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Summary: An eight-point message on the importance and relevance of Jesus’ ascension.

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INTRO: An American tourist was visiting England on his summer vacation.

-As the 4th of July approached, he wondered how the British would celebrate America’s Independence Day.

-So, he asked one of his tour guides: Does England have a 4th of July? (2X)

-You can imagine the tour guide’s sarcastic reply: No, we just go from the 3rd of July to the 5th of July.

-Everybody in the world has a 4th of July--right? The only difference is: some people have a special reason to celebrate on that day, and other people don’t.

In a similar way--everybody in the world has a 21st of May. But some people have a special reason to celebrate on that day, and other people don’t.

-What about you? Do you have a special reason to celebrate on the 21st of May this year?

-Some of you are already looking at your calendars. What’s the 21st of May? (2X)

-I’ll give you a hint. The 21st of May is 40 days after Easter this year. Does that help?

-We’re in the third week of a 3-part series today, called, ENCORE. We’re studying what Jesus did between rising from the dead and returning to heaven--a 40-day period.

-Now do you know what we have to celebrate on the 21st of May? Jesus’ ascension. May 21st is Ascension Day. It falls on a Thursday, 40 days after Easter.

Let me ask you a question about your religious background: How many of you grew up in a church that annually celebrated Jesus’ Ascension (Jesus’ return to heaven)?

-I did not! In fact, I’m embarrassed to admit this, but--in almost 25 years of preaching over 1,000 sermons at CCC, I have never taught about the importance of Jesus’ ascension. Never!

-And this was the Grand Finale of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry--this was the big send off at the end of Jesus’ 40-day post-Easter encore.

-Even more importantly--Jesus’ ascension has incredible significance for our lives today. When I finished studying, this past week, all that Jesus’ ascension means for us--all that it guarantees us--I was pumped! I could hardly wait for this weekend to share this message with you.

-And it’s got eight points. (Eight! Don’t worry--I’ll have us out of here by... Tuesday!)

-OUTLINE. Lots of Scripture verses--some we’ll look up, many we won’t. Write them down. (Do you have notebook yet for your outlines?)

#1 He Is Exalted As God

TURN: Hebrews 1.

-As you’re turning... Let me make an interesting observation. Each of the Christian holidays that we celebrate, leave us with a distinct image of Jesus.

-For example--when you think about Christmas, what image of Jesus comes to your mind? The baby in the manger, right? He may be the Son of God--but he’s tiny and helpless, and occasionally Mary needs to change his diaper. That’s the Jesus of Christmas.

-OK. What about the Jesus of Easter weekend--starting with Good Friday. What image of Jesus comes to mind when you think about Good Friday? A Jesus who is nailed to a cross--suffering, dying, calling out "I thirst" and "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"

-What about the Jesus of Easter day? What’s your image? He’s been supernaturally raised from the dead--but he’s still a man, right? Maybe he glows a bit--I don’t know--but he still looks a lot like the Jesus that his disciples had followed for three years.

-The image of Jesus that we carry around in our minds has been greatly shaped by these major Christian holidays that we annually celebrate. Jesus is the helpless baby of Christmas, the dying sacrifice of Good Friday, the back-from-the-dead man of Easter.

But this isn’t the full picture. We desperately need the image of Jesus that his ascension provides.

-What does the Jesus who returned to heaven at the end of his 40-day encore look like?

-READ Hebrews 1:3, 4.

-These two verses are so packed with information about the ascended Jesus, that we could squeeze something out of every phrase.

-Verse 3 begins: The Son is the radiance of God’s glory. Radiance--God’s presence is frequently spoken of in Scripture in terms of brilliantly, blazing light.

* When Moses, for example, met with God on the top of Mt. Sinai, Exodus 24:17 says that the people at the base of the mountain saw a consuming fire.

*Jesus--as the unique Son of God--has this same radiance about him. On one occasion, during his earthly ministry, Jesus took three of his disciples up a mountainside to pray--and his appearance was transformed before their very eyes.

*Matthew 17:2 says that his face shone like the sun. Luke 9:29 says that his clothes became as bright as flashes of lightning.

*That was just a sneak preview of the radiance that Jesus would once again possess after returning to heaven. The radiance of God’s glory.

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