Summary: Jesus’ ascension into heaven is something that doesn’t get enough attention. We make a pretty big deal over Christmas and Easter but what about the ascension? We shouldn't overlook it because without the ascension the work of Jesus would not be complete.
INTRODUCTION: Jesus’ ascension into heaven is something that probably doesn’t get enough attention. With Christmas and Easter we make a pretty big deal over his birth and his death and resurrection, but what about the ascension? We might think the ascension is not all that important but if we overlook this event we will miss out on learning some valuable lessons. Without the ascension the work of Jesus would be incomplete.
1) 40 days (vs. 1-3) Why 40 days? Is there any significance or meaning behind the specific number 40? Got sent rain for 40 days and nights when the flood occurred. The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. When Moses went up the mountain and into the presence of God he was there 40 days and nights. The spies spent forty days spying out the land of Canaan. Goliath taunted the Israelites forty days until David showed up. When Elijah ate the food the angel had brought him he traveled for forty days and nights. Jesus was tempted by the devil for forty days. The bible has forty different writers.
We see that the number 40, as with other numbers in the bible, has significance. We see in some of these references it was a time of testing and judgment. Yet in these times of testing and difficulty at the end there is relief and blessing. The flood waters receded, the Israelites entered the Promised Land, David slew Goliath, Jesus had victory over Satan, etc. We see in the case of Moses and Elijah that the forty days were a time of divine presence and power. Jesus’ 40 days before his ascension were significant too.
We see in vs. 2 he spent that time giving instructions to his apostles. We see it was for the purpose of providing many convincing proofs that he did in deed raise from the dead in bodily form. Jesus appeared to many people during this time. 1st Cor. 15:6 states that he appeared to more than 500 people at one time. The forty days of Jesus’ time between his resurrection and ascension is a significant period of time. It coincided with the amount of days of many other significant biblical accounts and thus links them together. 40 is an important number in the bible so Jesus’ post-resurrection time of forty days makes sense. It was once of divine presence and power and it was going to be followed by a time of blessing for God’s people.
2) Never mind that, focus on this! (vs. 4-8) Vs. 6-7-They were eager to know things that Jesus didn’t want them to be thinking about. Their focus was not where it needed to be. End times-looking for signs for Jesus’ return. Not that it’s wrong but if that begins to consume our time then we are missing out. We are missing out on the rest of the bible that is meant for our instruction regarding the here and now-our sanctification. And if we focus too heavily on end-times scripture we could miss out on our ministry to others. If we are too obsessed on looking up in anticipation of Christ’s return then we won’t be looking out into the field of opportunity.
Vs. 8-Jesus gave instructions for his disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait. They were waiting for Jesus to send the Holy Spirit; which he did ten days later at Pentecost. Jesus tried to encourage them that his departure was actually a good thing John 16:5-7. Literal translation, “It is advantageous for you that I should go.” Can you picture the disciples’ reaction? “Seriously? We’re going to be facing all this persecution and doing it without you here with us but somehow that’s to our advantage? How could it be better for us that you’re leaving?” One way in which it was better would be that through the Holy Spirit Jesus would not just be with his disciples, he would be in his disciples; and this would prove to be the better thing.
John 14:15-18. The Holy Spirit is something that’s not understood by the world. The work He does in us is unexplainable but completely verifiable. William Burkitt’s commentary states, “The benefit of Christ's conversation was great; but the advantage of the Spirit's renovation and holy inspiration is much greater; the one encourages and incites us to be holy, but the other quickens and enables us to be holy.” When we see the apostles’ lives after the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost we see a drastic change from how they were before. Where once Peter was thinking of himself and cutting ears off and denying Jesus after the Holy Spirit comes he turns into this bold preacher and powerful leader. Where once the Apostles all scattered when Jesus was arrested, after the Holy Spirit comes we see their boldness and dedication.