May 21, 2023 |Taken Up | Acts 1:1-11
(Click here for the sermon audio)
In Acts chapter 1, verse 1 where the gospel writer Luke picks up where he left off in his gospel.
The Gospel of Luke concludes with and The Book of Acts begins with the ascension of Jesus from the mount in the presence of his disciples, related but different, these two accounts give us a fuller picture of the event.
Let’s read the first 11 verses of Acts together this morning.
Acts 1:1-11 (ESV) 1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 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.
4 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; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 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. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 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.”
We will focus on verses 6-11 this morning, where we find two things are stated as factual.
Jesus will return.
These events serve as the bookends of the time we now live in, known as the church age. They also serve as a central tenet of our confession as Christians. Jesus' bodily ascension and subsequent return are a part of the earliest confessions, without them, you do not have an orthodox faith.
For instance, Article 2b of the Baptist Faith and Message says it this way, “He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission. He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord.”
What we sometimes miss is that the cross is not the culmination of Jesus’ mission, the resurrection is not the culmination of Jesus’ earthly mission, the ascension, his bodily return to heaven was the culmination of Jesus’ earthly mission. The climactic conclusion to the story that began with Mary being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and Jesus taking on humanity. This is the final act of Jesus’ earthly ministry.
When we think of Jesus’ ministry, we often divide it into three positions. Jesus fulfilled three promised positions as the messiah, he was the promised prophet, the promised king, and the promised priest. These three roles encompass who Jesus is and what he came to do.
He is the promised King that will sit on the throne of David forever, he is the promised prophet that is greater than Moses, and he is the promised High priest after the order of Melchizedek.
It is fitting then that at his final moments with his disciples we see examples of all three roles in actions.
Today we are going to look at: A prophetic correction, A kingly charge, and A Priestly consecration. Lastly we will look at the heavenly promise given after the ascension. Let’s turn to the first now…
A Prophetic Correction
Acts 1:6-7 (ESV) 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.
So when they had come together- We know from Luke’s account both in his gospel and in verse 12 of Acts where this was.
In Bethany on the mount of olives.
Luke 24:50-53 (ESV) 50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.
Acts 1:12 (ESV) 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away.
This mountain serves as an important part of Jesus’ earthly ministry and the bible speaks of his return being at this place.
Bethany was where he had raised Lazarus, the mount of olives is where the garden of gethsemane was where Jesus prayed prior to his arrest, and now it is the setting for his final moments with his disciples.
Jesus brought the disciples to the mount to essentially say goodbye to them. Over the previous forty days he had appeared and disappeared many times, but now, here at the end, they are given the overwhelming privilege of witnessing his final departure from them.
Recognizing that something significant is happening and curious about what is to happen next, the disciples ask a question that has long been on their minds, but now is voiced plainly to their master.
Lord will you at this time restore the kingdom of Israel?
We know this was on their minds, because scripture tells us.
Luke 19:11-27 (ESV) The Parable of the Ten Minas
11 As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.
Even then before he entered Jerusalem for the last time before his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion, he knew what they were thinking and wanted them to understand that what they were focused on, the immediate restoration of Israel and the establishment of his earthly kingdom was not the way things were going to go.
This parable he tells them is summed up in Mark 13:34-35 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake.
In the parable here in Luke, the man is a nobleman, his journey is to go into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and the return, his servants are put in charge of ten minas between ten servants and their work is to engage in business until he returns. Once he received his kingdom, he returned and brought the servants before them to know what they had done with what he had entrusted them with.
In this way, he is illustrating to them what is about to happen. After his resurrection, he is going to go away to receive his kingdom, leaving them his servants to conduct his business according to his will, until he returns.
Now at this moment of his departure, he rebukes them for missing it yet again.
It is not for you to know-
Essentially, Jesus says, I have told you everything you need to know about the future, and if I have not told you what you want to know, you don’t need to know it. Have you ever imagined how this must have been for the disciples?
I have been reading the Chronicles of Narnia series, where, if you are familiar with them, there is a character that represents Christ, Aslan. It is interesting that what is described most often in the characters’ encounters with this figure is the way that his voice instills awe and obedience. It is a kingly voice and it demands the attention of the hearer. I think Lewis does us a great favor here by pointing out that the sheer presence of Christ and his voice must have been tremendous. We often miss it because the scripture doesn’t highlight for us the details of his voice or the reaction of his disciples, but in this moment, there had to have been a tremendously kingly tone as Jesus corrects these disciples and goes on to give them their charge as his followers.
