The New Era
Jeff Hughes – January 19, 2003
Calvary Chapel Aggieland
a. We serve a risen Lord this morning, folks. Buddhists can’t say that. They know where Buddha’s tomb is, and his remains are there. Confucius and Krishna’s remains are rotting somewhere, and so are Mohammed’s. The fact that Jesus has risen from the dead was witnessed by over a hundred people. It only takes two people’s eyewitness accounts to establish something as fact in a court of law. After Jesus’ resurrection, he stayed 40 days, continuing to teach and minister. His exit was just as dramatic as His rising from the dead. His Ascension was miraculous and not like anything the people of Israel had seen for thousands of years.
b. I don’t if or how many of you have ever seen a rocket launch. Before my wife Stacie decided to stay home to raise our children, she was a crew training manager for NASA astronauts down in Houston. On a hot, Florida July night in 1999, my wife and I were on hand with the crew’s families to watch a Space Shuttle launch. I have to say, next to the birth of my children, it was the most spectacular thing I have ever seen. I don’t think I even scratched the surface of the awesome splendor that the disciples saw that day in Bethany.
c. What we need to realize is that just like His followers on that day at Bethany looked at His departure, we are looking for His return in a cloud of Glory. We can believe in His return just as sure as we can believe in His Resurrection and His Ascension.
d. In the last two weeks, we studied Jesus’ command to His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the coming Holy Spirit. This week, we will examine the Ascension of Jesus, which ushered in a new era in the church, one with Jesus at the right hand of the Father rather than in heaven. Then, we’ll also look at the obedience of the disciples. We will look at both topics in depth as we continue to journey through Acts.
e. With that, let’s pray.
a. Karl Barth, a famous theologian, was on a streetcar one day in Basel, Switzerland, where he lectured. A tourist to the city climbed on and sat down next to Barth. The two men started chatting with each other. "Are you new to the city?" Barth inquired. "Yes," said the tourist. "Is there anything you would particularly like to see in this city?" asked Barth. "Yes; he said, "I’d love to meet the famous theologian Karl Barth. Do you know him?" Barth replied, "Well, as a matter of fact, I do. I give him a shave every morning." The tourist got off the streetcar quite delighted. He went back to his hotel saying to himself, "I met Karl Barth’s barber today."
b. Likewise, a number of years ago a story appeared which told of a man who picked up a beautiful rock from a North Carolina stream bed and used it as his cabin doorstop. Years later a geologist who was hiking in the area stopped at the cabin and noticed the doorstop, which he immediately recognized as a huge lump of gold. In fact, it proved to be one of the largest gold nuggets ever found east of the Rockies.
c. Like the man who failed to recognize gold when he held it in his hands, the disciples failed to recognize the true nature of the Lord - even after more than three years with him.
d. We often don’t recognize greatness, even when we encounter it directly. The question before you this morning is, “What about you? Do you know Jesus?” I pray that by the end of our message this morning, you would answer that question.
i. The Ascension of Jesus is an important event in scripture. It is covered not only here in Acts, but also in the gospels of Mark and Luke. Mark’s abbreviated account just tells us He was taken up into heaven and was gone.
ii. .But, Luke, the writer of Acts and the gospel of Luke spends considerable time on the Ascension of Jesus. I have a theory as to why he does this. Remember in our first message in Acts, I said that Luke was the only gentile writer of the New Testament. Church tradition tells us that Luke was a physician from Syrian Antioch. Well, here’s my take on why Luke went to such pains to describe the event. Luke was writing to a gentile audience. The Jewish readers would have some idea as to what ascending into heaven entailed, as Elijah was taken up into heaven in a fiery chariot, and we’re going to look at that a little more later on.
iii. But, let’s get into God’s Word this morning. Our study today again comes from the first chapter of Acts, starting in verse 9, and picking up right where we left off last time. If you need a Bible, just raise your hand, and we will get you one. Acts is right past John, before Romans in the New Testament.
iv. Acts chapter 1, verses 9-14
v. 9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven." 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. 13 And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. 14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
vi. When I prepared this study, I saw four main ideas in from this passage. So, this morning, we’re going to look at the ascension, the reminder, the wait, and the church in one accord. There’s an outline and a place to take notes in your bulletin if you want to follow along with me. I encourage you to follow along and take notes, not for my good – I’ve already done the study, but for you to look at in the future and do some study on your own. You need to check me out, and see if I am teaching good stuff out of the Word and not just my own opinions.
