Summary: A sermon about the Ascension of the Lord.
"Staring Toward Heaven"
This is quite an amazing passage of Scripture.
We are told that after His Resurrection from the dead, Jesus appeared to His followers "over a period of forty days, speaking to them about God's kingdom."
He ate with them, and at one of these meals Jesus told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait because in a few days they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
They talk some more, and then as the apostles were watching, Jesus "was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight."
You'll remember from the Old Testament that God often appeared "in a pillar of cloud."
So Jesus was lifted up by God, into heaven; but He'll be back on the day when heaven and earth are brought together once and for all.
And our hope hangs on that promise.
But in the meantime, there is much for us to do.
We are told that "While he was going away and as they were staring toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood next to them.
They said, 'Galileans, why are you standing here looking toward heaven?
This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you saw him go into heaven."
In other words, "Quit gawking; He'll be back!"
Some six hundred years earlier Daniel had had a vision about this--Jesus' Second Coming.
It's recorded in Daniel Chapter 7 beginning at verse 13, "I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven...
...He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed."
That is an awesome thing to look forward to.
And it appears that Jesus' first followers had kind of gotten ahead of themselves on this, as we often do ourselves.
We can be kind of like kids in a car on a long trip asking over and over
again, "Are we there yet?"
When, in verse 6 of Acts Chapter 1 the apostles ask, "Lord, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now?" they appear to have been pretty confused and puzzled.
After-all, nothing that had happened in recent weeks had corresponded with their game plan.
As far as they were concerned, when Jesus called them and then taught them in Galilee during the previous three years or so, they were signing on for some kind of Jewish renewal movement.
They believed that God had appointed Jesus to be the true King of Israel.
They had thought of Jesus as being kind of like King David in the Old Testament, Who for several years was like a "king-in-waiting," standing in the wings with a ragtag group of followers wondering when their turn would come.
Jesus' disciples had thought Jesus was going to be a king in the ordinary sense of the word.
That's why some of them had been asking Him for top jobs in His government.
Israel would be the top nation, ruling over the rest of the world.
That's what they were hoping for, and so their question to Jesus was natural enough: "Are we there yet?"
They hadn't been expecting that Jesus would die a violent death.
His crucifixion had made it look as if they had been wrong--like they'd picked the wrong horse.
And then Jesus had risen from the dead.
What did it mean?
Did it mean that their dreams of 'restoring the kingdom to Israel' were now back on track?
And just as Jesus had told them that they would have to lose their lives in order to save them, so now He explained that they had to lose their dreams of an ordinary earthly-kingdom with governments, politics and all that stuff.
Israel is being restored.
Of course, the new, restored Israel is not a nation based on race, gender or rank.
It is a nation made up of people from "every nation, tribe, language and people."
And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be part of it.
And so, in Acts Chapter 1 Jesus answers His followers kind of like the "children in the car scenario," telling them, "It isn't for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has set by his own authority."
....and this is where we really need to pay attention...
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and the end of the earth."
And why will they receive power?
And what are they going to be witnesses too?