And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem…
It will be interesting to note the reasons why Jesus did not ascend into heaven immediately after His resurrection from the dead, but remained forty days longer on earth.
1. He wished His disciples to know beyond all peradventure that He was not dead, but living, and alive for evermore. To this end "He showed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs." Whatever His disciples may have thought of Him previously, they must henceforth know Him as the Conqueror of death and hell. As to His Divine character and work, they could no longer cherish a shadow of doubt.
2. He desired to teach His disciples sonic things which hitherto they had been unable to receive. In particular He wanted them to understand about His kingdom, to which they had previously attached all sorts of carnal notions. So it is written, "He spoke of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God."
3. During these forty days He planned the campaign which is to result in the conquest of all nations to the glory of His name. We cannot place too strong an emphasis on the parting injunctions here delivered to the disciples — and to us — by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
I. "HE COMMANDED THEM THAT THEY SHOULD NOT DEPART FROM JERUSALEM, BUT WAIT." This was not an easy thing for them to do. Flushed with the memory of the glorious things which the Master had been revealing to them, they were doubtless in a mood to go everywhere proclaiming His kingdom. But return to Jerusalem, said He, "and wait." There were good reasons for this requirement.
1. It was proper that Jerusalem should be geographically the point of departure for the new order of things. "Salvation is of the Jews." "Go ye everywhere, beginning at Jerusalem." Here is the metropolis of redemption (Micah 4:2). It begins in Jerusalem, the capital of Jewry, and proceeds to Rome, the capital of the world.
2. The disciples needed a season of mutual conference and prayer. To hasten to their work fitfully and each for himself would be to court despondency and failure.
3. They were to "wait" for a special preparation. They were not yet ready for their work. It pays to be well prepared for anything, most of all for the work of the kingdom of Christ.
II. OUR LORD IN THIS LAST INTERVIEW WITH HIS DISCIPLES GAVE THEM, WITH RENEWED EMPHASIS, THE GLORIOUS PROMISE OF THE HOLY GHOST. This was "the promise of the Father" (John 14:16; also 15:26). The man who imagines that he can set about the affairs of the kingdom of righteousness in strength of his own will make a lamentable failure of it. Let him tarry at Jerusalem until he has received the promise of the Father. When the fire descends upon him, and he is endued with power from on high, nothing will seem impossible to him.
III. In this last conference of Jesus with His disciples HE DISCLOSED TO THEM THE PLAN OF FUTURE OPERATIONS. Had the attention of a passer-by been directed to the six-score or thereabouts who were gathered on Olivet on this occasion with the remark that these few working people — this feeble folk like the conies — were being organised for universal conquest, he would have pronounced it the wildest scheme that was ever beard of. Jesus not only gave the disciples to understand that He Himself was, through the influence of His ever-present Spirit, to take charge of the propaganda, but He issued clear and specific directions as to how it should be carried on.
1. For reasons already noted, they were to make Jerusalem their starting-point.
2. They were to wait for the baptism of the Holy Ghost. This was to mark their initiation into the dispensation of the Spirit, or new order of things.
3. They were to proceed in their work with a clear understanding of the fact that their only power was from God.
4. The followers of Christ were to be "witnesses unto Him." Words in due season, spoken from the pulpit or anywhere else, are like apples of gold shining through the meshes of a silver basket; but a Christlike life is like a lighthouse on a rocky coast: multitudes are saved by it. All lives, indeed, are testimonies; every man on earth is lending his influence in behalf of truth or falsehood, for Christ or against Him. Character will out. Our creed is the thing we live by.
5. This witnessing must be universal. "Ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth." Observe, the disciples are not made responsible for the conversion of the world, but only for its evangelisation. They are to see that the story of redemption is told everywhere; and God Himself will do the rest.
IV. THEN COMETH THE END. "He shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven." The consummation of the Divine plan for the deliverance of our sinful race is to be signalised by the second coming of Christ.
1. When? "It is not for you to know the times and seasons which the Father has put in His own power." This ought to be enough. The kingdom of God cometh not with observation. The appointed time is a state secret, and we cannot guess within a thousand years of it.
2. How? "In like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven." In like manner His re-coming is to be a real personal advent.
3. What then? It behoves us to watch. Not to watch as do certain wiseacres, who lean indolently out of their windows with eyes towards the east, but as the Lord's faithful workmen, who have much to do and know that the husbandman may return at any moment. "Why stand ye gazing up into heaven?"
(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.