Summary: A reflection on the Ascension of the Lord Jesus
The Ascension - April 25, 2021
As I was preparing this message, I was doing so with a heavy heart. We know that much of life includes suffering, but it's when it hits so close to home, when it hits you or people you love, that we really become aware of it. Unavoidably attuned to the reality of it.
On top of many difficult months and weeks, this has been a particularly difficult week. Many of us or all of us have heard that Pastor Arleen and Paulo now have Covid. Pastor Arleen is at Sunnybrook hospital. Paulo, her husband is at East General/Michael Garron. Arleen has recently received word that she may be able to go home in a few days, depending on how her oxygen is. Let us continue to be in prayer for both of them. The pandemic is very real.
The truth is that suffering can drive us closer to God, or further from him. We can allow suffering to raise doubts or reinforce doubts we generally carry. Or we can press into God. We can run away from who we are as people of God when we face bad news or hardship, or we can run into who we are.
We can run in to God.That is our choice. Today I choose to run into God, and together we choose to draw near to God, and to gather and listen to his word. And I pray that I would faithfully convey his heart through his word. Pause.
I encourage you to have your Bible open at our passage today. That’s just a good practice.
In the book of Acts we have a tremendous sequel to the gospels. It is the sequel, or follow up to the book of Luke. Same writer, same basic perspective, although talking about what really happens next.
And of course the book of Acts is about what happens next, after Jesus was here on this planet, after he taught us and showed us the ways of God, the heart and the mind of God, and then he went to the cross to suffer for us, and then was resurrected.
Acts is about what happens next, about what the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus to the disciples, does in the early church. And the Holy Spirit was to do much in and through the disciples, who were shortly to become know as the Apostles.
Jesus prepares us for this when he says, near the end of His earthly ministry says: John 14:12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
Which is kind of mind-boggling, given who Jesus was and is and all he did is. But God‘s greater kingdom work, that would reach throughout the ages since Jesus to this very moment, would be accomplished through followers of Jesus. You’re here watching this today because some follower of Jesus pointed you to Jesus. In a sense we are all beggars telling other beggars where to find bread.
And so we have this book of Acts, this wonderful, exciting adventure of the pioneers of our faith, in a sense they were the early versions of us, the first Christians.
I’ve always been impressed how the humble, stumbling disciples in the gospel narratives became the bold, courageous, well-spoken apostles of the early church, as recorded in the book of Acts.
Have you ever wondered about that? Well, the reason is hinted at in this passage, although Robert Gin will be exploring that in much greater depth next Sunday. It’s to do with the transforming power of God working through the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit empowers us to deal with suffering, to navigate its impact on our lives, our bodies, our emotions. The sending of the Holy Spirit is an extraordinary gift that we need to be aware of at all times, and we also need to treasure the presence of the Holy Spirit in this earthen vessel.
Today we are looking at Jesus' final words on earth to the disciples, after the resurrection, after his appearances to many. The appearances of Jesus were not limited to a few Disciples. The book of Corinthians tells us that Jesus appeared to upwards of 500 people.
“...He was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas (Peter), and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, 1 Corinthians 15:4-6
In vs1-5 of Acts chapter 1, Luke talks about his reason for writing this book. Let's quickly look at that:
1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach. 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.