Sometimes people have gifts and abilities that we cannot see. We very often cannot see these things in ourselves. The disciples probably could not see how they could be witnesses for Jesus throughout the whole world, but Jesus said that he would give them the Holy Spirit who would live in them and empower them.
We can do a science experiment to help us think about how that there can be a lot more inside people than we can see from the outside. We will do chromatography (say ‘KRO-ma-TOG-raf-ee’)
You will need:
- Coffee filters
- Marker pens in dark colours– not permanent, and the cheaper the better
- Small glasses with a little water
Draw a pencil circle about 2cm from the centre of the filter. If you’re using the flat type, draw a line on both sides 2cm from the point.
Move a marker pen slowly over the paper, just outside the pencil line, until a thick circle forms. You can try a variety of pens to see which give the best results. Usually black, brown and dark blue are good, and I have found that the cheaper pens are often the best.
Now roll the filter into a cone shape (or open out a flat filter into a cone) and place it in the glass of water, making sure that only the part below the pencil line touches the water.
As you watch, you will see the water move up the paper as it climbs by ‘capillary action’. (The tiny gaps between the paper fibres allow the surface tension of water to pull itself up against gravity.) The water draws the ink with it as it climbs, but the heavier ink molecules cannot move as far as the lighter ones so the colours separate out as the water climbs. Eventually you may see 5 or more colours in what you thought was just one!
‘While he was blessing them, he left them.’
That bit really struck me as I read this passage – while he was blessing them – right in the middle of it! And Luke’s second book repeats the emphasis: he was taken up before their very eyes.
Seriously? Timing man!
Jesus has triumphally returned from the dead, he has shown himself victor over death and sin, assured his disciples of his presence with them always, commissioned them to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth, and promised to clothe them with power from on high. Wow! Then he lifts his arms in blessing … the disciples press closer to their beloved Lord … he speaks words of grace … their hearts burn with love and awe and … hang on, where’s he gone?
Can you imagine what that must have been like for the disciples? Such a high point, such closeness and expectation, such promise and joy and then … poof, nothing. What a time to leave!
It’s like walking out of the movie just before the Bond defeats the villain, closing the book just before Miss Marple reveals the murderer, turning off the TV just before The Doctor cleverly outwits the Daleks … again.
Why did Jesus leave just when it was all so awesome? Surely he could have stayed around to get the new church set up (that would have solved so many problems – bishops or not, who can be leaders, what communion means etc) But no. He sets them a huge challenge (I mean, only the whole world, no biggie) and then lets them, us, get on with it. And we just have to middle through as best we can.
Actually, isn’t that a bit like life? I don’t know about you, but I never got the manual for motherhood, never got a place on the ‘How to Transform from Child to Successful and Happy Adult’ training course. I just had to muddle though as best I could. Some bits worked. Some bits didn’t. But I guess that’s normal.
Church seems pretty similar. Some bits have worked. Some bits not so much. But I guess that’s normal. What’s also normal is change. It’s not comfortable, but it’s normal. I changed from a child to an adult – not easy, but necessary if I was to grow. I changed from a not-mum to a mum – certainly not easy in any way, but still good.
Our passages here are full of change:
Jesus changed from earthly ministry to heavenly. The apostles changed from followers to leaders, the church from powerless to empowered, from confused and misunderstanding to understanding and joyful. Would these changes have happened had Jesus stayed around? I guess not. It would have been simpler and easier, but the disciples would have remained disciples.
It was not easy for me changing from a child to an adult, and I made a whole load of mistakes, but the change was necessary to grow and learn. And in the growing and changing and learning, I found out that I could do things that I never would have thought.
Kind of like the baby church.
Luke 24:44-53 New International Version – UK (NIVUK)
He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’
When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
Acts 1:1-11 New International Version – UK (NIVUK)
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptised with[b] the Holy Spirit.’
Then they gathered round him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’
He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’
New International Version – UK (NIVUK)
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