Luke tells us that at the Ascension, the disciples were still thinking in terms of Jesus doing some Way Cool Dramatic Political Thingie or Other to show the dopes who hadn’t believed what for:
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8* But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” 9* And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
“Restoring the kingdom to Israel” means here “Give us the political power to go back to Jerusalem and kick some Temple Elite and Roman booty. Show those jerks who put you to death (and made us look like craven cowards) who is boss.” Jesus declines to gratify this vision of salvation by politics and power plays and instead tells the disciples that the Holy Spirit is how the job will get done. He then ascends into heaven, leaving them standing there doing nothing and, presumably, still hoping that some Way Cool Political Power Play will save them from having to be disciples and evangelists–perhaps miraculous sky-writing that reads, “Hey Pilate and Caiaphas! You are in *huge* trouble. Better make nice with my apostles or I will give you a *serious* beating!”
But nothing. Jesus’ silence after the Ascension is very loud. The kingdom will not be established by something cool and dramatic that will force all those hostile unbelievers to believe. It will be established by the power of the Holy Spirit and through personal encounter and prayer and boring, humdrum one-on-one conversion and discipleship.
Fast forward to today and the Gosnell verdict. One of my readers writes:
I’m seeing a lot of “Finally! People will have to respond to this! They’ll have to face the illogic of saying it’s okay to kill the baby in one place but not 6 inches away!” which I think is delusional. People don’t have to respond to this, any more than they had to respond to the most recent school shooting which they’ve already forgotten about. Those who didn’t care about abortion before won’t care about it now, and those who thought it should be legal before will say “He was an outlier” and satisfy themselves that he’s been dealt with and there’s nothing more to see. There’s no “finally” here. This will make no long-term difference, any more than the next mass shooting will make any more difference than the last one.
He is, sadly, quite right. The Gosnell verdict is a huge deal for prolifers. It’s not that big a deal for pro-aborts because they know the media has suppressed the story and that most Americans don’t think about and don’t *want* to think about such things. A little cleanup on aisle 5 and things will be back the way they were–apart from conversion of the heart. Prolifers deeply want to believe that some dramatic coup–a Gosnell verdict or a Live Action expose–will dramatically change the game, as in a Frank Capra movie. But the reality is that this battle has to be fought one heart and mind at a time with plodding persistance. Jesus will no more “restore the kingdom to Israel” by theatrics and power plays today than he did on Ascension Thursday. We cannot save ourselves from the demands of discipleship by hoping that a superhero or dramatic event will cause a mass conversion now any more than the disciples could then. Jesus won’t let us off that easy.