The Renewal of Israel

Only seven weeks ago the future looked bleak. The one whom they thought was the Messiah was dead. The disciples of Jesus hid in fear, and their spirits were broken. They had lost all hope.

But that changed when God raised Jesus from the dead, and Jesus appeared to his disciples on different occasions over a period of forty days. When he appeared, he ate with them, studied the Hebrew Scriptures with them, and taught them about the good news of the kingdom of God.

At the end of these forty days, Jesus told them to remain in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father, which was the Holy Spirit. The disciples, who had listened to Jesus teach about the kingdom of God over those past forty days, recognized that the coming of the Spirit is also the coming of the kingdom of God. They knew God had promised to restore the kingdom to Israel, and the promise of the Spirit meant that God was about to inaugurate it.

Jesus did not say their expectation was wrong or misguided, but that they should not concern themselves about the timing of the kingdom’s coming. Jesus told them to wait, and God would send the Spirit in God’s own good time.

Then Jesus left. He ascended to the right hand of the Father. While we tend to think of this in spatial terms, the primary point is royal. Jesus, Israel’s Messiah, was escorted into the presence of the Ancient of Days by the angelic hosts and was given authority, glory, and a kingdom (Daniel 7:13-14). Jesus was enthroned at the right hand of God, and now ruled over a kingdom that would never end. He will reign until all the principalities and powers upon the earth are defeated, and the last enemy he will defeat is death itself.

But the disciples must wait. We must all wait for the final defeat of death. But these disciples, one hundred and twenty of them (including Mary, the mother of Jesus and other women), waited in Jerusalem for the restoration of the kingdom to Israel through the gift of the Holy Spirit. They waited for the promised descent of the Spirit from the one who ascended to the throne.

They waited, and God waited until Pentecost. God restored the kingdom to Israel during the feast of Pentecost. This harvest festival celebrated God’s gracious provision. Pentecost began seven weeks earlier but was celebrated in a climactic way on the 50th day of the festival, which is the eighth first day of the week since Passover. In Acts 2, Pentecost happened on the last day of the Festival, the first day of the week.

On Pentecost, God, through the enthroned Messiah, poured out the Spirit upon these disciples. They reaped the harvest of the resurrection and enthronement of the Messiah. Though Roman power, with the consent of Jewish authorities and a mob at Passover, killed the Messiah, God had raised him from the dead and seated him at God’s own right hand. In this way, God restored the kingdom to Israel through the reign of Jesus whom God declared both “Messiah and Lord.” God restored the Davidic dynasty, a son of David now ruled in Israel once again. And the harvest of this new reign of God was the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, and this is where the story of a new creation community begins.



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