Let us pray: Dear Savior, tonight we rejoice with Your holy angels over Your ascension into glory! How wonderful for You to be home at last! Yet, we also rejoice that You’re at home with each of us. For You have chosen to make our hearts a special resting place, thus filling us with peace. Tonight renew that peace. Do so by taking away the silly speculative questions we humans have about Your commitment to us. Yes, cause us to focus on and cling to Your promises of grace, peace, and Your glorious return to earth when You will sweep us into Your eternal glory. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM OUR ASCENDED LORD JESUS CHRIST!
TEXT: Acts 1: 1-11
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
I read a lot. I read religious books—obviously. I read sermons. I read my Bible. I read adventure novels. I read mysteries. I read two newspapers. I read some political magazines. Since I’ve been a semi-speed reader from about the age of 7, I’ve devoured more information than I can remember! But, I do remember much of it. And I can recall at least a dozen books or articles that weave into their message all kinds of speculations about what Christ did during those 40 days from Easter to His ascension.
I’ve read speculations that Christ was the great “white-skinned” god who appeared to the ancient Mayans called: Quetzelquatl. Others have Him appearing in China to announce inner peace, from which stems the concepts of Buddha. Some have Him leading armies and avenging wrongs throughout the ancient world.—Well, those are the imaginative novelists’ views. But, then, there are the Christian speculators who imagine Christ zapping out miracles right and left around the world and greasing the skids for the apostle’s later missionary journeys. While still others speculate that He really wasn’t even on this earth at all, and it’s all a fairy tale told to people who need a champion of goodness in an evil world.
So, what’s the truth? Our lesson outlines it for us. And in so doing, St. Luke is really telling us that:
CHRIST’S ASCENSION QUIETS HUMAN SPECULATION AND REPLACES IT WITH JOYFUL CERTAINTY!
St. Luke was a physician by trade and training. In that, he is very careful and thorough in his writings. Here’s an example of his to-the-point commentary about what occurred during those 40 days between resurrection and ascension. “In my former book, (His gospel), 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. 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. 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. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’”
Verbs are almost always the most important part of any sentence. Did you notice the three key verbs in the above section? They are: “after giving instructions, he showed himself, and gave many convincing proofs.” Christ wasn’t off in India preaching to the Hindus. He wasn’t in South America trying to convert the natives, either. No, He stayed in Palestine instructing the believers, showing them He was real and thus the resurrection was true, and engaged in strengthening their faith in countless other ways.—Yes, we can speculate what they were, but since the whole Bible is a unit, the truths He preached didn’t change from the time of His public ministry outlined in the Gospels. And even though St. Paul mentions that Christ appeared to 500 believers at the same time during this period, it doesn’t do us much good to ponder if there were more such appearances. In short, Christ builds on what they already know and what He has already told them.—Such as His instruction about waiting for Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
“So when they met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’’ Obviously these 40 days were needed! The disciples still clung to ideas of a political Messiah with a political kingdom. So, our patient Savior takes the time to set them right. “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 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.”
Jesus never engages in speculative talk. He has no need. He’s God’s eternal Son. He knows and controls all things. But, as our loving Lord He is patient with their and our thick-headedness and turns their words around to give them a wonderful promise. He basically says: “Don’t worry about anything, just get ready for power beyond anything human and then use it to change the world by turning hearts and souls to Me!” In other words, forgiveness or sins, eternal life, and a lasting sense of purpose will be theirs by means of the Spirit at Pentecost.—No speculation, just fact.
And then comes Luke’s simple account of a shattering event where human time and space collided with and were subsumed into eternality. “After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘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.’”
From Luke’s gospel account we also know that Christ blessed them and lifted up His hands over them as He left this earth to go back home. Again, this is fact based on an eye-witness account—not speculation. And what does this teach us? It teaches us that Jesus, although human flesh, is really not of this world. He is also eternal God—the 2nd Person of the Trinity. It teaches us that He has power over all things—including the known universe. It teaches us that He left visibly and He will return visibly because His angels said so. And it teaches us that He has left us here, not to engage in speculation or navel-gazing, but in His vital work of spreading the gospel and saving souls, or getting those souls ready to meet Christ in heaven.
My friends, we don’t have a speculative God or a speculative religion. We have a practical One on all levels. Christ came to die for lost souls. He left disciples to spread truthful message of forgiveness for all sins through faith to lost souls. He’s in heaven listening to the prayers of lost souls. And He looks forward to taking those repenting believers into glory by personally coming to them someday. So, learn from your practical God and don’t get side-tracked by speculation. Follow His specific instructions and share His life-changing, soul-saving, comfort-filled message, which in the words of St. Paul is: “Christ came to save sinners of whom I am the chief one.” Amen