Luke

Luke 24:36-53 – Ascension day

ASCENSION DAY – 12 MAY 1994

 

LUKE 24v36-53; ACTS 1v1-11.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

ILLUST: If you you knew that today was the last day that you would see your friends and loved ones, what would you want to say to them?

 

A pastor-friend of mine said to me the other day that the most meaningful part of his ministry was ministering to the terminally ill. WHY? Because they don’t want to talk about trivia. There is no pretense. They want to talk about the really important issues of life and eternity.

 

Jesus is about to leave his disciples. His time to return to heaven has come. He wants to talk about the thing that is most important to him. The very reason why he came to earth.

It is not that he hasn’t told them before but he wants to ensure that they have really understood.

They know that he has died and risen – he is there in front of them. But what are the wider implications and how does he explain them.

 

1. THE OLD TESTAMENT’S WITNESS TO CHRIST’S MESSAGE.

 

He [Jesus] said to them,” … everything must be

fulfilled that is written about me in the Law

and the prophets and the Psalms.”

…..

“This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and

rise from the dead on the third day, and repentence

and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name

beginning at Jerusalem.

You are witnesses of these things. [Lk.24v44&46-48]

 

Jesus used the OT to explain to the disciples about his death and resurrection. We quickly turn to passages like Isa.53 [ the suffering Messiah] and to Ps.16 [He will not allow his Holy One to see decay]. Much has been written about Christ’s life fulfilling the prophecies of the OT and rightly so.

There has not been so much focus in the Church on the purpose of His death and resurrection – ie the salvation of the world. We want to be so theologically correct that we get into argument about whether he died for all or for the elect. HE DIED FOR THE WORLD!

 

Yes! he died for my sins – that has to be a focus. But in our Western society we are in danger of over-individualizing things.

For God so loved ME…..

For God so loved the CHURCH

True but that is not what Jesus said .

For God so loved THE WORLD!!!

 

The OT is full of passages about God’s concern for the nations of the world! Jesus referred to MOSES, THE PROPHETS AND THE PSALMS:

MOSES: “The Lord said to Abram: ‘Leave your country,

your people and your father’s household and go to the

land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and

I will bless you. I will make your name great and you will be a blessing;

I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse,

and ALL PEOPLES ON EARTH will be blessed through you. [Gen.12v1-3]

This covenant was repeated 5x to the Patriarchs in Genesis.

 

PROPHETS: It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore

the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel that I have kept. I will

make you a light for the GENTILES so that you may bring my salvation

to THE ENDS OF THE EARTH. [Isa.49v6]

Israel were guilty of making God into a tribal deity – they made God too small. We can’t put God in a box. God is not a WASP [White Anglo-Saxon Protestant] He is the God of ALL NATIONS.

 

PSALMS: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and

make his face shine upon us; May your ways be known

on EARTH and your salvation among ALL THE NATIONS. [Ps.67]

 

Jesus’ vision was far greater than just the nation of Israel. Of course his death and resurrection are important – that’s the good news. It is because of his death and resurrection that repentence and forgiveness are possible – BUT what is the point of good news if we never tell anyone!

 

2. THE INITIAL MISUNDERSTANDING OF THE DISCIPLES.

 

So when they met together, they asked him,

“Lord, are you at this time going to retore

the kingdom to Israel. [Acts 1v6]

 

Jesus has been speaking to them about the Kingdom of God and about receiving power. The Messianic Age has dawned the ancient prophecies have been fulfilled. Naturally they begin to think about the nearness of the end of the world. Jesus warns them not to speculate about things that only God knows and has not revealed.

 

He also rebukes them for their parochial view of the gospel. Will you restore the Kingdom to Israel.

 

He had made it clear that he was going away and they were not going with him. They must have wondered why they could not go with him.

 

Have you ever wondered why God leaves us here on earth when life in heaven will be so much better? Why do we stay here with all this trouble and heartache and suffering and pain when the book of Rev. 21v4-5a:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes,

There will be no more death or mourning or

crying or pain, for the old order of things

has passed away.