It is not for you to know. Let me ask you a question, then why do we think it is for us to know?
Why do we think that we should spend our time trying to speculate on when Jesus will return, how he is going to restore Israel, and when he is going to establish his kingdom?
Why do we as a church eat up the books of authors who claim to have cracked the code of the bible and have discerned the great mystery of his return?
We deserve the same prophetic correction that Jesus gave his disciples, it is not for you to know the things that are solely under the direction and authority of God.
In good ole East Teas slang, Jesus says, ‘stay in your lane’!
Before Jesus left Earth for Heaven, one of the last things he said to his disciples is there are things you do not need to know.
Far from being unsettling to me, this is comforting.
God is in charge and I neither need to worry about it or know all the details. Jesus through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit has delivered to us in the Holy Scriptures everything you or I need to know. When you or I are tempted to think that there are things beyond this book that we need to know, we need to come back to this correction and understand that Jesus has given us all that we need to know concerning the future events in the kingdom of God.
However, Jesus doesn’t stop there, after his prophetic correction, he issues…
A Kingly Charge
Acts 1:8 (ESV) 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
But you will be my witnesses-
It is not for you to know when, but know this, I am giving you work to be about until I return.
To go back to the parable of the minas, Jesus reminds them that in his bodily absence, they have a job to do.
In Matthew, we find what we commonly call the great commission, which is another way to say a command or charge.
Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV) 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. This is Jesus kingship over all creation.
The Apostle Paul says it this way in Philipians-
Philippians 2:9-11 (ESV) 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
And again in Ephesians
Ephesians 1:20-23 (ESV) 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
In Revelation, Jesus is called the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings.
There is nothing that does not fall under his authority as king. Nothing.
Why is this important? Because his kingship and authority are tied to what he tells them in verse 8.
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.
In Luke’s summary of Jesus message to his disciples during the time between the resurrection and the ascension, this is the main message of Jesus. ‘wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Pentecost, which we will look at next week, is the evidence of Jesus’ kingship. Listen to what Peter says to the crowd when the spirit falls at pentecost.
Acts 2:30-36 (ESV) 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him (David) that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Did you catch what he says there? The pouring out of the promised Holy Spirit is evidence that Jesus now sits on the eternal throne and given him the gift of the Holy Spirit, which he has poured out on his church. What was the purpose of this?
So that the disciples could carry out their mission as ambassadors, or witnesses for the king.
They would go out and declare what they had seen and heard, that Jesus is King and the only way to experience salvation is in his name.
They were to carry this message from where they were to the very ends of the earth.
This is the charge given to the disciples, and this is the charge passed to the church at large ever since.
It is not for you to know the times and seasons, but when you receive the power of the Holy Spirit, you are to be witnesses for King Jesus.
As I read the various accounts of the ascension, the simplicity and beauty of Mark’s gospel struck me.
Mark 16:19-20 (ESV) 19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.
Jesus commanded, they went. This is how you respond to a king.
Can we put to bed this nonsensical terminology of ‘asking Jesus into our hearts’, like we are inviting a guest into our home?
Jesus is king of kings and lord of lords, you are rightfully his and you rightfully belong to him, when you come to him, you are not coming to an equal, inviting him into your life as a guest, you are surrendering your rebellion against the rightful king! Amen?!
And when you do, your life is no longer yours, you are a messenger for the king and your job is to proclaim his kingdom until he returns. This is the charge, this is the command of your king.
But lest we think of Jesus as only some hard and cold king demanding our lives from us, we find his final act, not a prophetic correction, not a kingly charge, but…
A Priestly Blessing
Acts 1:9 (ESV) 9 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.
When he had said these things-
These things are not just the charge found in Acts, in the gospel of Luke we find these words we read earlier from chapter 24.
Luke 24:50-51 (ESV) 50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.
Luke tells us that he was lifted up while he blessed them. The last sight of their Lord was of him blessing them.
Don’t miss this connection.
In previous sermons we have established Jesus’ role as high priest, of the way that the whole sacrificial system of the priests, the tabernacle, the sacrifice, all of it point to Jesus and his ministry as the high priest of God, so we will not go deeply into that now, but there is something I want you to see.
Leviticus 9:22 (ESV) 22 Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings.
Numbers 6:22-27 (ESV) 22 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,
24 The LORD bless you and keep you;
25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
27 “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”
The high priest, after making atonement for the people, after offering sin offerings, burnt offerings, and the peace offerings, blessed the people.
Do you see how important this small detail is?