b. The Ascension (Acts 1:9)
i. .So, let’s look at the Ascension of Jesus. We find this in verse 9.
ii. 9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
iii. So, we see here, that after Jesus had given them His last instructions – to wait for the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem and then to go and make disciples to the ends of the earth, that Jesus was taken up into the sky, and He was received by a cloud, and that was it. They didn’t see him anymore.
iv. Luke chapter 24 verses 50 and 51 give us a little more insight into this awesome event. 50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51 Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven.
v. On the Mount of Olives, there is a church called The Church of the Holy Ascension. If you go there today, guides will show you a footprint which is supposedly the place from which Jesus took off when He ascended to heaven. But we see here in Luke chapter 24 that Jesus traveled with His disciples past the Mount of Olives to Bethany before He ascended. When people don’t read the Word, they are vulnerable to traditions and myths which have no Biblical base at all.
vi. That’s why we study God’s Word verse by verse, chapter by chapter, line upon line, precept upon precept. I don’t want to fall victim to traditions and myths. I don’t want to just believe something because everybody else believes it. I want to stand firm on the foundation of God’s Word, learning from Him as we go.
vii. One thing interesting to note here is that the disciples gathered there in Bethany watched the Lord ascend up in to the sky. If you remember the story of Elijah, Elisha was told to stay behind several times, while Elijah was going to the other side of the Jordan to catch his ride. But, Elisha asked to receive a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. A lot of people get confused there. They think that Elisha is asking for a double dose of Elijah’s prophetic spirit, but what it meant is that he wanted to be an heir of the prophetic ministry of Elijah, because remember; the first-born heir got a double portion of the inheritance. So, Elijah tells Elisha that he will get that heirship if he hangs around to watch him get caught up in the fiery chariot.
viii. Keep that in mind. Romans chapter 8 verses 16 and 17 tell us this - 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
ix. Paul is telling us here that if we are children of God, meaning if we have a relationship with Jesus Christ, we are heirs in the kingdom of God, join theirs with Christ.
x. The disciples got their double portion and became heirs to the ministry of Jesus that day, just like Elisha did with Elijah. We will see just what that entails when the Holy Spirit comes upon them in chapter 2.
xi. Now, the last thing I want us to look at in verse 9 is that Jesus was taken up in a cloud.
xii. So, why is this significant? That’s a good question; there are two reasons why this is significant.
1. First, clouds in the Scriptures are associated with a physical manifestation of God, of divine presence. Some examples of this are found in First Kings Chapter 8, verse 10, when the nation was dedicating the temple. Let’s pick up the story there 10 As the priests came out of the inner sanctuary, a cloud filled the Temple of the LORD. 11 The priests could not continue their work because the glorious presence of the LORD filled the Temple.
2. We also see in Exodus chapter 19, when God came to meet Moses on Mount Sinai, that His glory covered the mountain, in a cloud.
3. We also see the children of Israel being led through the wilderness to the Promised Land by the Lord, with a pillar of fire by night, and a pillar of cloud by day.
4. The Israelites later had a name for this physical manifestation of God, the called it the Shechinah.
5. So, just like the Lord filling the temple with His presence, Jesus was lifted up into the clouds of glory that day. Jesus was done with His physical ministry on the Earth, so He was lifted up into heaven, to sit at the right hand of the Father, which leads me to the second reason why it was significant.
6. The ascension was also significant in that it was an important part of Christ’s ministry in that He had to ascend to the Father in order to send the Holy Spirit to His disciples.
