Summary: Part 3 of 4 in a series covering the things of first importance as presented by the Apostle Paul in 1st Corinthians 15
INTRODUCTION: As we discussed last week the resurrection of Christ is the foundational truth of the Gospel, and while the Gospel we preach rests solely on that foundation, there is more to the story… We’ve looked at how the burial of Christ often gets wrongly overlooked; well there are two more aspects that are necessary for a complete picture. So we now get to play Paul Harvey and get the rest of the story! And for that we move away from 1st Corinthians and move to the book of Acts.
BACKGROUND: I’ve often wondered how much planning went into Jesus’ plan to leave earth. We know that entire plan for the salvation of man was set prior to the creation of the universe and it was now near its conclusion. Jesus had already left once through His death, but three days later He was back. It was now time to bring His earthly ministry to an end and prepare the disciples for their transition into the architects of the New Testament Church. And how does He choose to do this, by performing one final miracle for His disciples to see. There will be another which we’ll cover next week and it’s one that we’ll all get to see!
JESUS’ LAST MIRACLE
• Just a cursory reading of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life show that He was a miracle worker!
• From his first miracle of turning water into wine, to the feeding of the 5,000, to bringing Lazarus back to life, we see Jesus working miracles in the lives of everyday people
• And how many more miracles did Jesus work that we don’t even know about (John 21:25)
• Over the past two weeks we’ve considered the miracles of His death, burial, and resurrection
• But Jesus isn’t done yet – He’s been out among the people for 40 days and has been seen by thousands! – which serves as some of the greatest evidence for the “empty tomb”
• He now leads his disciples out as far as Bethany, and He tells them that they are to stay in Jerusalem
• He gives them a direct order… to stay and wait! But why would He give them such and order?
• (1) the promised “baptism” of the Holy Spirit (different from the “gift” ) (Acts 1:4)
• (2) the Prophets said that the first preaching of the Gospel would take place in Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:3)
• They then ask Jesus about the establishment of the Kingdom, which they still don’t understand as being a spiritual kingdom… Jesus answers them, then ascends to heaven (vs. 6-10)
• Unlike the resurrection where no one was present when it occurred, all the disciples (save for Judas) were present for Jesus’ ascension, and it is of great importance that they witnessed it
• The “truth” of the resurrection was best represented in the fact that Jesus was seen after the fact
• The “truth” of the ascension, couldn’t be seen in such a manner, thus it had to occur in broad daylight in the presence of witnesses! Had Jesus simply disappeared, confusion would have ensued
• We read that as Jesus ascended, a cloud took Him from their sight, a sight reminiscent of Elijah being carried away into heaven(2nd Kings 2), and the transfiguration (Matthew 9)
• Many believe (myself included) that this was nothing less than the “Shekinah Glory” – the visible presence of God himself as seen in the Pillar of Cloud and Fire (Exodus 13)
A REACTION AND EXPLANATION
• Jesus is now gone, and what do the disciples do… continue to stare up at an empty sky!
• While they are staring at this broad expanse of nothingness 2 men in white appear to them
• Based on the description we’re given (vs.10) and the nature of their message it is assumed that these men are angels in human form; they come to “confirm” what has just happened
• They confirm that Jesus was “taken up” – this phrase is in the “passive voice” indication that it was done by outside action; in this case by God… and there’s the miracle!
• After giving confirmation that Jesus is indeed gone, they give affirmation that He’ll be coming back again (vs.11) and that it will be in the same way that they saw Him go!
• When Jesus comes back…. We’re all going to see it!
• The disciples followed Jesus’ command, and stayed in Jerusalem, united in “purpose,” united in “prayer”, united in “hope”… and in less than 10 days’ time they received the “Baptism of the Spirit”
THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE ASCENSION
• Now while we might think that the ascension of Jesus is a minor event with little importance for us. In truth, the ascension of Jesus Christ is one of the most important components of our faith, the Ascension…