Summary: Luke’s account of Jesus’ ascension into heaven gives us a "goodbye" unlike any we have ever heard.
“Good-bye! It was great visiting with you. Let’s keep in touch! See you in a few months!” Without bringing tears to the eyes of those of you who hate to say goodbye I want all of you to bring to mind a time when you were saying goodbye to family or friends. What were some of the things that you talked about? As you think about saying goodbye can you recall any common thoughts that you seem to normally express to people before you leave?
As I think about “saying goodbye” three basic ideas come to mind. (I hope I am correct in assuming my experiences in this area are similar to yours.) Usually when I say goodbye I find myself quickly reviewing the time I spent with the person I am leaving. The conversation might go something like this. “Well, thanks for inviting us to the wedding. It was great to be a part of this important event. We really enjoyed being here.” Or perhaps it might go like this, “This holiday weekend has been great. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit with you and the family. We had a great time doing all the things you planned.” The second part of one of my typical goodbyes is the promise to make plans for keeping in touch on a regular basis. Don’t we often do that? The exchange of words might go something like this, “We really need to get together more often. I’ll give you a call in a few months and see what we can work out. Let’s keep in touch until then.” The final thing that often goes into saying goodbye is the making of plans for when I will see the person again. Sometimes those plans are very tentative but we still seem to be unable to say goodbye without at least proposing some plans for the future. If it is a regularly scheduled family event I might say, “See you next year.”
With those parts of saying goodbye in mind let’s take a look at the way Jesus said goodbye to his disciples. The Word of God for our sermon this morning is Luke’s account of Jesus’ ascension found in Acts 1:1-11. It was the first Scripture lesson for this Sunday. Through the power of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts may we:
“HEAR JESUS SAY ‘GOODBYE’”
I. Recall what he accomplished with his visit
II. Receive his promise to keep in touch
III. Remember his plans to see us again
This year in the Sundays following Easter we have been reading from the Books of Acts. We have seen the effects of Christ’s resurrection on the New Testament church in Jerusalem. The timid followers of Christ became totally committed evangelists for him. The good news about Jesus spread out around the Roman Empire. Through the disciples and evangelists like the Apostle Paul God’s Word was brought to a great number of people. But all of that success can be traced back to these verses we are considering. When Jesus said goodbye to his disciples he promised and predicted it all. In his final words before His ascension Jesus outlined what was going to happen.
The first aspect of Jesus’ farewell that Luke mentions is how he reviewed the mission he had just accomplished. “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” Before he said his goodbye and returned to the seat of glory at his Father’s right hand Jesus recalled what he had accomplished. He gave his disciples many convincing proofs that he was alive. Remember that his being alive was the proof that he had done everything necessary for salvation. The fact that death had no power over him showed that the curse of sin had been broken and that Satan’s power had been crushed. Because the disciples were slow to believe and understand what Jesus had done he spent 40 days saying goodbye to them. In that time he reviewed the purpose for his coming to visit the earth.
Someone might say that hearing Jesus say goodbye to his disciples can’t have the same impact on us as it did on them. After all we don’t get to hear him teach about the kingdom of God. We aren’t able to see the convincing proofs that he is alive. But let’s not be too hasty to jump to that conclusion. We have the written record of what Jesus accomplished. That is more than the disciples had when Jesus said goodbye to them. By opening God’s Word printed in our own language we can read about the convincing proofs Jesus offered to establish the fact that he paid for our sins. On this day when we recall Jesus’ ascension it is important for us to remember that part of his goodbye. We need to join him in looking back on what he has done.