21 May 2020
Ps Ben Hooman
What a privilege to commemorate and especially celebrate the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ with you today.
Our core Scriptures will be out of Luke 24 and Acts 1.
Today we look at one of the most important and least understood events in the history of Christianity, an important day of the purpose and position of our Lord Jesus Christ.
His birth, His death, His resurrection, Pentecost, and Jesus second coming, many get a lot of teaching on but not so much on the Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ascension is understood as Jesus physical departure from the earth and that Jesus will continue to be with His disciples and believers by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Is the Ascension something to get excited about? It is somewhat inappropriate to get excited about someone leaving. If my wife gets excited about me leaving, or me leaving permanently and saying that I will send someone in my place, something seriously is wrong.
But let us look at what happened as given to us in the gospel of Luke:
“And He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands He blessed them. While He blessed them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.” (Luke 24:50-53)
The Word of God says; “and they returned to Jerusalem with great joy”. If my wife celebrates me leaving by throwing a big party after I left, a lot of questions will be asked.
Jesus spoke about His leaving on other occasions as well. At the Last Supper He spoke about it in length. After that the disciples experienced Jesus horrified death after suffering and also His resurrection evidence; that Jesus is alive, and when Jesus eventually left in such a miraculous way, we find the disciples filled with joy!
Something must have happened, for that what they once dreaded so much they are now celebrating. What is it that made the ascension a cause for celebration?
Let us follow the story from Jesus resurrection onwards. This is given to us and we going to look at it in the book of Acts and in the gospel of Luke.
“In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day He was taken up, after He had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He had chosen. He presented Himself alive to them after His suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:1-3)
For forty days after resurrection Jesus appeared to His disciples. Luke is here giving us the reasons and purposes of Jesus appearance to them and others.
Firstly, he is giving many convincing proofs that Jesus is alive and the fact of the resurrection being established.
Jesus appeared to His disciples on approximately nine to ten distinctive occasions and also to a group of more than five hundred people.
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-7)
The second reason for Jesus appearances after resurrection was to speak about the kingdom of God, to prepare the disciples for the work of the kingdom.
They have now a new level of understanding. Previously they saw the cross as a huge disaster for the expected King to come as per their perception is now dead. But after the resurrection as Jesus is alive in appearing to them, they now see all the plans as Jesus told them beforehand.
What is interesting is the fact that Jesus was now not with them constantly. He appeared and teach, then disappeared, appeared and teach, and then disappeared again, weaning them away from His natural and physical presence.
Their faith was previously built on sight, face to face with Jesus. But now they have to build their faith not on sight but on believe!
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:10)
“So, we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight” (1 Corinthians 5:6-7)
For forty days Jesus helps them with this transition in faith to walk by faith and not by sight!
Now they are on top of the Mount of Olives and this time Jesus will not go down the mountain. What He had to do in Jerusalem is finished and had been accomplished. He is now going up, ascending into the presence of His Father!
“And when He had said these things, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as He went, behold two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-12)
This time they saw Jesus leaving. No more will there be natural appearances, the forty days is over, transition has taken place, evidence given, the Son ascended to the Father!
They now have to walk by faith and not by sight anymore as they return to Jerusalem filled with great joy. What made them so joyful?
Let us look at three things: the cloud, the blessing, and the promise.
“… He was lifted up and a cloud received Him.”
Was this just a weather report in Jerusalem that day, that it was cloudy and overcast? I don’t think so. The Bible is one truth and God ties the truth and revelations together in the most amazing way.
Remember that God is invisible, nobody has ever seen God, but He makes His presence known to His people.
How did He do it in the Old Testament? He gave His people visible symbols of His presence. In the desert Israel had a brim of fire at night and a pillar of cloud during the day. When Solomon build the temple, a cloud filled the temple as a sign of ‘God with us!”, a sign of God’s presence.
When Jesus went up the mountain He was transfigured, a cloud came down upon the mountain and the disciples fell on their faces in the immediate presence of Almighty God!
This cloud Jesus blended into was no ordinary cloud but the manifestation, the manifest presence of Almighty God. Jesus was taken up, a cloud received Him, God the Father received His Son! Jesus Christ came from the Father to earth and is now returning to the Father, His work finished and now received by the Father! As the Father sent Him, He now receives Him.
This is the first time since Adam was expelled from the presence of God that a man, Jesus as man, entering into the presence of God, Jesus taking our humanity into the presence of God! The angels saw the first Adam expelled, and now they witness the second Adam; Jesus, being received by the Father. Jesus Christ, the first of many to be reconciled to God through our Lord Jesus Christ!
