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Entries in Ascension (1)

Tuesday
Jun212016

The Ascension of Jesus

Luke 24:44-53.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on June 12, 2016.

Today we will finish our study through the Gospel of Luke.  When I started this series, I wanted us to focus upon discovering the real Jesus as opposed to the cultural idea of Jesus that has little to do with who he is in actuality.  This fictitious Jesus that is created by the culture and our own personal whims becomes a false god or idol in the lives of many people.  Only the truth can set us free.  If we are going to follow Jesus it is imperative that we not follow a caricature that we have created, but rather that we follow the real Jesus.

The disciples were slow to believe all that Jesus had told them would happen.  When the resurrection occurred they were still in shock that he had been crucified.  When a person is in shock they tend to shut down.  We see Jesus after his resurrection letting them know that this is not a time to be debilitated.  He has work for them to do.  In fact the Church that he would raise up through them would continue this work to the ends of the earth.  The disciples were in shock because it seemed like all that God was doing was stopped or destroyed.  Yet, Jesus basically explains that everything is going just as the Father planned.  The death and resurrection of Jesus were not a problem, they were the plan.

We can be the same way today.  Many who claim to be followers of Jesus have no clue what His way really is.  Neither do they have a clue of the prophecies in both the Old Testament and the New Testament that point to a Second Coming of Jesus in order to judge the nations of the world.  Just as many in Israel were caught unawares at the first coming of Messiah; so, many Christians today will be caught off guard because they have not taken time to pursue Jesus in truth.  As we finish this gospel, let us not be finished with seeking Jesus in spirit and in truth.

Jesus Points Them To The Scriptures

Luke does not give us every appearance of Jesus to His disciples.  In fact he skips over the “meet me in Galilee” appearance of Jesus.  The Galilee meeting seems to be the much larger group of over 500 people that Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 15:6.  The Gospel of Luke is actually a first volume of which the second volume is the book of the Acts of the Apostles.  In the Gospel the emphasis is upon the slowness of the early believers to catch on with what was happening.  Thus we see in these opening verses that Jesus points them back to the Scriptures.  Much as he had done earlier with Cleopas on the road to Emmaus, Jesus points them back to the Scriptures.  The prophecies required a death and resurrection of the Messiah.  Jesus himself had even told them these things before the crucifixion.  Think of it.  A faithful reading of the Old Testament would have lead one to expect these things to happen because they contain the prophecies that point to this time.  The Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms all pointed to the Messiah and what he would do.  People tended to only focus on the “good” things that the Messiah would do and would ignore the “bad” things that would also happen.  The same thing is true today.  Many who claim to follow Jesus only follow what they think is good, all the while blocking out that which they think is bad.  Yet, in verse 44 Jesus says “all things must be fulfilled.”  God does not speak anything that will not come to past.  We only fool ourselves when we disregard things that He says in His Word.  God will accomplish everything that His Word says because He cannot be a liar.  It must come to pass.

Verse 45 says that he “opened their understanding.”  He does this first by teaching and explaining many passages in the Old Testament.  Compare this with the explanation in Luke 24:27, “He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”  However, there is more than explanation going on here because he had spoke with them often on these things before.  Thus there is a spiritual opening of their minds that is happening as well.  The Spirit’s touch upon their minds enables them to understand.  Before the resurrection their minds were closed to the truth, but now the Spirit opens their minds and Jesus pours in truth.  This same thing must be recognized today.  When we see Christians calling for things that are contrary to the Word of God, are we not a generation whose minds have become closed to understanding God’s Word?  Do not be caught up in the same folly.  Pray for the Spirit of God to touch your mind and open it up to the truth that God is trying to reveal to us about what Jesus was doing in the first century and what he will do in the future.  We must also spend time in God’s Word so that the Holy Spirit has something to work with.  Both go hand in hand.  The Spirit opens our minds and the Word pours in the truth.

In verse 48, Jesus tells them that they are witnesses of God’s unfolding plan.  God ensures that there are witnesses who can give a faithful account to others, so that they will be able to believe and be saved.  This faithful witness has been handed down from generation to generation.  The following is what they witnessed.  They witnessed that the Christ suffered to death and yet rose again on the third day, just as the Scriptures prophesied.  They witnessed that the message of Messiah was that all nations must repent of their sins and believe on Jesus for the remission of their sins.  Today, many want to down play the exclusive nature of such a witness.  “There can’t be one way to be saved,” many say.  Yet this is the true witness of those who knew Messiah.

There is also a second type of witness that we receive.  As we believe those first witnesses and follow the Word of God, we have our own experience with Jesus by the Holy Spirit.  We develop our own testimony of how Jesus has spoken truth to us and worked in our lives to redeem us.  Thus we today can testify on behalf of those who were the original witnesses and we testify of the present reality of God’s work in our own lives.

