Summary: A sermon that explores the ascension of Jesus in relation to the personal transformation it brings to the Disciples and ultimately to us.
Would you like to hear a poem about clouds?
Very well then.
Christina Rossetti, 1830 - 1894
White sheep, white sheep,
On a blue hill,
When the wind stops,
You all stand still.
When the wind blows,
You walk away slow.
White sheep, white sheep,
Where do you go?
It’s a poem about clouds – Poetry is great but wait what does it say in Acts chapter 1 –
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.”
Why do you stand here?
This is assension Week – 40 days after Easter – and the day the church has long celebrated the time when Jesus was taken up into heaven. Imagine being there on that day on that hill - As Luke records it - 50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. I think that is a pretty good reason to be standing there staring into the sky. But if we can inject part of Acts chapter one into the report suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. Men of Galilee they said, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky?’
Well actually the reason that they were looking and the word Luke uses is – Intently – the reason is they have just witnessed one of the most amazing events in World history. Jesus the son of God who was born of Mary in Bethlehem has just bodily lifted up from the earth and disappeared into the sky. I think I would be staring intently as well yet the message from the Angels is quite direct and intentional.
“Why do you stand here looking into the sky?’
The suggestion to me is – that there is a mild rebuke here and at the root of that mild rebuke suggestion if you like is – Get on with it!!!!!!
But wait a minute don’t the scriptures say – I will lift my eyes to the hills where will my help come from – my help will come from the Lord the maker of heaven and earth psalm 121?
Jesus once said – John chapter 16 verse 7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
The ascension of Jesus is the completion of this verse – Jesus went away when he died but then he returned again in the resurrection over the next 40 days he made many appearances but here he ascends into heaven – he is away. Now the Holy spirit – whom Jesus calls the advocate is free to come and help us.
After Jesus rose from the dead we discover he is transformed – he passes through doors he has a heavenly quality about him and when he ascends into heaven he is transformed again and we are told he sits at the right hand of God interceding or praying for us.
This morning I want to explore the ascension of Jesus under the thought that transformation is possible for each of us.
The first thing I see in the disciples is they are transformed in their minds 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. Many times I have shared the gospel message with people whose minds are closed to the message of God and they look at me blankly. They simply do not know what I am talking about. I remember one time talking to a man from Washington State in the USA – he was working for me at that time. I took him down to the Dunedin Wharf and explained the Gospel message to him. He just looked at me blankly as if he had no comprehension because his mind was just not open to the word of God.
Another person here in our own parish just started attending our services and it is as if the lights were turned on for them – totally transformed and now telling others about Jesus.
The transformation comes when the mind is opened up to God’s truth.
CS Lewis was one of the most brilliantly creative minds of the twentieth century writing many classics likeThe Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy, and for his non-fiction such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain.