It is a question that we hear often: What is life’s meaning? How do I fulfill life’s meaning until Jesus returns? How can I live purposefully?
Acts 1:8-11 – 8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” 9 And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. 11 They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”
Verse 8 contains the final statement from Jesus to His disciples before he ascended into heaven. This is called “The Great Commission” (See also Matt 28:19-20). A commission is when someone in authority delegates a task to a subordinate. The task Jesus delegates to His disciples is to go into the world and be witnesses to Him: who He is and what He has done. This was to be their purpose. This was to be their life’s meaning.
The Disciples’ Difficulty with Fulfilling Their Life’s Meaning
This is a difficult task. It requires time, effort, and finances. It takes them out of their comfort zone and puts them into vulnerable positions. The authorities had already killed Jesus. Similar fates awaited anyone who decided to teach and do what Jesus taught and did. How would this small, rag-tag team of fishermen, tax collectors, and the like, be able to fulfill this commission? If this was going to be their purpose, how could they fulfill their life’s meaning until Jesus returns?
Jesus explains to them that they are not expected to do this on their own. In fact, they would not be very successful if they tried. This is why Jesus tells them to wait.
What are they supposed to wait for?
Jesus tells them that he is going to send the promised Holy Spirit. Jesus previously told the disciples, before His crucifixion, that He would send another Comforter / Helper (John 14:16-17). Jesus was the power of God while He walked on the earth. Then, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to be the power of God in His place.
The Great Commission can only be accomplished by the power of God. We will fail if by our own power, we try to build the church or bring someone to salvation; we will not only fail, but we will fail miserably. We cannot do it. No one is able to do this work; no one from the greatest to the least of us.
No one, except God.
Only God can build the church. Only God can snatch someone from the mouth of Hell and bring them through the gates of Heaven. Only God can shine the light into the darkness.
Accomplishing Their Life’s Meaning by the Power of the Holy Spirit
Jesus knew this. He told His disciples before His Crucifixion that God would send the Holy Spirit to teach them all things and to remind them of all Jesus told them (John 14:26). Then, in our verse, He reminds them again before He ascends into heaven: He tells them that the Holy Spirit will come upon them and this would empower them to do the impossible work of being Jesus’ witnesses throughout the world.
Immediately after this, Jesus ascends into heaven. He is taken up out of their sight.
Their response to this event is to stare into space, into the spot in the cloud where they last see Him. They “gaze intently.” It is as if they believe if they stare long and hard enough, they can cause Jesus to come back.
How long they stood there staring is not stated. 10 seconds? 10 minutes?
Regardless of the length of time they stood there gazing intently, they could not make Jesus return. Instead, two angels appear, scolding them. “Why do you stand looking into the sky?”
Then, they add that Jesus, “will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”
- Jesus has commissioned His disciples to go into the world to be His witnesses.
- Only the power of the Holy Spirit can do this work
- But the disciples stand around looking into space
- The angels scold them for standing around doing nothing when they have been commissioned
- The angels remind them that Jesus will return
Fulfilling Your Life’s Meaning Today
From this, we can cross the contextual boundaries and understand how we should apply this text to our own lives. From this, we can know how to fulfill our life’s meaning until Jesus returns.
You and I are now the disciples of Jesus. Those of us who have received Jesus as our Savior and our Lord have inherited the Great Commission for ourselves. We are to spend our time, efforts, and finances; get out of our comfort zone; step into vulnerable positions. We are to be witnesses of who Jesus is and what He has done.
But too often, we find ourselves standing around. Maybe we think we do not need to do this work since Jesus is returning at any moment. Or perhaps we think that it is too hard for us to do; it is the work of the pastor or the evangelist. Or maybe we are just paralyzed by the idea that we are supposed to do this impossible work and we do not think we can do it.
Overcoming our Excuses to Fulfill Life’s Meaning
Well, Jesus has commissioned us and we all are expected to do this work up until the minute, the second, that Jesus comes. Blessed are we if Jesus returns while we are in the midst of doing the Great Commission!
No doubt, doing this work is the job of the pastor and the evangelist. But Jesus also expects it of all His servants. Only those who refuse to recognize that they are servants of the Lord will believe this is not their responsibility. But know this: if you are not a servant of the Lord, you will never hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your master.” (Matt 25:21).
Finally, this work is impossible. But we are not expected to do this in our own power. We have the same Holy Spirit living with us as did the first disciples. God is the same now as He was then and He waits for us to step out in faith and be His witnesses. When we do, He empowers us with the words to say and the things to do.
There is no doubt Jesus will return. The Old Testament prophets tell us He will (Dan 7:13-14). The New Testament writers tell us He will (Heb 9:28). The angels tell us He will (Acts 1:11). Jesus tells us He will (John 14:3). With such a great crowd of witnesses, we can be assured that Jesus will return.
Since we know that He will return, what are we supposed to do until He does?
Don’t stand around. Go and do what we have been commissioned to do. Jesus is coming soon.