A question I think a lot of people ask is, “Why am I here? What’s my purpose? Why did God make me?”
Acts 1 is one of those places in the Bible that goes a long way toward answering that question.
Here at the beginning of Acts 1, Jesus is with the disciples for the last time after his resurrection, and they have the following conversation:
“While they were eating together, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for what the Father had promised. He said, “This is what you heard from me: John baptized with water, but in only a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
As a result, those who had gathered together asked Jesus, “Lord, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now?”
Jesus replied, “It isn’t for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has set by his own authority. Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
After Jesus said these things, as they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going away and as they were staring toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood next to them. They said, “Galileans, why are you standing here, looking toward heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you saw him go into heaven.”
Notice the question the disciples ask Jesus: “Hey, is it time for YOU to restore the kingdom to Israel now?” Notice who they want to do the work of restoration: Jesus. Why should they have to do anything if he’s there, right?
Jesus turns it back on them, essentially saying, “No, I don’t think you understand how this is going to work. YOU will receive power and YOU will be my witnesses everywhere on the earth.”
Then Jesus disappeared into the clouds. I can only imagine that the disciples were staring up into the sky confused and bewildered and dumbfounded, with their mouths open, wondering what the heck just happened and what they’re supposed to do now. Then, two guys in white robes show up and say to them, “Hey, excuse us, why are you just standing here staring at the sky?” In other words, they’re saying, “Didn’t you hear what Jesus said? Stop standing around expecting him to do everything and get to it!”
How many of us approach the work of God or the work of the Church like the disciples did at that moment? How many of us stand around waiting for someone else to do the work? How many of us stare blankly into the sky expecting Jesus to pop down out of a cloud and do it for us?
Beyond the surface level of the story, there are two significant things happening here that I think are really cool (because I am a nerd).
The first one is the connection to the story of the creation of human beings in the book of Genesis. In Genesis 1:27, it says:
“God created humanity
in God’s own image,
in the divine image God created them,
male and female God created them.”
God’s original purpose for humanity was that we would be God’s representatives on the earth, bearing God’s image to all of creation and partnering with God to take care of all creation. Somewhere along the way people got that messed up and began representing their own image to the creation rather than God’s image. Jesus has restored that original purpose here by telling the disciples, “YOU will be my witnesses.”
The second significant thing is the presence of the two men in white robes who show up to say to the disciples, “Hey dipsticks, get moving!” Most biblical scholars agree that the book of Acts is the sequel to the gospel of Luke, they were written together by the same author. So, if you look back in the gospel of Luke you see another time where two men in white clothes show up. In Luke, these two men stand with Jesus and as they do, a voice says, “This is my Son, my chosen one, listen to him.” The presence of those men with Jesus is connected to God’s presence with Jesus. In the same way, the presence of those men with the disciples here signifies God’s continued presence with Jesus’s followers, even after Jesus has departed.
So, going back to the original question. What is my purpose in life? What does God want me to do? Why did God make me? According to Jesus in Acts 1, the answer is simple: to be Jesus’s witness here and everywhere. To show the world what God looks like, what God acts like, what God cares about, what God talks like, who God loves. Jesus says to the disciples, “You’ve seen what I’ve done, now it’s your turn to do it.”
Jesus says the same thing to us. This is why we’re here, this is our purpose: Nobody else can show your family who God is like you can. Nobody else can show your friends what God cares about but you. Nobody else can serve that person you drive by or walk by in the moment you pass by them but you. Nobody else sees the same people at work or school from your perspective and nobody else can bear the image of God to them like you can. Nobody else can do what you can do. So stop standing around and waiting for somebody else to do it.
God, thank you for trusting us to show the world who you are. May we stop waiting around for somebody else to do what only we can do.