Summary: Learn what the Ascencion means to our mission as a church, and see how Luke uses it in both his books to motivate us towards action.
Let’s take our Bibles and turn to Luke 24…as you’re turning, what if I just started levitating? You’d be somewhat WOWED, eh? Imagine the disciples here in this text…Christ is giving his final words and mission, and then he starts rising. It’s the ascension! Let’s see this…
When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
This same story is repeated by Luke later in the book of Acts. Look with me at Acts 1...
So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or 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 in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
Oddly, the Ascension is not talked about much, but it is a critical aspect of his post-resurrection life. In fact, three of the first five books of the New Testament talk about his ascension. Why? Because it signals a new era – the era of the soon-coming indwelling Spirit of God upon believers! We call that the church, and the Ascension is the labor pains of the church’s birth.
Darrell Bock says in his commentary, Luke: “In a real sense, Luke ends at a beginning. No longer is the story about what Jesus did in his earthly ministry. Now it is the saga of what he continued to do through God’s people, whom he equipped to perform a task and carry a message.”
And Leon Morris echoes much the same thing in his book on Luke when he writes, “There is an air of finality about it [the ascension]. It is the decisive close of one chapter and the beginning of another. It is the consummation of Christ’s earthly work, the indication to his followers that his mission is accomplished.”
Yes, his mission of redemption was accomplished. But our mission of preaching that message continues. The ascension is the physical indicator that we are now on-mission in the power of the Spirit and in the name of the Lord!
In a sentence, the Ascension signifies a simple truth: “The Messiah is gone but the mission lives on.”
Just how does that mission continue? In us, the believers that have chosen to believe in the reality of Jesus and the reliability of Scripture. We are now partners with God… ambassadors of Heaven…spokespeople for the King of kings! And the Ascension is our cue to be on-mission!
If you recall, I showed you two passages at the beginning of this message that dealt with the Ascension. Guess what? Luke wrote both! So this one writer of two books shows us the mission of Christ (Luke) and the mission of the church (Acts). It’s a wonderful one-two punch! An initial volume and then volume two. The opening film and then the sequel! Yes, Luke shows both Christ in motion and the church in ministry. Let me show you some similarities:
Luke 9:1 & 10:1 show Christ sending the 12 and the 72;
Acts 8:1 shows the church being scatteredin the Dispersion.
What acts as the trigger for Acts? The Ascension! What is the bridge between Christ’s ministry and the church’s ministry? The Ascension! Yes, First Family, the ascension is our green light to continue to the mission of making disciples in all nations.
If you’re wondering, “Just what is our mission?”, then let’s go back to our two texts for today: Luke 24 and Acts 1. And in a nutshell, our mission is to worship and to witness! Do you see it there in these passages?