May 21, 2020- Jesus Ascends to Heaven-Luke 24:44-53, Acts 1:1-11

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Then he (Jesus) said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,  and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,  and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them.  While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God. Luke 24:44-53 (ESV)

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.  And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 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.” Acts 1:1-11 (ESV)

He ascended in to heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father- as we confess in the Apostle’s Creed.  But why did Jesus have to ascend to the Father?  What does this mean for what we believe?

Jesus’ resurrection and ascension give us the confidence that He is who He says He is, that we will be given immortal bodies  and that we will be with Him at the end of days.

Jesus gives his disciples the promise of the Holy Spirit (who will descend upon them at Pentecost.)

Jesus does not give the disciples an answer regarding restoring the kingdom of Israel.  Many of Jesus’ followers still saw Him as being a military or political leader, so it seemed logical for them to ask if He was going to free Israel from the Roman occupation.

Jesus did not come to free us from oppressive temporal governments.  He did not come to display military might or political power.  He came to ransom the human race from the curse of the garden, the curse of death that hangs over all of humanity.  He came to earth to live among us, and to pay the penalty of death that we deserved.

There were witnesses who saw Jesus ascend to heaven, witnesses who saw and believed because they saw Jesus being brought back to His Father.

Jesus is the first fruits of those who sleep. He put death to death.  He is faithful, and He is coming back for us.

August 8, 2017 – Iron Sharpens Iron- Acts 18:24-28, Proverbs 27:17

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Now there came to Ephesus a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria. He was an eloquent man, well-versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord; and he spoke with burning enthusiasm and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately. And when he wished to cross over to Achaia, the believers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. On his arrival he greatly helped those who through grace had become believers, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the scriptures that the Messiah is Jesus. Acts 18:24-28 (NRSV)

It is refreshing to meet people who have first come to faith in Jesus. Even though they may (or may not) be armed with a few Bible verses, their enthusiasm is infectious.  Sometimes their theology is iffy, but their vivaciousness almost makes up for that lack.

As a person who tends to be rational versus emotional, I envy those who can look up at the sky with a blissful smile and say, “Just give me Jesus!,” and don’t give a whole lot of thought to theology or to necessarily nit picking on all the “right” things. Unfortunately for me and other fellow rational types, nothing gets close to my heart without going through my brain first.  Some people, like me, challenge what we are taught and have to do the research and study to back up what we are taught, and even then we still struggle with belief.  We have to learn all of the “right things” and even then we have to see faith in action, and almost get hit by lightning to even have a chance at getting it.  This is why I always insist we give poor “doubting Thomas” a break!

Apollos was said to be an eloquent man and well versed in the Scriptures, but even he needed other people’s input for his knowledge to be more complete and for his teaching to be more effective.

Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the wits of another. Proverbs 27:17 (NRSV)

Priscilla and Aquila provided Apollos with the knowledge he needed to be a more effective witness. The Berean believers searched the Scriptures to back up what the apostle Paul was teaching.  To be strong and valid, our faith must be an informed faith, built upon the Foundation, who is Jesus.

Some of us have that beautiful quality of “falling into” faith. Others of us have to “work out our own salvation in fear and trembling” as the apostle Paul speaks of in Philippians 2:12.  Either way, we need each other’s input. We need each other’s enthusiasm and encouragement.  God created us to live out our faith in community.

We are all stronger when we share our gifts and encourage each other.

How can we share our faith and encourage each other today?