Like a good writer, Luke drops hints to answer his friend's question: "What will happen next?"

Who is this "Theophilus?" We do not who he was, or if this person even existed. The word Theophilus means "friend of God." It is a proper name; it can be a nick name or title. Because it could mean different things in different contexts, Luke could have been writing to a person or a group of people. Luke could have even been addressing the reader. You or I could be the "friend of God" to whom Luke writes.

To build up the anticipation, Luke summarizes the life of Jesus [3] and then adds the promise of the Spirit [4-5]. The disciples, however, are not satisfied with this answer. They still want to know when Jesus will return as Messiah [6]. Do they wait for the right event? Luke says, "No." The day and time, even the timing, are reserved for God the Father [7]. "Do not wait for things to be done for you," Luke seems to say. "Wait instead for God's Spirit, so God will give you the power to do it for yourself [8]."

As Jesus speaks, he disappears from view [9]. But, the disciples still don't get it. They stand there and wait for Jesus' return [10]. Yes, he will return, but don't waste your life in passive anticipation. There is work to be done! And God will send his Spirit to work through us, so we can continue the mission Jesus began.

What is your anticipation style? Do you prepare with joy or with anxiety? Do you actively prepare or do you allow others to do the work? And what is God's place in your anticipation?