He who was seated on the throne said,

“I am making everything new!”

 

The disciples must have had similar thoughts,”Now Israel is going to be restored to its former glory” The disciples were suffering from a condition that has plagued the Church throughout its history – parochialism!

It is very easy to become preoccupied with ourselves – our church! our homes! our families! our church programmes! “Lord, what are you going to do for us ?” Rather than, “What are you going to do through us?

 

Christ’s intention was not national but international – global – cosmic!

 

3. THE ROLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

 

The Holy Spirit has been high on the Christian agenda in recent years with much emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit. Certainly the gifts are important!

 

The Holy Spirit has many functions – primarily to glorify Christ! BUT Jesus taught two very important thngs about the Spirit.

When He [Holy Spirit] comes he will

convict the WORLD of sin and

righteousness and judgement [Jn.16v8]

This in the context of Jesus telling his disciples that he is going away!

 

When the counsellor comes, whom I will

send to you from the Father, the Spirit of

Truth who comes out from the father, he will

testify about me. And you also will testify … [Jn.15v26-27a]

 

It is the function of the Spirit to testify about Christ to the world. It is also our function to testify about Christ to the world! The very last words Jesus spoke to his disciples before his ascension were about their witness to the world!

 

 

They had asked about the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel but Jesus expands the boundries to include the whole world. They were thinking in terms of a physical political kingdom but Jesus is thinking in terms of a Spiritual kingdom were those who come into the kingdom are not confined to a geographical place BUT have come into a vital, living relationship to the king!

 

The Holy Spirit is sent to testify about Christ and to convince the world of sin and righteousness and judgement BUT we are in partnership with the Spirit – we too are to testify to Christ’s death and resurrection – to the ends of the earth!!

 

5. HIS PROMISED RETURN.

 

Jesus had said the he would come back and the angels had confirmed that after he was taken up.

 

When will he come back?? We do not know!  Peter says a very interesting thing in 2 Peter3v11:

He is speaking about the return of Christ- the day of the Lord :

Since everthing will be destroyed in this way,

what kind of people ought you to be?

You ought to live holy and godly lives

as you look forward to the day of God,

AND SPEED ITS COMING. [2Peter 3v11]

 

How do we live holy and godly lives – well simply by obeying his commands.How do we speed his coming? – the same ways! By obeying his commands to be witnesses to the ends of the earth.

 

Christ will return when the time is right!

… this gospel of the kingdom will be

preached in the whole world as a

tesimony to all nations, and then

THE END WILL COME [Matt.24v14]

 

When we begin to speak about world evangelisation and missionaries many Christians switch off. “God has called me to do that – it is not my responsibility!”  WRONG!!

 

ILLUST: When a country is at war and they send out their army – for every one frontline soldier there are 8/9 support people – both military and civilian.

 

We are at war! Satan is the Prince of this world and we are involved in a spiritual battle! If we are serious about our faith and the kingdom of God then we are involved! How we are to be individually is a matter of God’s leading! We all have a task in this matter of world evangelisation!

 

ILLUST: SVM – [Student Volunteer Movement] 20 000 goers. 80 000 senders! They encouraged, finaced and prayed!

 

I am reading a Book at the moment called “Serving as Senders” – the emphasis is on the fact that goers and senders are equally important!  I know that our churches are involved in missions – some have members in other part of the world. {I like Queen Street’s term “the Away Team”  -they are in this together -whether goers or senders}

 

It is so easy for us as Churches and as individuals to be side-tracked – to become preoccupied with our jobs and homes and church buildings and holidays. God doesn’t expect us to live as paupers and never enjoy a meal out or a holiday abroad or go to the theatre – God is not a kill-joy!

He gives us many blessing to enjoy but he does expect us to put him and the work of his kingdom first!

 

When Jesus ascended into heaven he left clear instructions that we were to get on with the business of extending the kingdom of God to the ends of the earth. GOD LOVED THE WORLD

 

If we miss this, we have missed the most important reason for which Christ left us on earth.

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