Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Listen Now We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you.” John 20:21
The Great Commission—Part Four
We Are Not Expected to Do It on our Own
And while staying with them He charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, He said, “you heard from Me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So when they had come together, they asked Him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1: 4-8
Good morning Prayer Team!
The Great Commission is found in the Gospel of Matthew. The actual Ascension is described in the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. All the Gospels, however, as well as the opening chapter of Acts, have some kind of “commission” being given by Jesus to His Apostles. All have the Apostles questioning our doubting. And all have some reassurance by Jesus, telling His followers that they are not expected to fulfill this commission on their own, that He would send them help.
Today, we look at the “commissioning” of the Apostles as recounted in the book of Acts. Acts, along with the Gospel of Luke, was written by St. Luke the Apostle and Evangelist. Both the Gospel of Luke, as well as Acts, are written as a letter to a mysterious person named “Theophilus.” And, as mentioned above, it is these two works that have the most poignant description of the Ascension.
In Acts, we told that Jesus “presented Himself alive after His passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the Kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3) So for forty days after the Ascension, Jesus continued to teach His followers about why His work was so important, why the Resurrection was significant, and what they were supposed to do now, to spread His message.
He told them “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father,” (Acts 1:4-5) which was the Holy Spirit. In John 14: 26, Jesus told His Disciples, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
In Acts 1:6, the Apostles asked Jesus “Will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” They thought that Jesus’ Resurrection would be followed by a political revolution and military defeat of the Romans. Jesus responded to them “It is not for you to know the times and seasons which the Father has fixed by His own authority.” (Acts 1:7) This must have come as a kick in the gut to them. This statement was probably disappointing, and at best, confusing. Jesus followed up immediately and said “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (1:8) In other words, Jesus did not expect the Apostles to figure everything out on their own. They were going to receive the Holy Spirit, who would help them figure out what their commission as Apostles meant. If this new commission was not a military or a political commission, then what was it? Jesus reassured them that they weren’t going to be on their own—the Holy Spirit would guide them.
As we begin to explore what it means to be commissioned as apostles, to understand the why, the what, the where, etc., it is important to know that part of the “how” we will work as apostles is through the grace of the Holy Spirit, given to the first Apostles, and by extension, given to us as well.
Jesus didn’t exactly tell the Apostles what they would be doing, and He certainly didn’t tell them how they would be doing it. He told them that they couldn’t do it on their own, nor would they be expected to. He told them to wait for the Holy Spirit.
If you haven’t understood yet in your life what it means to be an apostle, what an apostle does, or that you (and I) have already been commissioned as apostles through our baptism, that’s okay. That’s what we are going to learn in the coming reflections. Like the original Apostles, the first step in living out this commission is a heart that is open to receive the Holy Spirit, and allow Him to work through us to spread the message of Christ. More on that to follow.
You were born, as You Yourself willed; You appeared, as You Yourself wished; You suffered in the flesh, O our god; you rose form the dead, having trampled death; You were taken up in glory, who fill the universe, and You sent us the divine Spirit, that we might hymn and glorify Your Divinity. (Doxastikon, Matins, Ascension, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
God doesn’t expect us to spread His message alone. That’s why He has given each of us the Holy Spirit to help us.
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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