We focus a great deal of attention on the clock and the calendar, from the time our alarm clocks go off — When is the report due? When are we meeting the Smiths for dinner?
We are easily frustrated by delays, when our appointment is late, when the kids are slow to get ready. We see this focus on timing and frustration with delays in our spiritual lives as well, as we wait for God to answer prayers and wait for Jesus to return.
Put yourself in the disciples’ sandals in Acts 1. The Lord Jesus was shamefully crucified and then on the third day was raised. He appeared to them for forty days and showed them the significance of the Scriptures. They had no doubt now that this was the Messiah, the true King of Israel that God had promised. So then they wanted to know, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
The Focus on How
Jesus doesn’t directly answer this question about timing. Rather, he reminds the disciples that God ordains “times and seasons,” and they don’t need to know these things. Then Jesus redirects their focus away from when to how God will bring about his kingdom purposes.
David Peterson comments,
Since such matters are in his hands, his disciples are in no position to predict the time of the end, and it should not concern them. How foolishly this warning has been ignored across the centuries. What should preoccupy believers is the mission plan that Jesus goes on to reveal. By this means he gives his own distinctive meaning and purpose to the critical age in which we live. The period between the ascension of Jesus and his return is to be marked by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. (Acts of the Apostles, 110)
The Promise of Witness
“We are called and equipped to be Jesus’s witnesses, not his timekeepers.”
According to Acts 1:8, the Lord sends the Holy Spirit to enable his disciples to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Here Jesus does not give a command but a promise: “you will be my witnesses,” not “you should be my witnesses.”
Christians typically use witness as a verb (“I witnessed to my co-worker yesterday”), but here Jesus refers to his disciples as witnesses (see also Luke 24:48). A “witness” is someone who takes the stand in court and declares that certain things are true. In Luke 24:46–48, we see the truths that Jesus’s witnesses should declare: that Jesus died and rose according to God’s script, and now repentance and forgiveness in his name are proclaimed to everyone.
Therefore, our activity (witnessing) follows from our identity as forgiven, empowered witnesses of our risen Lord.
Jesus’s words remind us that we are not sovereign over our schedules, nor are we privy to a sneak peak at the divine calendar of events. Our focus should not be on timing but on God’s purpose for our lives. We are called and equipped to be Jesus’s witnesses, not his timekeepers.