Summary: A sermon for Ascension of the Lord Sunday.
“Now What Are We Gonna Do?”
In the next verse, which I didn’t read, we are told that at this point the believers were a group of folks numbering about 120.
It’s not a huge mass of people.
It’s just a little less than the number of people we have worshiping here on any given Sunday.
And who were these folks that were huddled together between the time Jesus Ascended back to heaven and when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost ten days later?
Well, they weren’t much different than you and me.
They were real human beings, with names, identities, histories, and fears.
They had followed Jesus as far as they could; then they waited for the coming of the Spirit.
They are the ones who made up the first Church.
And it is we—you and me—who make up today’s Church, at least the part of the Church which gathers at 3800 Dayton Boulevard in Red Bank, Tennessee.
And so, like the first disciples, we gather together—but not as together as we will be next week when we start worshiping as ONE CHURCH with ONE WORSHIP SERVICE rather than TWO.
I think it can be easy to sort of romanticize the first followers of Christ.
It was they, after-all, who had met Jesus face-to-face.
It was they who sat and listened to Him teach.
It was they who watched as he healed the sick, touched the lepers and ate with tax collectors, prostitutes and all manner of outcasts who were called “sinners” by the religious elite.
And, many of them had been the prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers and sinners—perhaps most or all had been.
But aren’t we as well?
Who among us doesn’t have a defect?
Who among us doesn’t struggle with temptation and sin?
And who among us have it all together?
Who among us has all the answers, knows everything there is to know about this universe, this world, this life and even Jesus and God?
Who among us knows exactly what Red Bank United Methodist Church is supposed to be doing that we are not currently doing?
Who among us knows our future or if we even have one?
Kind of freaky isn’t it?
A couple of nights ago, my 4-year-old son Owen asked me a question as I was putting him to bed.
He said, “You are my daddy and I am your son, right?”
“Right,” I replied.
“And your daddy died and it makes you very sad.
And you miss him,” he continued.
Then he said: “But you are never going to die, right?”
What was I going to say?
He’s really too young to understand all this, and I don’t want to scare him.
So, I replied, “Right, I’m never going to die. You have nothing to worry about. Good night sweet boy. I love you.”
Jesus’ first followers were pretty confused and, I would imagine, scared.
A lot had happened.
They had signed on to the Jesus movement and been extremely close to Him and yet they really didn’t understand much about Him.
He told them things over and over and over again but not much of it stuck.
Their world-view was too small.
God’s ways were too different from their ways—how could they understand what Jesus was really talking about?
They became convinced that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah—the one who would be like King David in the Old Testament.
They believed He would restore Israel.
The whole world would be turned around at last.
Israel would be the top nation, ruling over the rest of the world.
All this can be summed up in the question they ask Jesus in verse 6 of our Scripture lesson for this morning: “Lord are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
And notice how Jesus doesn’t really answer their question, or kind of skirts around it?
Instead of saying something like, “You’ve got it all wrong”, He says, “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.”
Do you think THAT confused them?
I mean, if they didn’t understand what was happening before they asked Jesus that question, they were really in the dark now.
“We will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes?”
“We will be Jesus’ witnesses?”
“What kind of power; what kind of witnesses?”
And then, Jesus is somehow “taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”
And they are just standing there staring at the sky.
And who wouldn’t be?
What are they supposed to do now?