His Plan, His Lordship
First St Johns, May 29, 2014 Ascension Day
We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit, AMEN.
The Ascension…, it might seem more like a scene from an old black and white movie, where the gal is saying good bye to her guy at the train station, the guy being sent off to war, both of them know that this could well be the last time they see each other. As far as the disciples are concerned this day starts off as another discipling session with Jesus, they aren’t expecting anything extraordinary to happen, they are just wrapped up in their own little world of expectations.
The conversation might have gone something like: “Hey Jesus, been a pretty eventful last forty days. You were crucified, we didn’t see that coming. You were resurrected, we sure didn’t see that coming. So anyway, on to, you know, the important stuff. Because we have our own agenda, and obviously you have some pretty impressive power. So when are going to use that power for something really important, when are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
I would like to think that they were all holied up and were looking forward to the Kingdom that Jesus had promised, right? That’s not what they asked though, was it? When will you restore the kingdom to Israel? Who is Israel? Well us of course, the Jewish people. All they have been through and then they try to reel all these events; the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, the Atonement, the Resurrection, all these things that have just happened in the last 40 plus days, the disciples try to reel these events back into their own provincial, petty politics. “Come on Jesus, sure we’ve seen all these great things, but let’s see something really great. Now that you’ve risen from the dead, let’s kick these Romans out, restore David’s kingdom, we will all reign with you and we will have power and wealth and freedom, it will be so great.” Time after time, Jesus tries to get these guys to focus on what is important. The conquering Romans have been a topic over and over and probably far more then we imagine. These guys can’t get past the issues and ideas that are right in front of them and realize that what is important is not political power. It’s just not! Sure it’s important to the extent that we need government in order to serve and protect, absolutely. But they have, right in front of them, been talking to Him, learning from Him, seeing His power for three years, constantly, day in and day out. Then the most climactic events in human history happen, the Cross and the Resurrection, and what are they still camped on forty days later? Our reading specifically says: “…[Jesus] appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” He’s talking about God’s Kingdom, they’re talking about the Kingdom of Israel, their plan, their agenda, “Come on Jesus when will the kingdom be restored?” It’s all about us, it’s what we want, we want to rule in this world, we want to do it now, let’s go. Government comes and goes, and for the most part, regardless of who is there, things hardly change and if they do change, it’s usually not for the better. God has implemented the “left hand Kingdom”, the world/government, it is important. But in terms of Jesus? Does it really matter who your state rep is last week, last year, last decade? You probably don’t even remember all of them. Yet there the disciples are; “give us power Jesus!”
What is Jesus’ reply? Guys! Focus! Is that what I’ve been talking about for the last three years? Is that what I’ve been talking about for the last forty days?” This isn’t your call, this is not about politics and power, this is about eternity, the real/eternal Kingdom, the only one that matters. Remember back in Mark 13:32? “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” We are all guilty of it, we try to impose our agenda, our goals, our desires on Jesus. Why wouldn’t they? As far as they are concerned this is unlimited power and Jesus is there to exercise that power for their plans, not for His. Much like most people think today.
I already told you. It’s up to you to faithfully follow. At this point Jesus tells them that they will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. It seems like there’s a lot of waiting with Jesus. They waited and sort of floundered for three days while He was in the tomb, they are with Him forty days they are waiting but they’re never told for what. Certainly not seeing Jesus’ Body being lifted up into the air right before them. But just before this happens He tells them; “this is the plan guys, and this happens on my schedule, according to the Father’s agenda.” Matthew tells them the same thing in Matthew 28: 18-20. All authority has been given to me and it will be better than anything you can think of now. “…you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” You’re talking about being bureaucrats, I’m talking about the power of the Holy Spirit. So often that is how God works, isn’t it? Our sights are pretty low and usually we are just so hooked on what the world tells us to want, Jesus tells us, you’re going to have the Holy Spirit. He is going to lead you to places far from where you are used to being.” Matthew says disciples, Luke says witnesses, but the expected results are the same saying: “ you will be my witnesses, my ma,rturej not just in the old neighborhood, but to places you’ve never been, to the end of the earth. The Greek word ma,rturej means witness, someone who is telling you what happens, but in English you also hear …“martyr”? And so it is, that we are called, to put aside our wants, put aside our agenda, witness to what it is that Jesus wants and yes in some form, die to those desires, be a witness to the world of Jesus, His ideas, His promises, His agenda. We can concern ourselves with our trivial ideas of what is important, or we can stand in awe of Him who is lifted up before us, on the Cross to pay for our sins or by angels taking Him to heaven, to glory, to the ultimate power which He will then bestow on us by making us a temple of the Holy Spirit, by showing us the world, not just our tiny little slice of it, by trusting Him the almighty God for what we do and don’t need to know and then going into that world in His Name, power and glory to be His ma,rturej in His power, but also, in some form, probably in His suffering too. But always to His glory, His power, the Lord of all creation. But unlike the tearful goodbye at the train station, the angels impart the promise, the hope, the assurance. You might feel like lost sheep again, in the meantime you will have the Holy Spirit in you 24/7, you won’t be alone. Jesus will return, in glory, this time to be in your presence forever and you will know all the glory and splendor of the new Jerusalem, your perfect resurrection into the perfect world the Father had always intended through His Son Jesus.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.