Our gospel today falls right smack dab in the middle of the last supper. And unlike Matthew, Mark, and Luke, John spends a decent amount of time here. In fact, he spends more time recounting these moments, than he does on the crucifixion. For at this moment, in the midst of the intimate Passover meal, Jesus reveals the master plan. He washes the feet of the disciples, and offers up prayers for them, Himself, and the world.
But, in this intimate moment also exists a disconnect between Jesus and the disciples. There is a divide between what He says and what they hear. The disciples, like most 1st century Palestinians, were awaiting the Messiah. The one who would overthrow the Roman Empire and liberate God’s chosen people from Herod. When Jesus prays,“Glorify Your Me” The disciples imagine a different kind of glory, one involving uprising, revolution, and a hostile takeover. They imagine Him with a crown of Gold sitting on throne. When He prays for protection, they assume it’s for their ascent to power. And because of this, their ability to hear what Jesus is really saying becomes distorted by the expectations they put on Him. They had no idea what was about to come next. Jesus would be crowned with thorns, raised on a cross, and ascend into Heaven.
And when we compare this situation to our first reading this morning from Acts, it becomes apparent, that even after Christ’s death and resurrection, the disciples still don’t understand the whole situation. As Jesus appears to them they ask, “Is this the time when you will restore the Kingdom of Israel?” and I can’t help but imagine a smirk on Jesus face as he answers them, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority. But, (and this is an important “but”) in the midst of the disciple’s confusion, Jesus offers them comfort. He says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses to the ends of the Earth.” The Holy Spirit will become their Immanuel, their “God with us.” It’s Jesus’ parting gift, until he returns again. Christ remains at the center throughout Acts. Through the Holy Spirit, He guides the church in its missionary efforts and He empowers the disciples to do miracles. Though, physically absent, Christ is still very much with them. In Luke, Jesus describes it this way, “People won’t say, here it is, or there it is, because the Kingdom of God is in your midst.” The Holy Spirit is our Immanuel, our “God with us”
So what does this mean for us? It introduces an interesting situation, where the Kingdom of God is already here, but not fully here. The death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ ushered in the beginning of the end times. This is called Kingdom Theology, which divides our history into two broad periods of time.
The first is the present evil age, which begins with the fall of humanity and lasts until the second coming of Christ. This period is marked by sin, sickness, death, disease, war and poverty. Sound familiar?
The second is the “age to come” Where the Kingdom of God rules an age of eternal life, freedom from sin, sickness, and suffering. It will be a time of universal peace where God reigns over all creation.
But, here’s where things get a little tricky. Both these ages are in play today. In other words, while Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God, we still suffer the consequences of sin. So while the Kingdom of God is already here and Christ is already ruling at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, the full benefits of the Kingdom have not been ushered in. Because the Kingdom of God is still not yet here in all of its glory and power, there is still suffering. It’s a real part of the human experience. Until Christ returns again we won’t experience the fullness of what it means for God’s will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
But, we live in hope. This a very important time in human history. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are the ones who get to continue to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven; step-by-step, brick by brick. We are building God’s Kingdom together, as Christians around the world, and in this community. We don’t exactly have blueprints for how to do it. And we have, and we will, struggle. But, having the core of our community centered on Christ, allows us to be the Spirit-Led community that we are called to be. In thought, word, and deed we are co-creating with God in bringing Heaven to Earth. Though the Man may be gone. His Spirit is very much alive in us.
So be encouraged. You are part of a revolutionary movement that brings about change in both small and huge ways. We gather together each week to be built up, encouraged, equipped and then sent out to love and serve Lord. To spread the good news that the Kingdom of God is here, in our midst, right now. God is calling us into relationship with Him; to participate in the building of His Kingdom and usher in the age to come.