Summary: Explores the tension in our lives generated by the absence of Christ after his Ascension. There is, however encouragement and hope for us, both in the "already" of our present salvation and in the "not yet" of the coming consummation at Christ’s Return.
The Real Absence of Christ
Part #1 For Ascension and Pentecost 2001
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. 3 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. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
6 So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 "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."
INTRO. THE LONGING OF ALL OUR HEARTS
6 So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"
It has become an easy thing to ridicule the disciples for their question at this point. You may have even heard sermons to this effect. The response to the question is, "Silly Hebrew, Jesus came to establish a spiritual kingdom, not an earthly kingdom." The underlying premise of course is, "After all he has done, do you still want something more?"
I think this response, however is a little too callous and dismissive of the underlying hope that was radiating in the disciples’ hearts. The Scriptures had taught them that when Messiah came, he would eliminate the oppression and suffering of his people and establish the rule and reign of God. Evil and death would be defeated and God himself would reign over his people in justice, righteousness and peace.
In asking if Jesus was going to restore the kingdom, the disciples were basically asking if it was now time to realize the full benefits of the coming of the Messiah. They were asking are you going to work everything out now?
Now before you criticize those aspirations I want you to really get in touch with your own feelings of suffering and helplessness. If I asked,
"Where is it that life is hurting you?"
"What in your life would you ask God to change if you had the chance?"
Would that help you identify with the longings and aspirations of the disciples?
The fact is that we suffer and experience misery, helplessness, and sin to a greater or lesser degree in every aspect of our lives. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have world peace and an end to injustice? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to not have to deal with the pain of your arthritis? Wouldn’t it be incredible not to have to feel lonely or insecure or oppressed by the weight of your circumstances?
We have spoken about the resurrection power of Christ in the last couple of weeks and how that power manifests itself in the forgiveness of sins, the restoration of friendship with God, and surprising transformations in our lives, but how do you deal with what remains undone?
THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN LIFE: "ALREADY" AND "NOT YET"
6 So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.
How does Jesus answer their question? Not yet.
The passage tells us that Christ was then received into heaven and was hidden from their sight. They stood, amazed and bewildered at the heavens looking for the Christ that was no longer present but absent.