After Christ had made the once for all offering for sin, after he had conquered sin, death, and the grave, after being resurrected, signifying that his offering had been accepted, he stood as the great high priest and blessed his disciples.
Listen to what one commentator said about this blessing of Christ on his disciples.
(Reformed Expository Commentary (28 Vols.) - REC) The priestly blessing of Jesus Christ gives the assurance that our sins are forgiven. In the Old Testament, the blessing of the high priest followed the sacrifice of atonement and served to reassure God’s people of the forgiveness of their sins. So too the benediction of Jesus Christ follows his atoning work and helps us to know for sure that we are accepted by God. Here is how the Puritan Thomas Goodwin summarized the meaning of Christ’s farewell benediction: “I have been dead, and in dying made a curse for you; now that curse I have fully removed, and my Father hath acquitted me and you for it; and now I can be bold to bless you, and pronounce all your sins forgiven, and your persons justified.”
The difference between the blessing of the high priest in the mosaic system and the blessing of Christ is that the sacrifices of the old covenant had to be repeated. As the priest concluded the blessing and the people returned to their life, the payment of sin had been made, but the stain of sin remained. They would need to bring sacrifices again, the high priest would have to repeat the process over again.
Jesus’s priestly blessing is perpetual because his sacrifice accomplished what the types and shadows could not.
If you are in Christ today, you are under this same blessing because he is the eternal High Priest of the heavenly tabernacle.
You can know that your sins are forgiven, you can know that you have been redeemed, you can know that you can draw near to the throne of God with boldness because of the one who secured the way.
51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.
He was lifted up, a cloud took him out of their sight-
(Reformed Expository Commentary (28 Vols.) - REC) Comprehend this staggering thought: because of the bodily ascension of Jesus Christ, the dust of earth now sits on the throne of heaven.
The high priest would go beyond the veil to represent the people before God and come back to bless them, now Jesus blesses the people and goes back before God the Father.
Jesus, your high priest is seated at the right hand of the Father, now and until he returns, which is where we turn to now. After Jesus ascends, we find…
A Heavenly Promise-
Acts 1:10-11 (ESV) 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 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.”
While they were gazing into heaven as he went- if they had not been stopped, i wonder how long they would have stood there straining to catch a glimpse of Jesus, how long they would have stood there waiting? But somewhere in the moment between Jesus disappearing from their sight and them remaining fixed on the sky the bible says two men in white robes stood with them, seemingly appearing out of nowhere.
Two men in white robes- as we studied the resurrection account a few week ago, we saw a similar encounter with Martha at the tomb.
John 20:12-13 (ESV) 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”
Now these heavenly messengers shake the disciples out of their heavenly gaze to deliver a final message. Each word of their statement, important for us to understand.
This Jesus- this same Jesus, this Jesus whose glorified body you have seen and touched, this Jesus who walked with you, who taught you, who loved you. This same Jesus…
Who was taken up from you into heaven- into heaven. It;’s obvious that Jesus did not simply ascend up into the clouds, rather this was the way he chose to represent his ascension into heaven, where he now resides, waiting until the appointed time to return. This is the message of the New Testament.
Philippians 3:20-21 (ESV) 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 (ESV) For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
Jesus sits at the right hand of God in heaven, risen, glorified, interceding, preparing, waiting, whatever biblical word you want to put there, Jesus is physically, bodily in heaven at this moment.
It was important for the disciples to understand that and it is important for us to understand that as well.
Jesus did not shed his humanity when he ascended into heaven. He will forever be fully God and fully man.
This is essential for us to understand and believe because of what these angels say next.
Will come in the same way-
Not in the same way in the sense that he would return by himself, or that he would return to merely be present with them as he had been. His return will be altogether different than his first time here on Earth. He came as the suffering servant, he will return as the conquering king. He came and was reviled and rejected, when he returns all the world will bow before Him. He came as savior to all that would call on his name, he will return as judge of all.
Matthew 25:31-32 (ESV) 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
‘In the same way’ seems to refer to the nature of his departure. He ascended bodily into heaven, he will return bodily from heaven. He ascended before witnesses, he will return before witnesses.
This is the promise of his ascension, that he will return.
Just as he said that he would.
As the king of kings and lord of lords
As the great high priest come to usher his people into the very presence of God.
Which brings us to the only question worth asking in this moment?
Are you ready?
Jesus tells us to be watchful, we ready for his return will be sudden and immediate when it happens.
like the man in the parable, he could come at any time.
Will he find you focused on the right things, carrying out your mission, living in the blessings of the kingdom, or will he find you unprepared?