The disciples were perplexed when, 40 days after Jesus’ resurrection, He ascended to heaven without restoring the earthly kingdom of Israel, a political victory they were certain was imminent.
Instead, Jesus left them with a mission: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judaea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
The disciples — now the leaders of the early Christian church — were reluctant to venture too far. It wasn’t until Stephen was martyred, and everyday Christians began facing intense persecution, that they scattered outside Jerusalem, as Jesus had commanded them, and the Gospel began spreading around the world (Acts 8).
Scripture has revealed the Gospel flourishes in unlikely circumstances.
A new peer-reviewed study published last month in the academic journal Sociology of Religion seems to suggest that phenomenon is just as present today.