Now what? I wonder if that is what the disciples thought after Jesus ascended back into heaven. They had lived with and learned from Jesus for three years. They left everything to follow him and change the world. And then their hopes were dashed when Jesus was hung to the cross. He died and was buried, but eventually hope was restored when Jesus rose again. He forgave them, loved them, and renewed their call to become fishers of men. Then he left! He went back to the Father in heaven. He had given them a commission to go and make disciples of all the world, but right before he left them he told them to wait. You ever have those “hurry and wait” moments in life.
Jesus was telling them that they had a world to change, but wait. He told them not to depart from Jerusalem but to “wait for the promise of the Father” – the promise of the filling of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they would be his witness right where they were and around the world (Acts 1:8). And then poof… Jesus was gone.
So, the next step was to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit. At that time, they would not have any real meaning as to what this truly meant. Jesus had promised them earlier though that it was good for Him to go away because He would send another Helper, the Holy Spirit. He promised the Spirit was just like Him, and would not only be with them but also would be in them (John 14:16,17).
Jesus was leaving His ministry in the hands of his disciples. They were responsible now to carry his message of the Kingdom of God to the world. They were called to represent Christ and preach His Gospel. It was a commission from heaven with real and eternal consequences in the balance. It was a mission that could not fail, and must be fulfilled. Jesus was sending these men, but He knew they needed to wait for the power of the Spirit. They had a God sized mission and they needed God sized power. They could not accomplish the mission in their own strength and zeal. They would have burned out and failed.
They needed the power of God. They needed the Holy Spirit. That was the “now what” that was next for the disciples. Jesus told them to wait until the Spirit was given to them, and filled them. His promise was that they would receive power when the Spirit came upon them, and the Spirit would enable them to be effective witnesses for the sake of Jesus Christ. The Spirit finally descended upon them on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and these men and women became bold Spirit filled evangelists that changed the world for the sake of Jesus. They learned to lean upon the power of the Spirit, and the Spirit enabled them to do great things for God.
We too are just as needful and dependent upon the Holy Spirit in order to make a difference and bring change to our world. As Christ followers, the Holy Spirit lives within us, but we often ignore His presence and power. We let our lives become filled with so many other things that we are not truly filled with the Spirit. The Spirit resides within us, but often He doesn’t preside fully within us. So we lack true power as witnesses for Jesus Christ.
Jesus warned the disciples to not move ahead in mission without God’s power. The Spirit is with us, but we must still seek His presence and power to fill us. We simply cannot move ahead in our human power and zeal. We need God. We need a fresh immersion and filling from heaven by the Spirit of God that we might be empowered as the people of God. Do you want to make a difference? Now what? Be filled! Seek the person of Jesus and ask that you would be filled with the Spirit of God in power. Only then can we change the world. And that’s the Word.
The Rev. David Yarborough is pastor of St. Simons Community Church. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 912-634-2960.