In verse 49, Jesus then promises them power from God for the work ahead of being his witnesses.  This will be picked up more fully in Acts chapters one and two.  Jesus tells his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they receive the Promise of the Father.  This alludes to the many places in the Old Testament in which God promised to pour out His Spirit on all His people.  We see this especially in Joel 2:28, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.”  It was important that the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit happen at Jerusalem.  Yet, the influence of the Holy Spirit would enable the Gospel to reach the ends of the earth.  The Holy Spirit would accompany the witnesses that would go to those places and similar outpourings would happen in Gentile lands that happened back in the first century.  This is the experience and testimony of the Church through the ages.  We are at a time in which the Gospel has reached the ends of the earth.  We have also seen that the Spirit of God has come upon His people throughout the world.  How much longer will this continue?  We do not know the times and the seasons.  It is our job to keep focused on the task until the Father says it is complete.  We must remain faithful up to the point that He comes back.  We no longer need to go to Jerusalem to wait for the Holy Spirit, but it does teach us a valuable lesson.  This work is not going to be accomplished by our natural abilities.  We cannot run ahead to do the work of God without first waiting for the help of His Spirit.  This is a spiritual work and cannot be accomplished by the natural alone.  Believers today need to learn to seek and wait upon God for His empowering and direction in their lives.

Jesus Ascends Into Heaven

In verse 50 we transition to the ascension of Jesus into heaven.  This can be the part that is perplexing to people.  Why must he leave?  The answer that we are given is this: so that he can send the Holy Spirit, so that he can minister on our behalf before God and so that he can wait until God puts all his enemies under his feet.  Although we will still have questions about those three things, they are a full explanation nonetheless.  Luke finishes his account rather quickly.  His description of the ascension is only a quick summary compared to the fuller account he gives in Acts 1:9-11.

Thus we see that they had gone out to the outskirts of Bethany, which was a small community on the southeast slopes of the Mount of Olives.  Bethany itself means “house of sorrows.”  So we see Jesus leaving Jerusalem (the city of peace) and going to Bethany (the house of sorrows) in order to ascend to the Father.  This sets a sort of template for all that will follow Jesus.  We must let go of that which makes for comfort and peace in this life and follow Jesus into the house of sorrows.  All those who want to live godly in this world will suffer persecution.  However, God promises to raise us up out of the house of sorrow into His presence.  This is the only path to the Father.  All others are pretensions.  Of course when Jesus returns He will be going the opposite way.  He will come down from the Father, as the world is cast into a bed of suffering, and he will lead his people into the New Jerusalem, the city of peace.

After some instructions, Jesus blesses them all.  As he is blessing them he was, “parted from them and carried up into heaven.”  This is similar to Elijah and Elisha.  They are parted as Elijah is taken into heaven.  However, in this case no chariot is needed here because Jesus has the power to ascend and knows the way to the Father.  Yet, the same event is happening.  As Jesus ascends, so his mantle will fall upon the disciples and enable them to minister in the spirit and power of Jesus.  In the book of acts we are told that Jesus rose up into the air until a cloud “received him out of their sight.” 

They continue gawking at the sky until an angel explains to them, “This same Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”  So if he is to come back in the same manner, then let’s focus on how he went.  First, this was a physical event.  Yes, Jesus is in a glorified body, but he physically ascends into the skies.  At some point he will transition into the spirit realm of God’s throne.  Thus his Second Coming will also have Jesus appearing in the skies physically.  His return is not a metaphor.  It is an actual physical event that will one day happen.  Related to this is the second point.  His leaving was also visible.  So too, the Second Coming will be visible to people on the earth.  In fact the Scriptures saying that all eyes will see him.  Lastly, the mention of going into the clouds is important.  It is mentioned in several places that the Son of Man will return on the clouds of glory.  This is important because throughout the Old Testament God is spoken of as the one who truly rides on the clouds, as opposed to the false god Baal.  Thus this physical, visible appearance upon the clouds becomes a declaration of the power of God in Jesus Christ as opposed to the false gods that this world worships.

The last things we see is that the disciples worship Jesus.  He has proven his divinity in very powerful ways.  He is lord over death and life.  He is Lord of the earthly and spiritual planes.  The early Church’s worship of Jesus was a loud declaration of His divinity.  Their joy is great because their Lord had overcome the world and the fallen angels that ruled over it.  The Messiah’s reign had not come to an abrupt end.  It was only just getting started.

Christian, you are a part of a great company of people who are participating in the Messiah’s reign over His people.  However, Scriptures must be fulfilled.  He is coming back to physically reign over the whole earth.  The early Church met often to praise and to bless God together.  So too may the Lord fill us with the same joy, praise, and blessing that they had.  May we continue to gather together and bless the name of the Lord until He comes again!

Ascension audio