These reflections help us look into the Bible to discover what God is saying to us today. We find Bible passages to read and questions to ponder. The themes are in the process of being listed in an index with each theme ultimately divided into seven sections. We hope to be completed soon.
Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit. They were much encouraged through his post resurrection appearances over a 40 day period. But now they are huddled together, fearful (“behind locked doors for fear of the Jews”), yet expectant and prayerful.
Our most effective praying is done when we are together, together especially in heart and mind. It is no use meeting if we are at loggerheads and cannot agree. Love covers a multitude of differences (age, brain-power, theology, priorities, etc). We need to be united in mutual respect and agreed upon what we are praying for.
When we meet together to pray we do not need to be few or many, but simply in harmony. We do not need to pray aloud or use set prayers or be lengthy or brief. These things depend on time and aptitude. But we need to be united in common prayer, letting our request be made known to God.
Do you pray with others? Sunday worship is one opportunity. A home group is another.
Maybe even prayer expressed on a shared website is acceptable to God. Do you pray with anyone in your family?
The disciples were “all” together. There may have been about 120 persons (see Acts 1:15). I can’t imagine the quieter ones leading in prayer, nor the women (at that time). The prayer did not make God send the Holy Spirit, but it brought them into line with God’s purposes, and allowed him to move in great power among them.
Lord Jesus, we thank you for your fellowship with the Father and the Son. Thank you for that example of heavenly harmony. May we know that harmony on earth.
1 What are some of the benefits of meeting together?
“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witness …” (v.8) RSV
Power to do what? Or even, power to be what? Power to be a good witness for Jesus and his Gospel. This will require both ‘doing’ and ‘being’; it may even require ‘speaking’. We are witnesses whether we like it or not. Our lives witness to who we are and what we are. Despite what we claim to believe, our lives will speak of what we truly believe.
Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will make our lives match up to our profession of belief. He will give us a new heart, new desires, new perspectives and new motivations. If we allow the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts day by day (through worship, praise and prayer) he will make us into good witnesses.
Witnessing is not primarily about speaking, but about being and doing. Jesus was not impressed by those who only called him “Lord, Lord”, but those who did the will of the Father. Someone once wrote: “It is better to be and not to speak, than to speak and not to be.”
So, the ‘power’ that Jesus promises is the power to be a witness for him. The main ingredient for those first witnesses was ‘boldness’. Something needed to drive them out from their church building, that is the Upper Room, and out into the world. The Holy Spirit comes to embolden us and free us from the fear of consequences and failure. Just go and live it out, and be prepared to give a reason for the hope within you.
Lord Jesus, help me first to know what you have promised, and secondly to be able to believe your promises. Thank you that you have promised all things necessary to living a life that pleases you and blesses others. Amen
1 What else does Jesus promise the Holy Spirit will provide for you and his church?
John 14:26, John 16:13
2 What does Jesus promise the Holy Spirit will do for the world?
Angels don’t feature in our lives much these days. Yet the whole Bible is shot through with angelic appearances. There is no doubt that for thousands of years people saw angels. They were (and are) spiritual creatures who are servants of the Most High. They were ministering spirits (Hebrews 1:14) who were sent to look after God’s people. Each child has a guardian angel (Matthew 18:10). Jesus was ministered to by angels both after his Wilderness temptations and in his final test in the Garden of Gethsemane.
In our story of the resurrection of Jesus the angel(s) fulfilled their main task which was to be a messenger. The angel told the women that they should go to the disciples and tell them to go and meet the risen Jesus in Galilee. The word ‘angel’ literally means ‘messenger’.
Our faith is sorely reduced if we rob ourselves of a belief in angels.
We may not see them nor hear them but they are around us. Myriads of angels are sent by God to minister to us. Sometimes angels are entertained by us ‘unawares’ (Hebrews 13:2); they may come in the form of a stranger or visitor.
To the women at the tomb “his appearance was like lightening, and his raiment white as snow” (v.3). Even the hardened and unbelieving soldiers were scared stiff. Maybe they didn’t even know what they saw or felt. But the women saw and heard. The angel proved to be a source of encouragement and guidance.
Lord, I may never see an angel but I believe that these wonderful spiritual creatures are around me, to guide and protect. Thank you for them. Amen.
“So they took the money and did as they were directed;” (v.15) RSV
Nothing will rob us of Easter Joy more than the love of money. So many people have ruined their souls by letting money dominate their ethics. Judas Iscariot sold his soul for 30 pieces of silver. Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of food (Genesis 25:32-33). Poor people do it out of desperation, and rich people do it out of greed.
We know well the quote, “The love of money is the root of all (kinds of) evils” (1 Timothy 6:10). It is the ‘love’ of money rather than money itself that is the problem. Many a godly soul has had a lot of money, but it can so easily distract us from ‘love’ of God, and ‘love’ of our neighbour. Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23).
The soldiers who fell asleep outside the tomb that they were meant to be guarding were only too happy not only to be excused for their failure (rather than be executed!), but also to be paid for their troubles. They could always say: ‘Our rulers told us to do so.” How often do we blame others when in fact we are only too happy to earn a back-hander? How many dictators, bankers, drug dealers, and so forth can justify the huge amount of money they get by passing the buck onto others?
Mammon is more than money; it is better expressed by ‘materialism’: power, possessions and pleasure. Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant.
Lord, may I be kept free from the love of money. Thank you that I can learn to be content with what I have. Make me want to love you and my neighbours more than Mammon. Amen.