7. I like to think that Jesus made a hand off with the Holy Spirit. He goes to heaven, the Spirit goes to earth, and Jesus still sits at the right hand of the Father today, this morning even, interceding for us as our High Priest. But not only that, He is our advocate before the Father, forgiving us of our sins. Finally, in heaven, Jesus is the exalted head of the church, directing and moving us through the power of the Holy Spirit.
xiii. Speaking of the church, what is the church doing while Jesus is being lifted up? Let’s look at it in the next two verses, chapter 1, verses 10 and 11.
c. The Reminder (Acts 1:10-11)
i. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven."
ii. We see in verse ten that the disciples were watching as Jesus went up. It was certainly something you don’t see everyday. They wanted to see the Lord off. Kind of like we sometimes do, when we drop someone off at the airport, we watch them get on the plane and fly off.
iii. The disciples missed Jesus already! They were watching, hoping to see something else, even after He was taken away from their sight, hoping that He would come back or something. They were hoping that this wasn’t the end of the story.
iv. Their hopes were answered in the form of two men who appeared with them wearing white. These were angels.
v. We know that angels are messengers of God. Created beings whose sole purpose is to serve God, not to be venerated or worshipped as it is kind of en vogue to do today.
vi. These angels had a message to the disciples – “Stop lookin’ around!” Well, it was a little gentler rebuke than that, as we see in verse eleven.
vii. The angel begins by calling the disciples men of Galilee. It is interesting to note here is that the remaining eleven apostles were all from Galilee, the region to the North of Samaria and Judea. Jesus grew up there, in Nazareth. Now, as we’ll see later, Galilee is the backwoods of Israel at the time, they were the country hicks, not the more sophisticated Jerusalem dwellers. Judas, the dead traitor was not from Galilee.
viii. Now, notice the angels question there. They ask the disciples, “, why do you stand gazing up into heaven?” That word gazing there in the original language means a long gaze, as if they had lost Jesus.
ix. It is a rhetorical question to the disciples, and is a gentle rebuke for them. Jesus was not lost forever. This was not an end. This was a beginning.
x. The angel goes on to say, This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.
xi. What those angels were talking about was prophesied in Daniel chapter 7, verses 13 and 14, there we read,
xii. 13 "I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. 14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.
xiii. We also see this event, Jesus’ return prophesied in other places, Revelation chapter 1, verse 7, and Matthew 24:30.
xiv. Guys, what the angels were telling the disciples here is that Jesus’ return is just as sure as His ascension they just witnessed.
xv. We can take that to the bank, all of the other prophecy has come to pass about Jesus, and just as sure as I am standing here this morning, Jesus’ return is coming, and like I covered last week, no one knows the day or the hour when He is coming back.
xvi. Another view on the angels’ rebuke is why are you guys standing around? Don’t you have somewhere to go? Don’t you have something to do? Don’t you have something to receive? The answer was yes. They had to go to Jerusalem, Jesus told them that. He told them to wait there – they had something to do, and they were to wait for the Holy Spirit, to be empowered for service to carry out His commission found in verse 8 – to go and be His witnesses.
xvii. These guys had an agenda. The Lord had laid out a plan for them. They just needed a nudge from two angels to get them going.
xviii. So, they decide, let’s get after it! We see this in the next two verses, verses 12 and 13.
d. The Wait Begins (Acts 1:12-13)
i. 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. 13 And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James.
ii. So I see this scene going down like this. After they get their friendly neighborhood angel to give them a reminder, the disciples kind of look at each other and go, “Oh, yeah, we’re supposed to go to Jerusalem and wait!”
iii. So they leave Bethany, and go over the Mount of Olives, and go back to Jerusalem to wait. Why did they have to wait? Jesus is God and all; couldn’t He just send the Holy Spirit down as he was going up? That’s a reasonable question. We get a lot more insight to this whole event (the Ascension of Jesus and how it relates to the coming Holy Spirit) and we find the answer to our question in John chapter sixteen verses seven through eleven.
iv. This is Jesus speaking here, He says 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
v. So, we see here that Jesus has to go away for the Spirit to come, and the Spirit does His job because Jesus goes to be with the Father.
vi. So, the disciples go to wait for the Spirit in Jerusalem
vii. The last thing we see in verse 12 is that they were in Bethany, just past the Mount of Olives, and they were a Sabbath Day’s journey from Jerusalem.
viii. A Sabbath Day’s journey is roughly 5/8 of a mile, so, they weren’t too far from the city, but look on to verse 13, it tells us that their destination was the house they were staying at, and it had an upper room. Now, most of the houses had an upper room at that time, but most scholars believe that this was the same house with the upper room where the Last Supper took place.
