Acts 1

This devotional is written by Laura Hopwood.


Jesus taken up into heaven
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 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. 4 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. 5 For John baptised with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.'

6 Then they gathered round him and asked him, 'Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?'

7 He said to them: 'It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 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.'

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 '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.'

Matthias chosen to replace Judas
12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, 'Brothers and sisters,[d] the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.'

18 (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)

20 'For,' said Peter, 'it is written in the Book of Psalms:

'"May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,"
'"May another take his place of leadership."

21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.'

23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, 'Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.' 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.


Jesus, as the full embodiment of God's love, ceaselessly pursues reconciliation.

In Acts 1 we are left with this parting vision: that followers of Jesus would be "witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth". In this we can hear more than just an encouraging statement of the length, breadth and height of God's love. If we listen with the ears of those first hearers, we can feel the mighty call to a life of reckless, boundless love for all.

At the time of Jesus, the nation of Israel was split into the north region, where the capital was Samaria, and the southern Judah with Jerusalem as its capital. Over the centuries, a deep-seated racism and prejudice had formed between these regions, which would have been a present reality for the followers of Jesus. However Jesus repeatedly demonstrated radical love towards the people of Samaria, directly challenging the prejudices held by His listeners.

Jesus embraced danger and stepped in the gap for the Samaritan woman at the well. The parable of the Good Samaritan was used as a picture of the path to understanding life eternal. And here again, Jesus' command that one of the first people to hear the Good News will be the people of Samaria.

No one is left out from God's grace, as is demonstrated with the sentiment "to the ends of the earth". But Jesus makes an important point that, if we are to be true witnesses to the life of Jesus and the love of God, our path must start with those we may consider our enemy.

In the wake of the sudden departure of their rabbi, and the unraveling and restitching of their ancient faith He had performed, I can imagine the sense of bewilderment from these followers of Jesus. What could it possibly mean to be a witness? And indeed, what could it mean for us? In Greek the word for witness is μάρτυρες or martyres, where we get the word martyr. Perhaps Jesus is saying that to be a witness we must go to the places where our prejudices are revealed, to our Samaria, and, in all humility, lay down our lives for the people we find there. Just as Jesus has demonstrated only forty days before.

May we step into the call of Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to bear witness to a love that brings forth an unlimited togetherness. Help us see the ruptured places, the painful chasms we have caused through our human failings and help us to bring healing. Guide us in how we can serve Your eternal plan to reconcile all things to You. Amen.

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