Coney Hill Baptist Church

Demonstrating God’s Love Together

Up and Away

 

Acts 1:3-11

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. 4On 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. 5For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

 6So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

 7He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8But 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."

 9After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

 10They 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:

Where is Jesus?  Who is Jesus?  Knowing the answer to one gives more than a clue to the other.

As we approach Ascension Day, not the most celebrated of Christian festivals, were reminded of just how short a time Jesus had to convince the disciples of their future task.  Not only to explain it but to equip them for it.

The Ascension itself, especially Luke’s recounting of it in Acts, helps us to understand how he did it … and challenges us with the same call to missionary discipleship ourselves:  

 

Ascension is the …

Culmination of the Resurrection Appearances

                This will be the last time Jesus sees them in this manner and Luke makes the point that this was the last of a series…over a period of 40 days … during which he spoke to them, taught them … the collective consequence of which was they were offered ‘Convincing proofs’  that is unequivocal, undeniable evidence, not hearsay or rumour, not circumstantial or ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ … Jesus’ intention over these weeks was to allay any doubts or fears as to his identity, authority or ability so that they might trust him implicitly, for evermore.

 

Confirmation that Christ is in Heaven

                They saw him go, in a cloud of God’s glory, to take up residence at the right hand of the Father.  They were witnesses to his opening the very door of heaven and walking through it, they had no doubt where he was, or that he was a fully fledged citizen of the Kingdom of Glory, that that was where he somehow belonged …  His extraordinary identity must have been absolutely confirmed to them.

At the same time, they would have recalled, because Luke emphasises it, how he so frequently spoke of the Kingdom as being their location and responsibility somehow too.  The Ascension must have been the place where those two understandings of the Kingdom collided most significantly.

 

Anticipation of the Spirit

                This is not only a farewell though, but a welcome too … Luke reminds us of the ‘Father’s promise’  and leaves us expecting it to be realised soon.  He builds the expectation, tantalisingly Jesus talks about being baptised by the Spirit, ‘in a few days’, being in receipt of a new release of power.  The ascending of Jesus and the coming of His Spirit are fundamentally linked … the glory of the ascended Christ and the power of the risen Christ made readily available to us.    

 

Promise of the Return of Christ

                Although Jesus was, in a sense, leaving, he promised not only His Spirit, but his own personal return too.  In fact the manner of his going was to be something of a model for his returning … personal, public, physical, glorious.  It fuelled the disciples with even more hope.

 

Foundation of the Christian Mission

Perhaps the most significant impact of all regarding the Ascension is the sense in which it fired the starting gun on a new impulse of witness and mission. 

Since arriving in Jerusalem 6 or 7 weeks before, the disciples had hardly left the city, at times they’d dare not leave their rooms, the world had turned around them.

But now the whole world was laid before them … Judea, Samaria, the very ends of the earth … there were no limits, in fact it was their duty and responsibility, simply to bear witness to what they’d been party to, wherever they went.   

 

Conc.

This ascension, as we embark on a period of witness, we need those same assurances, that same sense of the power and the glory of the risen Jesus, right with us. 

The same Jesus of our gospel story now sat, paying for us as we seek to serve him. 

The same glory of the kingdom he now inhabits as the template for the community we are trying to build.

The same Spirit, upon whom he depended, our necessary friend and fuel.

The same hope, that despite the many challenges he will secure and guarantee the future he’s promised.