ix. But, from Luke’s excellent description, we can kind of get an idea of where the house was. If they were in Bethany, hanging out, watching Jesus’ Ascend, and then went 5/8 of a mile back to the house, it was definitely on the east side of Jerusalem, just inside the city walls.
x. Also here in verse 13, we are given a list of the remaining 11 Apostles - Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James.
xi. Let’s take a minute to look at each of these 11 guys briefly.
xii. Peter was one of the first disciples. He was a fisherman from Galilee, along with Andrew his brother. Andrew is the fourth apostle named here in this list. Peter’s real name was Simon, but Jesus called him Peter. Sometimes we see him called Simon Peter. Peter and Andrew’s father was a man named Jonah, we know that he was a commercial fisherman on the Sea of Galilee, and his sons followed in his footsteps. Peter became an early leader in the church, and was the disciple to suggest a replacement for Judas, which we will look at next week in detail.
xiii. James and John are called the Sons of Thunder by Jesus. These were two men that Jesus found by the Sea of Galilee as well, and they were fishermen, too. Peter, James and John make up the “inner circle” of apostles that saw the Lord transfigured on the mountainside. We also know that John was the only apostle that went to witness Jesus’ crucifixion at the foot of the cross. Jesus gave John care over His mother, Mary, at his death. John went on to become the pastor of the church at Ephesus in later years, and lived there in Ephesus until his exile on the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote the book of Revelation, by the power of the Spirit. James, John’s brother was the first of the apostles to be killed for his faith. We will see this later on in Acts chapter 12.
xiv. Philip first met the Lord in Bethany beyond Jordan, not the Bethany near Jerusalem. Most of what we know about comes from the gospels; we know it was Philip who questioned the Lord as to how they would feed the crowd. Tradition says he later went on into ministry in Asia Minor, but we don’t have any firm evidence to support this.
xv. We don’t know very much about Thomas, he is most famous for his doubt. But even his doubt left a mark on the church. Augustine commented that “Thomas doubted so that we might not doubt.”
xvi. We know even less about Bartholomew. He is only listed in the lists of the apostles given in scripture, and there is much speculation as to who this man actually was, and what he did later, but we do know he was a follower and believer of Christ, which is the most important thing any one of us can know.
xvii. Matthew was a tax collector from Capernaum in Galilee. He collected tolls for the Roman government on the road between Damascus and Acco, a trade route. He also likely collected taxes from the local fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. Mark chapter 2 verse twelve tells us that Matthew’s father was a man named Alphaeus.
xviii. James the son of Alphaeus was another guy we don’t know much about. Since Matthew’s father’s name was Alphaeus, some scholars believe that this James was Matthew’s brother, but we can’t be sure.
xix. We don’t know too much about Simon the Zealot either, except that he belonged to the Jewish sect called the Zealots.
xx. Judas the son of James is the last apostle named in this list, and we know he is called by several different names in scripture. Matthew refers to him as Lebbeus whose surname was Thaddeus. Mark simply calls him Thaddeus.
xxi. This gives us an idea to who these eleven men, apostles of Jesus were. Let’s finish off today with our last verse, which tell us what these eleven were up to. Verse 14 says -
e. The Church in One Accord (Acts 1:14)
i. 14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
ii. So we see that the eleven remaining apostles were gathered together with some more of Jesus’ disciples.
iii. The apostles were gathered with the women. Most likely this is Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters, and Salome.
iv. We also see that Jesus’ family was gathered there, his mother Mary, and His brothers. This is the last time Mary is mentioned in scripture. Contrary to what some believe, the scripture clearly does not elevate Mary to co-redemtress of mankind status. On the contrary, while the scripture presents her as a Godly woman, it does not exalt her. Jesus’ brothers there were his half brothers, the natural children of Mary and Joseph. Mark chapter six names them for us: James, Joses, Judas or Jude, and Simon.
v. It is interesting to note that the scripture tells us that all those gathered were all in one accord. This speaks to the spiritual unity of the early fellowship. We will continue to see this unity in the book of Acts, and we will see that phrase “in one accord”, a few more times in the book.
vi. Sadly, we don’t see very much unity in the body of Christ today. Much of this division in the body has come from denominationalism. As humans we tend to compartmentalize and congregate. When we have a disagreement, especially over a point of doctrine, or a particular view, human nature is to separate rather than to try and work it out, or just let bygones be bygones.
