Summary: A sermon about the Ascension of Christ and how that impacts our lives today.
“Get Over It; Quit Gawking; Take a Hike”
By: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN eastridgeumc.org
A tribal chief lay dying.
He called to him three of his people and said, “I must select a successor. Therefore, climb our holy mountain and return with the most precious gift you can find.”
The first brought back a huge gold nugget.
The second brought back a priceless gem.
The third came back empty-handed, saying, “When I reached the mountaintop, I saw on the other side a beautiful land, where people could go for a better life.”
The chief said, “You shall succeed me. You have brought back the most precious gift of all: a vision of a better tomorrow.”
“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
That was the question on everyone’s mind.
Jesus had been with them for three years.
And after His Resurrection, He spent time instructing them for 40 days, but they still had lots of questions.
And Jesus answers this particular question by saying, “It’s not for you to know the time and dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…”
The Greek word that translates into “witnesses” literally means “martyrs.”
In a legal sense, a witness is a person who, because of some experience or something they have seen, are in a unique position to tell the truth about some important matter.
Jesus commissions His disciples to witness to God’s mighty acts in history, to proclaim good news in an empire that has crucified Good News.
They’ve been called to tell the world that God has overcome death, defeated and made a mockery of the empire’s myth of violence by raising Jesus from the dead.
They’ve been called into a proverbial courtroom to witness about Jesus Christ amid the competing testimonies—testimonies that promise peace through violence, fulfillment through wealth, and power through exploitation.
So, is it any wonder that after Jesus “was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud him from their sight” that they continued “looking intently up into the sky”?
I would imagine that their mouths would have been fully agape in a mixture of un-self -conscious amazement, shock and horror!!!
And while they are standing there looking into the sky, “two angels dressed in white stood beside them” and these two angels put some fire into them.
“Why are you standing around, gazing at the clouds? Jesus is coming back the way you saw Him go. Now get about the tasks of the kingdom!”
In other words, “Get over it. Quite gawking, and take a hike!”
“You remember what Jesus said to you, ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift…in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’”
The angels remind the disciples that they are supposed to “hurry up and wait.”
But their waiting is not empty-handed.
They will wait in hope!
And the message they will bring the world will be a message of a better life!!!
As the Church of Jesus Christ, they will be empowered to take over where Jesus left off.
They will become Jesus’ arms and legs and voice once the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost.
They will be the Church.
And the gates of hell will not “overcome” them.
Instead, they will storm the gates of hell, break through and set the captives free!!!
But they cannot do this on their own.
They need Jesus to be with them through the power of the Holy Spirit!
Without that power, they would have failed miserably.
Without that power, no one would ever have even heard of Jesus Christ, let alone the Church or the name “Christian.”
So, they returned to Jerusalem, and we are told in Luke Chapter 24 that they did this “with great joy…praising God.”
And how couldn’t they have been praising God?
They went to wait as those who know that their Master has been “taken up” where He is “exalted at the right hand of God.”
They knew that the One Who served, taught and loved them now rules for them!!!
But, this knowledge is not some smug secret for the privileged few.
It’s a knowledge which demands a witness!
It’s to be shared!!!
And what great news this is in a world where greed, selfishness and insider knowledge leaves others on the sidelines.
In a world where 2% of the population owns half of the wealth, the inclusivity of Christ is Radical indeed!!!
So, the disciples are called to “witness.”
They are called to be ready to become martyrs for Christ, loyal whatever the cost.
They are given the most urgent and difficult job to do, and will have to wait for the Power in which they can do it!!!