On Thursday of this week, the Church will celebrate Ascension Day. Though Ascension Day is not celebrated as much as Christmas, Easter, or even Pentecost, it is a day we need to celebrate. It was on that day that Jesus met with His disciples for a commissioning service and was lifted up before their very eyes. It brought closure to His earthly ministry. It was on that day that Jesus said to His friends, “All is ready! Now go and tell the world that there is salvation for them by grace through faith in Christ.”
Because those disciples went, we believe.
Christ’s redeeming work was completed. Thirty-three years earlier, an angel told the shepherds who were tending their flocks on the hills of Judea that their Savior was born in a manger at Bethlehem. Now that Savior was with His disciples commissioning them to go and tell the nations how they could be brought into a living, personal relationship with their Heavenly Father.
It was a time of closure. No longer would the disciples have the privilege of being with Him as they had been. Peter wouldn’t ask his brother Andrew, “Have you seen Jesus today?” And Andrew wouldn’t say, “Yes, I talked with Him earlier this morning. He’s visiting with Lazarus, and Martha plans to serve Him dinner.” Those days were over.
At this last meeting, Jesus commanded the disciples to go and share with the people in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and throughout the world all they had experienced as His disciples. They were to be vessels through which the gospel would flow to people who needed a Savior.
Did you ever ask yourself the question, “What if they had not gone? What if they had returned to their fishing business or collecting taxes?” We would not be Christians today enjoying the assurance that we are God’s sons and daughters forever through faith in Christ.
There is a time to walk with Jesus and learn from Him. Then comes the time when believers are to share this glorious message of God’s redemptive love with all people in the world. Because the faithful have shared the Gospel through the centuries, it has come to us.
Who were those people who told you about what Christ has done for you? If you were born into a Christian home, it was your father and mother. If you were not that fortunate to have Christian parents, perhaps it was another relative or friend, a pastor or Sunday school teacher. Whoever these people may be, do you realize how indebted you are to them? They have brought you the most priceless treasure you can ever receive. No amount of money can purchase this salvation. It is a gift from God delivered to you by a witness from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now it is your commissioning service that Christ wants to preside over. As He challenged the early disciples, so today Jesus challenges us to tell others what He can do for them. All He asks you to do is to share with others what it means to live each day free of guilt because Christ has taken it away. Think of the encouragement it can be for a single mother to know that she has a Savior who will strengthen her to face the future. She will have brothers and sisters in Christ who will be there to help when the hours are long and difficult. I was visiting with such a mother recently. Her children were small, and her husband was sent to prison. “Had it not been for the Lord Jesus and my Christian friends, I would never have made it,” she told me. But what if those friends had not surrounded her with that redeeming love?
It is not just the sermon of nationally known preachers that Christ uses to bring the Gospel to our world, he can also use lesser-known preachers. I never will forget the spiritual awakening and revival that broke out in a very small church neighboring the congregation I was serving. The pastor was not fluent, but he knew the Lord, and the Holy Spirit used him. Only God knows how many will be in heaven because of that man’s faithful witness to what Christ had done for him.
One of my confirmation students of years gone by was recently home to attend his mother’s funeral. He now lives in Baicheng, a city of 3 million people. He is the head of a house church in that Chinese city. This gentleman is an executive for a large company in America, but while away from home, he shares the message of Christ with those who have never heard. He has huge responsibilities for the people who employ him, but he has an eternal calling from the Head of the Church to share His name with others in that far-away country.
And so our text tells us as Jesus was taken up before the disciples’ very eyes:
“They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ÔMen of Galilee,’ they said, Ôwhy 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.'”
He is coming back to receive us, either at His second coming or individually when our days on this earth have ended. Between now and then, we are commissioned to be His witnesses. What an honor to carry the greatest message the world has ever heard, that in Christ we are God’s forever.