He Ascended Into Heaven

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, September 9, 2018 0 comments

by Logan Ames

I come from a family that does not embrace the latest technology, at least not to the extent that many other families do. My family of origin only obtained things after it seemed like everyone else did. We didn’t have a computer or email in the home until I was a junior in high school (and even then it was the annoying dial-up access), I didn’t get a mobile phone until I was out of college and working as a driver, and I didn’t join Facebook until late 2009 after I had already been away from friends and family in seminary for over a year. I still have no other social media accounts and honestly don’t even know what technological advances are out there.

For this reason, I found myself out of the loop when I visited my in-laws’ home a year or so ago and everyone was seemingly talking to the air. Then, to my shock and awe, the air started talking back. Even more surprising was that they had to address this “air” by name before speaking to it. Its name was “Alexa." Eventually, I discovered this was a physical device on the shelf or table and not some voice in the wind. For such a small device though, Alexa had power. She controlled the lights and music and even managed to irritate some people when she didn’t do what they wanted. Alexa also had knowledge. We were able to play a trivia game with her and anytime we needed an answer to something, we didn’t even have to type it into Google anymore. We could just simply ask Alexa and we’d receive the necessary information.

My mother-in-law has been visiting weekly to be with our daughter when my wife and I work, and just this past week she commented that “we live in an age where we don’t have to not know something." Double negative aside, she’s right. We can get an answer to almost any question with one or two clicks of a mouse, by asking our Siri, or by calling out to Alexa. It recently struck me that the disciples most likely felt the same way as they walked and ministered with Jesus 2,000 years ago. They didn’t have the technology we have today, but they had something far more powerful and knowledgeable - the Son of God in their midst! Jesus not only would’ve been every person’s favorite teammate in Trivial Pursuit, but he also guided them when it came to difficult moral and spiritual circumstances. Some people say that “knowledge is power." Well, Jesus had and WAS both! He never faced a question that he was forced to answer with, “I don’t know," and he never failed in following God’s commands because of “I can’t."

That must have been some luxury for the disciples. Sure, they had to deal with persecution and ridicule from those who didn’t worship Jesus. But having all knowledge and power available in their midst in the person of Jesus meant they always had someone to whom they could turn during tough times. I imagine having this comfort for so long and getting used to it would’ve made it all the more difficult for them to watch him suffer and die. Then, when he rose three days later, they were elated. But that circumstantial happiness would soon come to an end again as he told them he was leaving and going back to the Father in heaven. You can almost hear them complaining, “But, why, Jesus? We stood by you even when it was unpopular. Yeah, we left you alone at the cross but let’s just forget that part. Everyone needs a do-over at some point. We’re here now, together, and we are happy. Why must you insist on leaving AGAIN?”

Jesus’ perspective was probably a bit different. He had to be thinking, “I’ve made myself pretty darn clear about this and you knuckleheads still don’t understand!” For the record, they were Jesus’ friends and if you can’t call your friend a “knucklehead” from time to time, something’s wrong. Jesus knew “he had come from God and was returning to God” (John 13:3), so on the last night he spent with his disciples before he was arrested, he told them that they would only see him a little bit longer and then he would be going to a place where they could not yet go (John 13:33). Though he told them this, they struggled to understand. He tells them in John 14 that there is plenty of room in the Father’s house and that he is going to prepare a place for them so they can one day join him (vv. 2-3). He also tells them that they already know “the way” to where he is going (v. 4). That’s when Thomas gets tired of all the mysterious talk and asks directly, “How can we know the way when we don’t even know where it is you’re going?” (v. 5) Jesus responds that he is “the way and the truth and the life” (v. 6). He adds that he is the ONLY way to the Father because no one can go except through them and concludes that, because they know and have seen him, they also know and have seen the Father (v. 7).

Jesus proceeds to tell them all about the Holy Spirit in the next few chapters. He refers to the Spirit as an advocate or a counselor and describes in detail how the Spirit will work in, through, with, and for them. The key for them is to take the necessary steps to remain or “abide” in Christ. Jesus even tells them it is for THEIR good that he leaves because the Holy Spirit will not come unless he leaves (John 16:7). They don’t have a clue what any of this means yet, but once he appears to them after the resurrection, he does everything he can to remind them and give them hope. He supernaturally enters a room that is locked to the outside world, shows his body, and invites them to touch him so they know he’s real, eats fish with them to further prove that he’s truly alive and not a mere ghost, then sits down with them and teaches them the Scriptures and reminds them of the things he had said when he was with them before his death (Luke 24:36-47). From that point on, he gives them the greatest responsibility the world has ever known - to be his “witnesses” (Luke 24:48).

Their lives, their endurance through trials and hardships, their resistance to temptation when the rest of the world is giving in, their love for one another and for all of God’s children, and their preaching of the truth would all help to tell the world about Jesus and his victory over sin and death that makes forgiveness possible. Jesus puts this responsibility on their shoulders, and it WORKS! We see in Acts 4:13 that the priests and the Sadducees who arrested Peter and John for healing a crippled beggar in Jesus’ name were so surprised by their courage despite being “unschooled, ordinary men” that all they could conclude is “these men have been with Jesus." Even to those who refused to believe the truth, Jesus’ disciples were witnesses.

I said that Jesus put the responsibility to witness on their shoulders, and that’s true. That’s one reason he had to leave. As long as he stayed, they would’ve continued to enjoy this comfort and completely rely on his physical presence in their lives. But he wasn’t about to leave them completely hanging. Luke records that Jesus tells them to stay in Jerusalem until they are “clothed with power from on high” (24:49). He then records something more direct in Acts 1:8, where Jesus says, “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." There is certainly reason to believe this is the same reminder from Jesus recorded by the same writer two different ways in two different books. We can’t know that for sure. But either way, Jesus had told them about the Holy Spirit’s work that would only come AFTER he leaves, and then reminded them of this just before he left. You and I get to sit back and read each recording of it, which is not just a reminder to his first disciples, but a reminder to us as well. Sure, it’d be nice to have Jesus physically with us all the time - much better than Alexa. But through the Holy Spirit, WE get to be the witnesses for Jesus in his physical absence. What a great responsibility, and an even greater JOY!

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