The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,…
I. THE PREPARATION OF THE WITNESSES. You cannot lay hands on any man at random, and ask him to bear testimony even to undisputed facts. He must have seen the things, and be a man of truthful spirit. What Christ did that day before their eyes gave them knowledge of the final fact which was to complete the circle of their testimony. It is the consummation of His resurrection. But what He said was needful, too. It was essential that their spiritual vision should be illumined, and so the Holy Spirit was promised to complete what their outward vision had begun. Through the mere vision they might have light: only through the spiritual baptism could they have power; but not to be warriers, but witnesses. "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth, go ye, therefore, and" — not fight, not reign, but — "teach." This is ever the divinest thing that men can do, and is the work of the disciples in every age. For this the Master Himself came into the world.
II. THE LIMITATION OF THE WITNESSES. "While they beheld, a cloud received Him out of their, sight."
1. There was clear vision for a while, and then a mystery. So all our knowledge ends. The strength of the witnessing of the early disciples lay in this that they testified up to the limits of their knowledge, and then relapsed into utter silence. It will be well for the later witnesses to follow their example. Many an earnest witness has lost his power because there was no clear line between things known and things fancied; because the unfaltering testimony was not contrasted with the emphasis of silence, but dribbled off into vague surmisings.
2. But because a cloud hides, it need not cast a shadow upon us. The cloud which underlies the mysteries of heavenly truth is not black with thunder, nor scarred with lightning, but edged at least with the silver glory which it hides, and only laden for us with showers of peace and plenty. The cloud is the condescension of Divine love to our weak sight. As the rainbow repeats the promise of the early covenant, so the cloud tells us of hope and reminds us of our risen and returning Lord.
III. THE ATTITUDE OF THE WITNESSES. They stand gazing after Him up into heaven; long enough, it is evident, to lead to the rebuke and reassurance of the two angels. While they could look at Jesus they were best fitting for their witnessing; but gazing at the cloud would only make them less strong and confident, Note —
1. Their obedience. Christ had told them to go to Jerusalem and witness first where it is hardest and most perilous to do so; and where their testimony will reach the thousands of Pentecost. It is not by peering into mysteries that we gain grace to be faithful witnesses, but by unquestioning obedience to plain commands. They who are willing to do His will shall know His teaching.
2. Their fellowship. Christ had appointed them a common mission and promised a common gift. And so they stayed together till it should come. As it is in the way of obedience that we learn the truth, it is in the way of fellowship that we most often receive the richest spiritual gifts.
3. And then, of course, they prayed; not of necessity only for that which He had promised, but quite as much, perhaps, for patience to wait for it, and then for grace to use it. Obedient souls, waiting together for the promised gift of Christ, will always pray. These three things shall make you strong to be witnesses, martyrs if need be, unto Him.
Parallel VersesKJV: The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,