No wonder the disciples went back filled with joy. The closed door that had been closed for so long, now be opened. We can now enter into the presence of God because Jesus is there. Yes, because Jesus is there we can be there also!
It is much more important to have Jesus Christ in heaven than naturally here with us.
A person that has act against the law, who did not keep the law, will need a good attorney, and not only a good lawyer but one with compassion. When he visits you, you want to find his presence comforting so you can discuss your difficulties and challenges with ease as you find yourself in a cell. But the place you need him the most is not in the cell but him representing you in court. The relationship you establish in the meetings is valuable and critical, but the thing you most need is an able performer in court.
My greatest need on earth as a sinner is not comfort on earth but effective defence in the courtroom of heaven! A representative, an attorney, an advocate who will plea my case before Almighty God.
When Jesus ascended, He went right into the very place we need Him to be. We will find many ways to get through life in this prison called “world”; some with great success, surviving and decorating our cells here on earth through tricks, and bribery and bargaining, but on the last day, when the case is brought, we need an effective defence; Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour!
The disciples were filled with joy for they new where Jesus is and what Jesus is doing there.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who is indeed interceding for us” (Romans 8:31-34)
Your name is on His hand and on His heart. It is with joy that we approach the thrown of God.
A last impression normally makes a powerful impact on the mind, those who have lost a loved one knows that the last impression lingers. What was the last visual impressions the disciples had of Jesus?
“And He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands He blessed them. While He blessed them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.” (Luke 24:50-51)
Just picture this, you are with the disciples and Jesus lifts His hands to you and He speaks the blessing of God onto you and into your life.
In Scripture we see that a blessing is of utmost importance. Just look at Jacob deceiving his father Isaac to get a blessing. The blessing was not just a few religious words, no, it was a prophetic statement of what God would do in and through a person’s life. When the blessing was pronounced by Isaac over Jacob, once been given, it was irrevocable and cannot be taken back.
The Bible and its happenings are preparing us, preparing our minds to understand things of importance.
Here is something far greater: Christ is lifting His hands over the disciples and impart His blessing onto them! A blessing to be used through the earth with God’s anointing on them. The last thing they saw of Jesus was Him blessing them. But He has not finished blessing them, as He is ascending, He is blessing them, an unfinished work and is still blessing us.
Ascension is speaking of Jesus completed work on earth as man, but also of His continuous work of blessing His people. This blessing continues till Jesus Christ return for His people.
If you look up with your mind in faith unto Jesus Christ, what do you think He is doing? He always lives to intercede for us and also for the blessing of God in every circumstance.
So, the disciples left with joy, and Jesus Christ is right there where they most needed Him and He is continuously blessing them as he blesses all His people.
The promise comes in two parts as seen in Acts chapter one:
“And while staying with them He ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which He said, ‘You heard from Me; for John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4-5)
Jesus has ascended and will not be naturally visible, but His presence will be with the disciples through the Holy Spirit. What an advantage to the church and to believers that Jesus can now be with everyone at the same time!
There were times when Jesus could not be with His disciples. His human ability did not allow Him to be everywhere at the same time. He told His disciples that they will be His witnesses.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Just before He departed to heaven, He tells His disciples that they will be His witnesses to the whole world by the power of the Holy Spirit that He sends in His place.
As Jesus Christ ascends: He is in a place we most needed Him to be, on the right hand of the Father, He continues to bless us, and He sends the Holy Spirit into those who accept Him as Lord and Saviour.
Jesus Christ send the Holy Spirit so that the presence of God can be with every believer in every circumstance here and now on earth.
Do we now understand that the Ascension is a great celebration!
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven”. (Acts1:11)
When Jesus return for us, He comes in glory and we will also be snatched up into His presence. The ascension is also a model for our rapture to come! What happened here with Jesus, will happen to His own when He comes again.
No wonder the disciples were filled with joy and therefore we can be as excited as they were, filled with joy.
The joy of the Lord is my strength. Jesus Christ is where I need Him the most, and He had to go so I could receive the help of the Holy Spirit. At His second coming, we will be taken up in like manner to be permanently with God!
Are you looking forward to that day and are you ready for it?
Let us pray:
Father God, we confess this morning that You have exalted Christ Jesus. You have given Him a Name above all names. In Him we have life and life in abundance. He is the exalted one, Our King, High Priest sitting at Your right hand also for our sake. He was and is and is the one to come for us. We are looking forward to enter into the cloud one day as we ascended into heaven to be with you always. We pray this in Jesus Name and at His Name every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord. To His glory and honour, Amen.