May 16, 2021

What Jesus Left Behind When He Ascended

Passage: Acts 1:1-11

In 1540 Martin Luther’s friend and assistant, Frederick Myconius, became sick and he was expected to die.  As he laid there on his death bed, he wrote a farewell letter to Luther.  And when Luther got it he sent back the reply: ‘I command thee in the name of God to live, because I still have need of thee in the work of reforming the church.  The Lord will never let me hear that thou art dead, but will permit thee to survive me.  For this I am praying, this is my will, and may my will be done, because I seek only to glorify the name of God.’  Strong words, strong prayer.  Perhaps the disciples had the same emotions when Jesus spoke His last words to them.  But it was time as the Father predestined for Jesus to depart.  He had accomplished the work and glorified His Father like no one else could do.  For three and a half years Jesus was deeply involved in the lives of His disciples.  I think we all are familair with the phrase – “To live the dream.”  Well the disciples lived the dream.  They must have thought – “Never do we want to wake from this dream.  Of all the people, we were the ones the Lord picked.  From village to village we have seen His glory.  We truly know that He is the One Who was sent by the Father, full of glory and grace.”  To them the time with Jesus was never going to come to an end.  Who in a right mind would want something so wonderful to come to and end?  And they all come to the realization – “We need to worship Him, for He is God in our midst.”  And there were the times they wanted to forget – one of their circle betrayed the Lord, there was the injustice of the trial, how He was mocked, the crucifixion and His death.  But the Day of the Resurrection, the Day of Glory changed everything.  The Father rose His Son from the dead...and after that they spent 40 days with the Lord.  Never again would He be removed from their presence.  But as Jesus was taken up into the sky and a cloud enveloped Him, there must have been the human thought, “This can't be happening.” 

But you know my friends, as the disciples went back to the Upper Room in the city, they must have thought of what Jesus left them.  From Acts 1 we first see 1 The Unfinished Harvest Jesus wants all of His followers to be a part of.  Luke says in verses 1 and 2, “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day He was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen.”  Though Jesus spoke the words from the cross, “It is finished...”, His business on earth didn't come to an end.  He wasn't like someone who handed the keys of his business over to the new owner and walked away from it.  No, Jesus empowered His disciples before His ascension.  He gave them the promise that through His Spirit He would be present in the continuation of His Father's kingdom work.  And that He was.  The disciples became unstoppable witnesses for Jesus Christ.  Peter spoke before Roman authorities about the grace of God and as the harvest was brought in by all the other disciples numbers were added to the family of God.  And you know my friends... when there is one person in the world who hasn't heard of Jesus and His love, the harvest is unfinished.  Until the end of time the harvest will be unfinished, because more people have to hear, “Jesus wants to save you for eternal life.”  Through the ministries of the PCC there is an awareness that God's harvest is unfinished.  There is Presbyterian World Service & Development, a ministry to relief the needs of people all over the world.  But you know... the truth of this ministry is that people are helped to get the know the Saviour of the world.  Our denomination have missionaries in Malawi, Sri Lanka, Japan, Korea and other places.  And as they get off a plane in any place, there's God's voice they hear so clearly – Unfinished  Harvest.

From Acts 1 we identify 2 Unquestionable Love.  We read in verse 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 fourty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”  No one can question the love demonstrated by the Son of God.  There are two words we have to take to heart from this verse – “His suffering...”  Luke didn't use these two words to give a story line that Jesus died and the next part of the story was going to continue.  The suffering was over and the glory was going to continue.  No the words – “His suffering...” were filled with the greatest love ever given.  Many years ago there was a bridge operator in Missouri who worked at a river to let the bridge up for boats passing through and when trains approached to have the bridge down.  One day he had his young son with him playing outside.  He didn't pay attention and his son climbed down underneath where the gears were.  His coat got stuck in the gears and he yelled for help to his father.  The operator was just about to climb down to save his son when he heard the whistle of a train.  He thought he would have enough time to save his son, but the train was too close.  He let the bridge down as he thought of more lives than his son's life.  As the train passed he saw passengers in the lounge having a meal and laughing.  The bridge operator cried out in a loud voice, “I just sacrificed my son and you are not even aware of that.”  There was a greater sacrifice at Golgotha, a sacrifice of love when God gave His Son.  Because Jesus died for us in love, we can never question the fact that God loves us.  It was forever written in the precious blood of our Saviour on our hearts.  But you know, there's something God's people so often forget.  And that is what Jesus told His disciples – “A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13: 34 and 35.  Can we just appreciate how much love is needed in our world?  There are thousands who long for someone to come and show them genuine love; love that doesn't just end in words, but deeds.  Love is a wonderful legacy Jesus left us.  Only His love can transform human lives and we are the instruments in His hands to bring that about.

Lastly we want to think of 3 The Advocate Jesus left us.  Listen again to verse 5, “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”  Jesus wanted to emphasize – you will receive the One Who will testify on your behalf.  Can you and I ever comprehend the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives?  He is the One  Who guides us through life.  When the road map of life wouldn't make sense, He is the One telling us – “All you need is your GPS God's Pleading Spirit.”  In Galatians 4: 7 we read  how the Holy Spirit pleads for us – “God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts and through Him we cry out, Abba, which means Father.”  That means that through the Holy Spirit in our lives we constantly cry out to God.  We can never cry out to God in our own human strength – we can only do it through the Power of the Holy Spirit.  The Greek word for Holy Spirit we want to focus on is parakleitos.  It means Advocate.  That tells us that the Holy Spirit is like a lawyer Who advocates for us at the throne of God.  First He pleads for us through Jesus Christ at the right hand side of God – pleading for forgiveness and direction in life.  But then the Holy Spirit advocates for us that we would speak as God wants us to speak in our prayers and our testimony of God before people.