The Rev’d Robert Warren
Acts 1: 6-14
Have you ever been nagged?
Has somebody ever asked you more than once to do the very same thing?
The disciples ask Jesus the same question over and over again. Two disciples on their way to Emmaus (Luke 24:21) had mentioned to their mysterious co-traveller how they “had hoped” Jesus would be the one to “redeem Israel”. Here in Acts, gathered together with their Saviour, somebody broaches the subject one last time: “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the Kingdom to Israel”? Behind the question are, of course, the aspirations of a people who have been long oppressed by foreign powers and are warm to the recurrent myth of a political Messiah - a mighty figure like King David - who would put the foreigners out and restore a purified religion to Israel.
Jesus response here in Acts is both a no and a yes. As is so often the case, they have misunderstood the import of Jesus’ work on earth. Their question is narrow and worldly. Israel is a means, after all, and not an end. Will Israel regain political sovereignty or achieve preeminence over its enemies? That is not the point. The power that is promised to the disciples is bigger and better than that. It is altogether different.
It is not, however, a “no”. In the relatively short term, Jesus will redeem Israel’s task and restore, to a remnant, the heart of Israel’s vocation which is to spread the knowledge of God throughout the world. By defeating the Romans? No, in fact, a comprehensive network of Roman roads will be used to spread the Gospel through the words of the witnesses to Christ’s resurrection to the ends of the known world. The Greek language with which the Romans still communicate with vast swaths of their empire will be the means by which the stories of God’s love are extended throughout that world. The friendship of God will be preached to the ends of the earth. It will all work out magnificently.
Much of what we badger God about in our prayers has to do with the restoration of what we think we’ve lost. Might God not prompt us to look beyond a narrow path of unmet needs and recurrent short-term hopes.
It is a bigger and much broader road which the saints have walked.