Summary: Like many of the other important events in Jesus’ life, the ascension is also important for a number of reasons. In this sermon we look at four reasons why the ascension was an absolute necessity.
A. Goodbyes aren’t easy. Especially if we or they will be gone for a long time.
1. There are some very memorable goodbyes in history.
2. On June 13, 1948, Babe Ruth stood in Yankee Stadium, eaten up with cancer and with tears in his eyes, said goodbye. He died two months later.
3. On August 8, 1974, a unique and tragic event in American history occurred as President Richard M. Nixon appeared on television to announce his decision to resign the presidency effective at noon the next day.
a. The announcement came as a result of the Watergate scandal and the subsequent collapse of political support for him in Congress.
b. The next day, members of Nixon’s staff assembled for a final, tearful White House farewell.
c. Nixon delivered a remarkable impromptu speech amid the tremendous emotional strain of just having resigned the presidency in disgrace.
4. One of the hardest goodbyes that anyone has to say are the ones made to soldiers as they go off to war. Like the picture of this man and his son.
5. Personally, our hardest goodbyes have been the ones we have made as we have dropped off our daughters at college.
6. It is also especially hard to say goodbye to an elderly friend or loved because we know that it might be the last time we will see them.
B. Today we are going to talk about Jesus’ goodbye to His disciples – we know it as the Ascension.
1. The most important events in Jesus’ life certainly include His birth, baptism, temptation, transfiguration, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.
2. It is interesting to me that not all of the Gospels record this event.
3. John says nothing about the ascension of Jesus. He ended his Gospel, saying, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (Jn. 21:25)
4. Matthew ended his Gospel with Jesus gathering with His disciples on a mountain in Galilee. He issued the Great Commission and then promised, “And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mt. 28:20)
5. Mark ended his Gospel with a speech similar to the Great Commission in Matthew, and then he wrote, “After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.” (Mk. 16:19)
C. It is Luke the careful historian who gives the most ink to the ascension of Jesus.
1. Luke ended his Gospel, written especially for the most excellent Theophilus, “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.” (Lk. 24:50-52)
2. Then Luke opened volume two, saying, “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.” (Acts 1:1-3)
3. Luke recorded Jesus’ instructions that they should not leave Jerusalem, but should wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, and then they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
4. Luke then wrote, “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.’” (Acts 1:9-11)
D. When I look at Jesus’ interaction with His disciples as He gives His farewell, I see a lot of similarities to the kind of farewells that we have with our loved ones.
1. Our farewells often include three things.
2. We often review the time we spent with the person on that visit.
a. We might say something like, “Well, thanks for inviting us to the wedding. It was great to be a part of this important event.”
b. Or, “This holiday weekend has been great. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit with you all.”