Take time to catch up on the past week (over drinks or snacks if possible). Then ask group members to discuss:
Over this term, we’re exploring the theme of moving. Many of us will have changes and moves ahead: this series allows us to look to God’s word for wisdom.
Ask for a volunteer to read Acts 1:1-11 to the group, praying a short prayer that, however much they’ve come to know God, they’d know him better as a result of your time together.
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Suggested questions to help your discussion.
In Luke’s Gospel, the action centres on Jerusalem. (You could read the following verses out loud together: Luke 9:31, Luke 9:51, Luke 13:22, Luke 18:31, Luke 19:28).
Jesus’ disciples will move – but the first they must stay.
Jesus remained physically on earth for forty days after his resurrection (verse 3). At the end of this period, he ascended into heaven (verse 9). To many readers of the Bible this seems bizarre! Are we really to think of Jesus soaring into the sky?
Probably not. Most Jews did not think of ‘heaven’ as being a place within our universe. They viewed heaven and earth as interlocking spheres of reality. When Jesus spoke about returning to heaven, his hearers would have heard him claiming that he would depart our sphere of reality (‘earth’) and return to God’s sphere of reality (‘heaven’) – the place from which God rules and reigns over both heaven and earth. ‘Up’, after all, has multiple meanings. When someone moves ‘up’ from vice-chairman to chairman, they might get a top floor office – but this isn’t the main significance of their move ‘up.’
Similarly, as a Jew Luke probably didn’t want us to think of Jesus’ ascension principally in physical terms. Enveloped by a cloud, the resurrected Jesus moves ‘up’ into heaven, from where he rules earth, and from where he will one day return to complete his kingdom on earth (see Matthew 6:10).
In the meantime, Jesus’ ascension has much significance. For example, it guarantees Jesus’ presence with us. While Jesus was on earth, he could only be in one place at one time. Having returned to heaven he can now be present to all his people, wherever they are, by his Spirit (see John 16:7).
Furthermore, Jesus’ ascension means that he is alive and reigning today. This is why, when Luke mentions Jesus’ earthly ministry, he speaks of the things that Jesus ‘began to do and teach’ (verse 1). The implication? By his Spirit and from heaven, Jesus continues to ‘do and teach’, establishing his kingdom on earth today in and through the church.
In today’s passage, Jesus warns his disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they have been ‘baptised’ in the Holy Spirit (see verses 5 and 8).
The Greek verb baptizo is related to bapto, which means to dip in a fluid. Baptizo intensifies this meaning – it means to bathe, plunge or submerge. In Jesus day’, baptizo referred to the act of ceremonial washing that some religious leaders demanded (see Luke 11:38).
Jesus’ cousin John also baptised people, albeit with important differences: baptism had to be administered by another person (not by yourself), and it was linked to preparing for the coming of God’s kingdom (Luke 3:3). But John made it clear that Jesus’ baptism in the Holy Spirit would go way beyond his baptism (Luke 3:16). Jesus’ baptism is the living reality that John’s baptism pictured.
In verse 8 of today’s passage, Jesus promises his disciples that they are about to be baptised in this way. Next week (in Acts 2) we will see them sharing Jesus’ life and joy, and empowered by Jesus for the tasks he has for them, including worldwide witness.
Whilst it’s clear that no-one can be a Christian without receiving the Spirit (Romans 8:9), Christians disagree on whether baptism in the Spirit occurs just once, a second time later in the Christian life, or on multiple occasions. We can’t discuss these different views here. However, we can be confident that the Holy Spirit will keep supplying all we need to renew our strength, share his overflowing joy and witness to Jesus.
Pray about all of the movements you’ll make over the coming six months. Pray for a sense of trust in God. Pray that you’d be opened to Jesus working in and through you as you move.
For some, coming to your city to study may have been a big move. They may have come from a different country, or been the first from their family to go to university. Go out of your way to hear their stories this week. You could ask them:
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