Text: Acts 1:1-26, Matthew 28:16-20, Romans 6:11-14
“This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly—and mysteriously—as he left.”
- Acts 1:11, MSG
Certainly and mysteriously. It feels significant, doesn’t it? Even the “men in white robes” acknowledged there was a mystery to Jesus’ comings and goings (Acts 1:10). The way Jesus departed was mysterious; it didn’t make sense. And it was also somehow certain—beyond a shadow of a doubt—according to the tribe of eyewitnesses.
When I think about the mysterious and certain things I’ve experienced in my 33 years, my mind immediately goes to Thin Mints® cookies. There have been occasions upon which I have settled into a stack of four or five cookies and a nice book, only to find myself shocked when, as I reach to lift another cookie from my stack, they are all certainly, and mysteriously, gone.
I sometimes daydream when I’m driving on the interstate and suddenly realize I have mysteriously, but quite certainly, missed my exit by three miles.
Then there was the time when the life of our friends’ son was mysteriously, but certainly, spared. He climbed out of a crumpled car that had flipped over several times and wrapped around a telephone pole—yet he walked away with nary a scratch.
Granted, disappearing cookies are far less mysterious than a spared life that, by all practical and scientific realities, should have been taken. Sometimes things are mysterious because we’re not paying attention, and other times they are a mystery because we were never meant to fully comprehend them. Not yet.
The mystery of the gospel is the latter. Jesus ascended mysteriously into heaven with the words, “It is not for you to know,” fresh on His lips. I love that so much. “But you will receive power,” He continued, “and you will be My witnesses.” And with that, He was taken up “as they were watching” (Acts 1:7-9). It was mysterious, but certain.
One element of Jesus’ ascension, however, was not mysterious at all: He left with a clear command to get up and go “to the ends of the earth.” To go become a Church. Go spread the good news of His life, death, and resurrection to the entire world. And to go with a parting gift: the power of the Holy Spirit, who would accompany them, and from whom they—and we—would receive power to carry out this not so mysterious commission.
The book of Acts begins with a heavenly mix of both mystery and certainty, and the combination will dance artfully across all 28 chapters.
There will be mystery: the things of God’s Kingdom might not seem to add up, as they so often do not by our earthly standards.
And there will be certainty: the gospel of Jesus Christ will move with the clarity that only comes from the Father. It will sprout and spread, beginning in Judea, then moving on to Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
The birth of the early Church is our story. This is where we come from, and it’s where we are going. It’s the story of how we are called to reach out, and how we are called to come together.
Come, read with us—all six weeks, all 28 chapters. Watch the gospel grow legs and walk around. Watch the early Church figure things out, learn how to love each other in community, and discover how to resolve legitimate conflicts with care. See how they give their lives in faith for the Man they watched—with their very own eyes—live, die, rise, and ascend into heaven.The Man they knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, really is the Son of God. The Man the Church still believes will return, just as certainly and mysteriously as He left.
Let’s enter into the book of Acts with hearts full of wonder and minds filled with confidence that the gospel changes everything.