Yesterday was Ascension Sunday. If you are unfamiliar with what that day represents, it celebrates when Jesus rose into heaven. We often stop Jesus’ story after his resurrection, but he spent 40 days on earth before he ascended to take his place at the right hand of the Father. During that time, he appeared to many people to prove that he was indeed alive. 1 Corinthians 15:6 says, “He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time.” Mostly though, he spent his time being with his disciples.
I always like to stop and try to imagine what the disciples would have been feeling while they were living life with Jesus. I can only imagine what they were thinking as they watched Jesus being lifted on a cloud into the heavens. Did they realize that they would never see him again until they would die and meet him in eternity? Were they heartbroken because, once again, they watched their savior and friend go away? Were they confused about what was happening? The Bible does not tell us much about their mindset. It only says that they stood there ‘gazing into heaven’ (Acts 1:10).
While we do not know exactly what was going through their minds, we do know that they could have never imagined what would come next. At that time, there were only around 120 followers (Acts 1:15). Think about that for a second. Jesus regularly preached and taught crowds that numbered in the hundreds. He performed more miracles than we could possibly count. One time, he fed a group of well over 10,000. He later followed that up by feeding another group of comparable size. When he entered Jerusalem for the final time, the people lined the streets to sing his praises and lay down palm branches in his honor. His 3 years of ministry reached far more people than we can imagine, yet there were only about 120 people who stood there as followers on the day of his ascension.
The disciples could not have known that they were about to do something far more numerically substantial in just a few days. This rag-tag group of average people and outsiders were about to turn the world upside down. They would soon preach to huge crowds and grow the church by the thousands. Act 2:47 says, “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Within just a few weeks, the early church grew to be astronomically bigger than when Jesus ascended.
My favorite part of all of that is who the men were that were leading this charge: a bunch of nobodies. Not a single one of the disciples was qualified to lead a spiritual revolution. This was a group of fishermen, a job for the uneducated; a tax collector, a position that was reviled by the Jews; and a zealot, someone who was working to overthrow the Roman government. Not one of them studied under a rabbi. The only training they had was spending time with Jesus and trying to imitate him. I am positive that none of them envisioned themselves as leaders of establishing God’s kingdom on earth. What they imagined for themselves was not important; what really mattered is what Jesus had in store for them. He had far greater plans than any of them could have possibly envisioned.
That is true for all of us today. It is not about what we bring to the table. It doesn’t matter if you feel that you are qualified or not. It’s not about you and never will be. It is all about what Jesus has in store for you. He used a bunch of ordinary people to do extraordinary things. God has yet to change his methodology. There is no use in questioning if God can use you. If he has decided that he will, then that is all there is to it. None of us may ever preach to thousands, but he can and will use each of us to impact those who are around us in our daily lives. It will look different for every one of us, but rest assured, he has something planned for you that is far greater than anything that you could imagine for yourself. God specializes in using ordinary people to do extraordinary things. All you have to do is follow him wherever it is that he is leading. The only training that you need is to spend time with Jesus and to imitate him the best that you possibly can; God will take care of the rest.
The best news is that he does not leave any of us on our own. He provides us with the Holy Spirit— just as he did with the disciples on the day of Pentecost. That is what we will talk about next week.