"A Great Blessing"
Luke closes his gospel story of Jesus with the ascension. Luke begins his church stories (the book of Acts) with the ascension. Why is this event so important to Christians? It connects earth with heaven in a way nothing ever has.
A Great Blessing
A. I saw this saying and I thought it applies to our study today. (Sometimes God closes doors because it’s time to move forward. He knows you won’t move unless your circumstances force you. Trust the transition, God’s got you.) Begins are usually scary and endings are usually sad.
B. Transitions are not easy for many people. Truthfully, a good number of people really don’t like change. How do I know that? You are sitting in the same pew week after week. Luke ends the story of Jesus in his gospel with the Ascension and begins his story of the church with the Ascension. For Luke the Ascension of Christ is what ties heaven to earth.
C. Just because it was a momentous occasion, doesn’t mean it was an easy occasion for the disciples. Luke ends his gospel on a high note, but starts Acts with a question mark. That may seem strange since Luke writes both accounts, he helps us to see the importance of the Ascension.
D. Here we are 36 days passed Resurrection Sunday. The Bible tells us Jesus ascended into heaven on the 40th day. So timeline, we are really close to when the event happened. What I want us to do today, is to see the importance of that event and what it means for us.
I. The Great Blessing
A. While we normally talk about this great event through the writing in Acts 1, I want look at a key word found in Luke 24. Our text uses the idea of blessing three times in four verses.
B. For the Jewish community, the blessing from Aaron to the people is still important. Many of you are familiar with those words (Num. 6:24-26). What Jesus said is not recorded. Some think it was the prayer of John 17, but our text simply doesn’t state what Jesus said, except that twice Luke calls it a blessing.
C. We have seen Jesus call his disciples to greater faith. We have seen Jesus challenge Peter to consider what it means to love him. We have seen Jesus call his disciples to make more disciples. And now we see Jesus blessing these men. To bless carries the idea of seeking God’s protection, or to empower or to comfort someone by invoking God presence into their life. Whatever this blessing was it was done for their benefit.
D. The end result for us is the story of Acts 2 and following, we find these disciples back at the temple blessing God and teaching about Jesus. These men began to do the very thing they were commissioned to do – go make disciples.
II. The Great Blessing for Us
A. But if the great blessing was Jesus anointing these men, what blessing is there for us today? Luke gives us that answer also, but records it in Acts 1:9-11.
B. Part of the blessing for us today is that the promise to come back and take us home has not yet happened. We look forward to the Second Advent, when every eye will see, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. That blessing of his return is what drives us forward.
C. But the Ascension not only is about a second return, it also about what it means to us right now. Jesus told his disciples (John 16:7). While the apostle received an anointing that was different than ours, the gift of the Holy Spirit is ours because Jesus went away. Peter makes that very clear on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38-39).
D. For many Christians, the idea of the Holy Spirit abiding in us is a little scary. It seems difficult to understand the leading of the Holy Spirit and the desires of our human spirit. Yet, Paul calls us to keep in step with the Holy Spirit and to not grieve or quench him. Why, because the blessing of Jesus going was the gift of God with us through His Spirit.
III. The Great Mediator
A. While there are many blessings we could talk about today, I want to close with one that most of us do appreciate, that is that Jesus is our mediator. But the idea of what that means is expressed in two different ways in the NT.
B. We pray in the name of, or by the authority of, Jesus. We see Jesus as our mediator in prayer, or the one who has experienced what it means to be both God and man. (1 Tim. 2:1-6). But the reason Jesu can mediate our prayers is because he mediates our covenant. You see had as a dispute with us because of sin. Sin is rebellion against God and God hates sin. Sin separates us from God and what Jesus does is mediate a new covenant in his blood that allows his blood to pay the price for our sin. We could do nothing to fix our sin problem and because Jesus ascended to heaven and is seated at the Father’s right hand, he mediates for us. The Hebrew write puts it this way (Heb. 9:15). As powerful as that verse is, listen to the ending verses (Heb. 9:27-28).
C. As our mediator Jesus stands between us and God and set us free from law of sin and death because he mediates for us a new covenant in his blood. Hebrews 9 really unfolds that idea for us in much greater detail.
A. Why is the Ascension so important to us? Because it is the great blessing that began that day with those men, was extended to us through the Holy Spirit, and sees its fullness as Jesus give us access to God and will one day come again to take us home.
B. The ministry of Jesus began with a 40 day fast in the wilderness and a time of temptation by Satan. The last 40 days were spent teaching about the kingdom of God and the blessing that would come. Then Jesus was lifted up in a cloud and two angels asked, “Why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven will come in the saw way you saw him go.” (Acts 1:11)
C. May the Lord bless and you keep, may Jesus claim you as his own and may we encourage your walk.
May God Bless You,
Jeffrey Dillinger, minister