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 presented himself to them 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 Then they gathered around him and 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.”
Lets review where we have been over the past month as we’ve emphaszied missions:
Our Mandate Matthew 28:18-20
Contagious Hope 1 Peter 3:15
Sent into the World John 17:13-19
On Mission at Work Colossians 3:23
A Global and Local ChurchActs 1:7-8
Today we come to that famous passage in Act 1 in which Jesus ascends into heaven, but before he does, he gives the disciples one last charge of his mission to them. He tells them to spread the gospel and to be his witnesses in
Outer most parts of the earth.
And then after his ascension the disciples are staring in the clouds, not knowing that to do next, when the angels say, “Get busy!”
I see four important points to be made:
1. I am to have passionate concern for the lostness in my community and city.
This book is written by Luke to a sophisticated skeptic named Theophilus. Luke is demonstrating that the truth about Christianity is easily seen to those who are looking for it. Luke was concerned about his city, his community.
2. I am to have a passionate concern for the lostness in my culture
Rodney Stark is a respected historian who says that Christianity took over because of the fearlessness of Christians in the early centuries:
- Christians cared for one another, leading to greater survival rates. This in turn led to an increased proportion of Christians in urban centres which meant more people’s lives intersected with networks of Christians at a time when traditional social bonds were disrupted by the epidemics.
- Christians cared for non-Christians, bringing these non-believers into the sphere of Christian influence.
- Christians stayed to care for others while pagan elites fled which, combined with paganism inability to protect its adherence from illness, exposed the bankruptcy of pagan religion. Stark cites a number of pagan sources complaining about the good reputation Christians were gaining.
“Christianity revitalized life in Greco-Roman cities by providing new norms and new kinds of social relationships able to cope with many urgent urban problems. To cities filled with the homeless and the impoverished, Christianity offered charity as well as hope. To cities filled with newcomers and strangers, Christianity offered an immediate basis for attachments. To cities filled with orphans and widows, Christianity provided a new and expanded sense of family. To cities torn by violent ethnic strife, Christianity offered a new basis for social solidarity. And to cities faced with epidemics, fires, and earthquakes, Christianity offered effective nursing services.” (Rodney Stark, Rise of Christianity)
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.’ (1 Peter 2:11-12)
3. I am to have a passionate concern for lostness in other parts of the world
There are 2 Billion people in the world who are unreached. Meaning, they don’t have the opportunity to hear the gospel. In Yeman, there are only 20 Christians in a country that has 20 million people. Consider the lostness of our world.
4. I need to get my head out of the clouds and get busy
Jesus needed to ascend so that he could live in every heart. He ascended so that His presence could be with us.
Jesus told Mary, “Don’t hold me so tight”. She wanted to keep him. He said in essence, let me ascend so I can always be with you. HE was saying let me let go of your hand so I can go into your heart.
Augustine in his Confessions “You ascended from before our eyes and we turned back grieving only to find you in our hearts.”
Romans 8:28 “All things work together for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.”
SO at the ascension Jesus took his place at his throne and now controls all things so that now even bad things become good.
Example of Dothan in the scripture: Elisha prayed and chariots of fire appeared. At the same place, Jospeh prayed and no one showed up and he was sold into slavery.
Jesus is running things on the model of the cross. He is controlling all things.
The angels told the disciples to quit staring at the clouds and get busy. THe message for all of us is to stop worrying about those things that have no eternal significance and give our lives for those things that will last for all eternity.
He is not fool who loses what he cannot keep to keep that which he cannot lose.
- Why is it significant that Jesus gave these instructions just before the ascension?
- What is our Jerusalem?
- What is our Judea?
- Why should we be concerned for “the outer most parts of the earth?”
- Why do you believe the angels told the disciples, “why do you stand there looking in the sky?”