August 30, 2021
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 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.”
“Lord, is this when you are going to give me a job?”
“Lord, are you going to bring me a spouse now?”
“Lord, is this where you restore my relationship, health, and hope?”
Do any of those prayers, or the hundreds like them, sound familiar to you? I hear, in the question of the disciples, the same questions I ask Jesus when I pray. When are you going to do what you promised? Can I pencil in a miraculous answer to prayer for this weekend?
Jesus’s answer feels deflating at first. He basically says, “It’s not for you to know when any of those things are going to happen. Stop asking for answers I’m not going to give.” If that were the end of his words, it would feel like bad news. It’s not bad news, because of what he says next.
It’s a small word with enormous power. How many times have you heard someone giving news, only to have the entire thrust of their message tilted on that one little word: but.
“Your biopsy came back benign . . . but . . . “
“We found the house of our dreams . . . but . . . “
“I didn’t get the promotion . . . but . . .”
“I was late to class . . . but . . .”
One small word tells us that something bigger and more important is coming. Whatever we might want to assume based on the first half of the conversation, “but” says the unexpected is about to upend our preconceptions and plans. In this passage the disciples ask for information in order to plan. Jesus tells them that God’s plans aren’t for them to know . . . but . . . instead of a small piece of information, he is going to give them power to be his witnesses across the entire globe. While they might want to plan for the restoration of Israel, Jesus describes a global transformation for them to engage in instead.
How about you? If you ever find yourself praying prayers so you can plan and prepare, it’s possible you will hear Jesus say, “I’m not going to help you make those plans . . . but . . .” What follows will make all the difference. Listen for promises of power. Listen for a broader vision than you started with. Listen for a transformative hope that extends from your family, to your neighborhood, to your city, to our world. Don’t stop listening at the “no” because after the “no” is the opportunity to hear what Jesus’s plan is instead of yours, and an invitation to be a part of it.