Ascended Like No Other

Acts 1:3-11

He’s like no other. Sometimes we will use that line as we’re describing someone by whom we’re absolutely impressed.

The star struck lover, for example, who is head over heels over a young lady –
She’s wonderful! I’ve dated so many women but this one! She’s like no other one I have ever met.

Or the sports broadcaster commenting on a promising young ballplayer –
I’ve been at this for many years, and this kid is the most amazing athlete I’ve ever seen! He’s faster. He’s got great instincts, quick hands, power. He’s got all the tools, and he’s different. He’s like no other ballplayer I’ve ever seen!

In the Christian faith, we say this about Jesus Christ – He is like no other. He is the way, the truth, the life. No one comes to a relationship with God but through Him. The world is filled with ideologies, theologies, choices, decisions, and options making various claims, but as a person who has met and lived with Jesus Christ, I’m convinced that He is like no other. Jesus is above and beyond all other options. One’s eternity depends on following Him.

Just think of His impact on the world. It is like no other. The historian Jaroslav Pelikan said, “Regardless of what anyone may personally think or believe about Him, Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of Western culture for almost twenty centuries.”

We have been doing a close examination of this Jesus – Who is like no other – during the past few weeks. We’ve seen He was promised like no other. Prophets, hundreds of years prior to His arrival, talked about Him, and Jesus fulfilled those prophecies.

His birth was like no other. He was born of the Virgin Mary, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. He was true God and true man.

He taught like no other – with such authority – as if He knew God’s mind. He spoke truths that struck many as absolutely upside down and like no other from worldly thinking.

His death was like no other. It was not a martyr’s death but an atoning sacrifice to pay for the sins of people like you and me.

Jesus was resurrected like no other. He was dead, but three days later the tomb was empty, and He began to appear to many – the women, the disciples, to five hundred at one time. Muhammad is dead, Confucius is dead, Buddha is dead, Moses is dead, but Jesus is alive. He is like no other.

Today we are looking at one last earth shaking thought about Him. Jesus ascended like no other. Our text tells us Jesus appeared up out of nowhere, here, there, and everywhere for forty days. Wherever the disciples turned, it seemed, Jesus showed up. They were locked in an upper room, and there He was. It probably got to the point where they were afraid to even look around the corner; they were expecting to see Him. It was as if He was trying to teach them, I told you I’d never leave you.

During that time, Jesus is teaching them about the kingdom of God, which was His main message. God’s major project is to turn this world around, and He was the one who was bringing it. He taught about the Holy Spirit, who was to come, saying, Stay in Jerusalem. Power will come upon you. John the Baptist baptized you with water for repentance but the Holy Spirit will bring you power.

With all this talk about the kingdom and the Spirit, one day the disciples asked, Is this the time the kingdom of Israel will be restored? They were still thinking politically, establishing His role as a world power. Jesus just shakes His head and says, “Those things are not for you to know the times and places, but listen, the Holy Spirit will come upon you and you shall be my witnesses unto Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria – all the way to the ends of the earth. You will make a difference for the kingdom of God.” Then the Ascension happened, and Jesus disappeared. He was lifted up, and disappeared into a cloud.

The modern church tends to not make a big deal of the Ascension. We make a big deal about Christmas and Easter, as we should. Ascension tends to be treated like a poor second cousin so to speak. It could be we’re just not sure what to do with it or make of it.

The question arises, Where did He go? Is it like the song, “Up, up and Away”? Somewhere off to the far ends of the cosmos? Jesus, like the first cosmonaut, is now off to the far reaches of the universe sitting at the right hand of His Father? Being lifting up in the cloud sounds like a holy Cape Canaveral scene to us. We’re not sure of what to do with it, so we play it down a little bit.

The truth is, the Ascension is a very big deal for those of us in the Christian faith. It’s in our creed, and for no other reason should we take it more seriously. When understood, the Ascension becomes an irreplaceable, important resource for the living of our lives in this world now. It is a resource no other religion or philosophy can hold out to us.

I want to share three truths for your consideration about the Ascension.

The first truth is this: Because of the Ascension, I am not abandoned. How can I possibly say that? We remember God’s presence at Mount Sinai when Moses went up on the mountain to get the Ten Commandments. He was on that mountain forty days and the mountain was covered with a cloud, which was the presence of God. The cloud Jesus ascended into is no stranger to us.

We know the Transfiguration story when Jesus took Peter, James, and John up on a mountain to be with Him. Suddenly they were enveloped by a cloud and heard the voice of God saying, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

The Ascension story describes Jesus disappearing into a cloud. That cloud is no stranger to us. Jesus stepped into the presence of God. He is in God space, another space time continuum, another dimension. He is here, and He is in charge of all the heaven and the earth.

By the way, the word “ascension” isn’t a word we use very often. We don’t say, “I think I’ll go ascend the ladder.” No, we instead say, “I will climb the ladder.” Ascension is royal language. When Queen Elizabeth became the Queen, she ascended to the throne.

