Ascended (Acts 1:8-11)
I have never been someone who liked heights. In fact, heights terrify me. When I was in high school, I tried out for the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament in St. Louis. My family and I discovered on that trip that I am no Ken Jennings. I didn’t even make it past the first round. However, when you’re in St. Louis, you have to go to the top of the Gateway Arch. Dad insisted that he, Mom, and I go to the top of the Arch. The view of the Mighty Mississippi and the city of St. Louis was absolutely spectacular, and I am thankful that Dad insisted that we go to the top. However, to get to the top you have to get in these little cars, and all the way to the top, I’m confident that there’s going to be a power failure and we’re going to get stuck. When that didn’t happen, I was confident that there was going to be a major earthquake and that we’d end up at the bottom of the Mississippi at a high rate of speed.
Fortunately, I survived my experience at the Gateway Arch and that helped me to deal with my fear of heights in a big way. As long as I’m in an enclosed space, I do fine with heights. I enjoy flying, and I really don’t like to travel by car–Planes are so much more convenient. But, I will never like heights where I don’t feel secure. Mom and Dad are getting ready to go to the Grand Canyon with my baby brother and his family. I seriously doubt that I’d enjoy being at the Grand Canyon–it would scare me out of my mind.
Some of you may be fearful of heights. Cleaning out your gutters may make you break out in a cold sweat. The thought of flying in an airplane may seem like an unnecessary evil. Watching someone climb heights in a movie might make you grip your chair so tightly your knuckles turn white.
In this morning’s text, Jesus soars higher than any of us have ever been. He ascends from earth to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Majesty on high. We don’t hear many sermons on the Ascension of Jesus. I do have a topical sermon that I’ve preached a time or two on Jesus’ Ascension. However, I’ve never preached from this section of Acts. If you think carefully, you could probably count on one hand the number of sermons you’ve heard about the Ascension of Jesus.
I think that’s a major shame, for Jesus’ Ascension is an important part of Jesus’ identity. The Ascension is not simply historical “filler”–something God did just so that He could have the authors of Scripture fill up a couple more paragraphs. The Ascension is far more than literary “filler”–something the authors of Scripture told us to take up space. The Ascension of Jesus Christ underlines an important truth: “Jesus Christ is Lord.”
Scripture (Acts 1:8-11)
In this verse, Jesus offers His final instructions to His Apostles before He leaves them.
The Apostles would receive power when the Holy Spirit had come upon them. You know that the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles with great power–He came with a great sound from heaven (as of a rushing mighty wind), and He appeared as tongues of fire over their heads. You also know that the Spirit enabled the Apostles to do mighty works–They could speak in languages they had never studied, could heal, could be bitten by snakes and not be harmed, could speak directly for God, and could pass on the miraculous measure of the Spirit.
When the Apostles had received power through the Holy Spirit, they were to be witnesses to Jesus in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. You’ve heard me say before that this verse serves as an outline of Acts–the Apostles and other early Christians carry out the Great Commission exactly as Jesus spells it out here. The Apostles would be witnesses of Jesus. They had been with Jesus and could testify of His truthfulness in ways that we simply cannot. Peter reminds us of his role as an eyewitness of Jesus: 2 Peter 1:16.
After Jesus had given these instructions, He was taken up from the Apostles. This indicates the importance of the instructions Jesus gave; He did not ascend until after He gave these instructions.
Jesus ascended while the Apostles watched. This indicates that the Ascension really occurred. This did not happen in secret, but honorable, truthful men saw it occur.
A cloud received Jesus out of their sight. I firmly believe that the Ascension is Jesus’ coronation as King, and the cloud seems to be an indication of that. I say that because of Daniel 7:13-14.
The Apostles stood there gazing into heaven. Wouldn’t you have been gazing intently into heaven? Their world has come crashing down. The Messiah was to rescue the Jews from the hands of the Roman oppressors, not ascend back into heaven. The Apostles even asked about the restoration of the kingdom immediately preceding the Ascension: Acts 1:6. The Apostles have never seen anything like this before.
Two men stood by them in white apparel. We know they’re angels, but they had an appearance like men.
The Apostles were all Galileans. The only disciple who wasn’t a Galilean was Judas Iscariot–scholars know that from the fact that he was an “Iscariot.” Judas is dead, and the Eleven were all Galileans.
These Galileans needed to quit gazing into heaven. I kinda think there’s a hint of accusation in what the angels say. Jesus has told the Eleven what to do–they’re to tarry in Jerusalem until they are baptized with the Holy Spirit and then they’re to go into all the world with His Gospel–there’s no time to be staring into heaven. It’s time to get to work!
Why did the Eleven need to get to work? Jesus is coming in the same way the Apostles saw Him go. The Apostles needed to get busy sharing the truth of Jesus, for He is coming back. He’s coming back in the same way. What does it really mean that Jesus is coming back the same way He ascended? He will come in reality, He will come visibly, and He will come in the clouds.
The Ascension declares unmistakably that “Jesus Christ is Lord.” You might be thinking, “Justin, how? How on earth does the Ascension say that Jesus Christ is Lord?” The Ascension is the time at which Jesus Christ sat down at the right hand of God. “After the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God” (Mk 16:19). Hebrews 1:1-3.
Therefore, the Word of God before us this morning would have us understand that “Jesus Christ is Lord.” How does that truth impact us on a daily basis? Acts 1 tells us a couple ways that the truth that “Jesus Christ is Lord” should impact us.
First, Jesus has a Commission.
Immediately before His Ascension, because He is Lord of heaven and earth, Jesus Christ commanded His disciples to go “to the end of the earth” with His Gospel (1:8).
In all four Gospels, Jesus commanded His disciples to carry His message to all the world. Matthew 28:18-20. Mark 16:15-16. Luke 24:46-47. “Peace to you! As the Father has sent me, I also send you” (Jn 20:21).
Why is sharing the Gospel so important?
- Jesus is Lord. Our Master has given His command. It is not up to you and me to debate what the Lord has commanded.
- Jesus is coming again. When Jesus returns, there will be great judgment: 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10. If a physician uncovered the cure to cancer and refused to tell anyone, we’d rightfully call for his head on a silver platter. How can we, who have the answer to judgment and death and hell, keep silent?
You need to be active in Jesus’ commission.
- You need to pray. Pray for workers in the vineyard: “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Lk 10:2). You need to pray for the lost: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved” (Rom 10:1). Make a list of ten people who know who are lost. Pray for them by name every single day this week. Pray every day for a laborer to teach him/her the Gospel.
- You need to share the Gospel. If you have a list of ten people, take the Gospel to at least two of those people this week. If you need help, let me know. I’d love to be so busy with Bible studies I can’t get anything else done!
Second, Jesus has a Coming.
The angels told the apostles that Jesus would come in the same way they saw Him go into heaven.
Because Jesus is coming again, there is a need to prepare and watch. Matthew 25:1-13. From that parable, there is the unmistakable conclusion that there will not be time to prepare when Jesus comes. You need to get prepared and stay prepared. There is also the need, Jesus says, to watch–to anticipate His coming and to order our lives around His coming.
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, He will separate the sheep from the goats (Matt 25:31-32). There is going to be judgment. How will you fare at the judgment? Will you be a sheep or a goat?