vii. We see here that all this division was not God’s original intent. If you’ve been a Christian a while you’ve probably heard of a church that has split over differences. You know what? That is wrong. If you have a problem with a church or a ministry, why don’t you just leave? I call that voting with your feet.
viii. A lot of times when someone has differences in a church, they try to build a group of people that agree with their particular point of view. That’s human nature. Then they gather those people to themselves and force the issue. If the person making the decisions, usually the pastor doesn’t agree, they leave, but not without a fight.
ix. This wounds and divides the body. That is clearly not in God’s will. God wants us to have unity in the body. If you have a difference with a church or a ministry, just leave. Go somewhere where you can plug in and serve, and agree with the church. That is the scriptural thing to do.
x. You know, I tell people, Calvary is not for everyone. Some people just don’t like it. I say, hey, you know what? If someone is happier down the street, then go down the street.
xi. No church is perfect. My pastor says if you find the perfect church; don’t join it, because you will mess it up!
xii. We’re a new church in town, and prayerfully, some of the people of Bryan and College Station will join, and become a part of us.
xiii. Others will decide that Calvary is not for them, and they will elect to go down the road somewhere. You know what? That’s great, too. God’s desire for each one of us as Christians is that we would become a functioning part of a healthy church. Maybe that’s here, maybe it’s not. Either way, God wants you to plug in and get involved.
xiv. God supplies all the needs in the church, but He does that through you. We glorify God through the three T’s – Time, Talent, and Treasure.
xv. Maybe you’re new at this church thing, and you feel like you need some more teaching before you get involved. That’s great too. Just come a fellowship with us, and grow. Grow, grow, grow.
xvi. You know, all this is new to me as well. Six months ago, I was a deacon leading children’s worship at Calvary Chapel Houston that led a home Bible Study. Sure, I was in training to become a Pastor, but the training only takes you so far. I had no idea what to expect when we started up here two weeks ago. That’s where faith had to kick in. I knew that the Lord had called us up here to start a church in Bryan / College Station. So, my wife and I spent a lot of time on my face before the Lord seeking direction.
xvii. Pastor Raul Ries, of Calvary Chapel Golden Springs says that the ministry is an education. I couldn’t agree with him more.
xviii. Along the way, we are going to make mistakes. I am going to make mistakes. I’m human just like you. Like I said a couple of weeks ago, I’m just a waiter. My job is to get the Word from the chef, who is God, and serve it to you. So, if you have a complaint, take it up with the chef.
xix. I’d like to close with a story I think is fitting to close with, considering we finished up with unity in the church.
a. In the pioneer days of the Old West, a wise settler had a beautiful ranch. He and his family were happy, with many nearby neighbors who were true "friends." Trouble with neighbors was unheard of. One day, as this wise settler was sitting on his front porch, a wagon pulled up. The traveler in the wagon was looking for a place to put down roots, so he asked the settler, "What kind of neighbors do you have?" The wise settler answered with a question of his own: "What kind of neighbors did you have back East?" "They were cranky, unfriendly, and cantankerous," the traveler replied. "Well, I’m afraid you’ll find the same kind of neighbors here," the settler told the traveler. So the man drove on, looking for a better place to live. The next day another wagon stopped at the settler’s home. That traveler also was looking for a place to homestead. He too asked about the neighbors. The settler asked him the same question, "What kind of neighbors did you have back East?" "My neighbors were the nicest and friendliest neighbors in the world," the traveler replied. "Well, you’ll find the same kind of neighbors here, too," the settler said. So the second traveler decided to stay, and he found great neighbors. The first traveler settled a day’s journey away, and rumor has it that eventually he became involved in a feud with his neighbors.
b. Guys, it is up to us to keep unity in the body of Christ. Without unity in the body, we are easily overcome. Mark Twain used to say he put a dog and a cat in a cage together as an experiment, to see if they could get along. They did, so he put in a bird, pig and goat. They, too, got along fine after a few adjustments. Then he put in a Baptist, Presbyterian, and Catholic; soon there was not a living thing left. Would to God that we would be united in our pursuit of God. With that, let’s pray.
VI. Closing Prayer