So we say Jesus ascended to the throne. He is sitting at the right hand of the Father. He rules over all, and He intercedes for us with our heavenly Father. In fact, we could say He has made Himself all the more available to us because He has transcended the limits of space and time with His earthly body. So His promise, “Lo, I am with you always,” can be a reality in our lives as His followers. His statement, “I will not leave you orphaned, but will come to you,” can be experienced in a very real way even today.

He can live within us, actually. As He says in John 14, “Those who love me will keep my Word, and my Father will love them. We will come to them and make our home in them.”

Two quotes I think are so great for us to consider. The first one by William Wilimond, “By lifting Jesus out of the first century Judea, the risen Christ of faith becomes personally knowable to every generation of believers in every place on this earth. The Ascension makes every person a contemporary of Christ.”

My favorite Bible scholar, Harry Wendt, says, “In His Ascension, Jesus withdrew His visible presence from one place that He might be present in every place with all His people until the close of the age.” This scene, you see, simply marks the end of the post resurrection appearances. That act of the drama is now over. Jesus now is really available, and I am not abandoned, no matter what may happen in my life, no matter how I may be feeling. I am not abandoned. He works in us, and He works through us through His Holy Spirit who speaks to us through the holy Scriptures teaching us.

Because Jesus is ascended, we can know His presence. He will actually help us, teach us, speak to us, pour His love into our hearts. Paul tells us in Romans through the Holy Spirit, “He is present to work in us, to shape us, to mold us into His own image through the working of His Holy Spirit.” He has never left us.

Jesus works through us as we become channels of His grace. We can say with the apostle Paul, “It’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” We actually can have a powerful impact in other people’s lives as the Spirit of Jesus works through us.

He works for us as He sits at the right hand of the Father. He is known as our advocate. He intercedes for us on our behalf. He is like our attorney before God. If anyone sins and comes in confession, Jesus the righteous One speaks in our behalf. He says to His Father, This person trusts in me and what I’ve done for him.

He represents me before the divine judgment seat. As God listens, He hears, then, not me but His Son speaking on my behalf.

He is busy making all things work for our good as His followers as far as the big picture is concerned. I’m not talking about looking for a silver lining in every cloud that may hit us. I am talking about the big picture in all that happens in our life, He is still working for our good.

Years ago a movie came out. We watch at our home still each Christmas. It is called, “Home Alone.” In the movie, little Kevin is left behind by his family to fend for himself over Christmas. They have gone off to Europe and have forgotten him. Kevin had to face the bad guys alone.

Nothing could be further from the truth for those who trust in Jesus Christ. He is present and drawing near to us.

I remember when my mother died. I was in a hospital room with her and my dad, and a pastor had come to pray with us as well. And when she took her last breath and the machine was turned off, I can’t explain it but I knew Jesus was with us in that room giving us His peace.

The second truth we find in the story is because of the Ascension, I am summoned to action by this King. This scene marks the end of act two in the divine drama of God and the beginning of act three. And guess what? You and I are in it! When we trust in Jesus Christ, we are called to be His witnesses. We are summoned to action. The last words He gives them before He ascends are, “You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.” Tell others of what God has done in you for the Kingdom and a restored relationship with God, which is possible through repentance and forgiveness for your sins. We are called to point to Jesus and the great thing He has done in our lives and in the lives of all people.

Even the angels affirm this in the story. “Why are you standing there looking up?” they said to the disciples. Now is the time to look out to the world around you. You have a mission. You will see Jesus again. No standing around for the people of God!

Jesus talked about this in His parable about the master who leaves the servants in charge and tells them he will return. But in the meantime, they have their assignments. They are to do their job.

You have what it takes and so do I because the Holy Spirit of God is in us. We can say to others, Can I tell you what Jesus has done for me? Let me tell you about the person who gives me peace like no other person can.

Finally, we know the end of the story. The third truth is we will see Jesus again some day. He’s in charge, directing history toward an end. History is His story, and He is coming again in the same way He left – suddenly and visible and glorious. He will have the final word all of world history. When it comes to an end and Jesus reappears, every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus is Lord. Some with great joy and others with a sense of terror because they missed it.

There is a story of an old guy reading the book of Revelations. A friend comes by and asks, “Do you understand what you’re reading? If so, tell me what it says.” The old man looks up from the Bible and says, “You know what Revelation is about? Simple – God wins!”

This is a summary of Revelation. It is what we know. It is our confidence builder. If you dream of a time when the earth will be free of evil and injustice, all will be perfect and people will be good through and through, then hang onto that dream. One day it will be a reality, because we know God wins when Jesus reappears.

My Jesus rules, and the great day is coming when He will come again to judge the living and the dead, and all will be well once and for all.

Our message to the world, my dear friends, is simply this: God has started something big in this world. You may not like it; you may even laugh at it. You may think it’s insignificant and try to ignore it, but YOU CANNOT STOP IT.

Someday God will close the last page in His history book. The trumpet will sound and the only important question will be, Whose side are you on? The time is now to decide because it will be too late then. Amen.

Pastor Steve Kramer