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Acts 1:1-11

May 26 will come and go like any other Thursday with most Christians not realizing its significance. May 26 marks the day Christ ascended to the Father to receive His reward for accomplishing His mission on earth—His death and resurrection. Christ’s reward is an eternal Kingdom of which He is King of all kings, Lord of all lords. He was seated at the right hand of the Father where He is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is name, not only in this age, but also in the age to come (Eph. 1:21).” Unfortunately, most Christians understand the Gospel in terms of the Manger, Cross and Empty Tomb. Granted, those sacred essentials are the foundation and the center of our faith, but the Ascension of Christ is also significant in understanding the broader salvific narrative.

The details of the Enthronement of Christ are not found in Acts 1:1-11, but glimpses are mentioned elsewhere such as Acts 2:33-34, Ephesians 1:20, 1 Peter 3:22, Rev. 3:21, Revelation 5 and more. Jesus talked about His exaltation in the Gospels and many scholars say Daniel saw a vision of it in Daniel 7:13-14. However, Luke, the Gentile physician and later companion of the Apostle Paul, gives us an account of Christ’s Ascension in Acts and the particulars surrounding it.

Scholars say the book of Acts is the sequel to the Gospel of Luke. In ancient writing, it was typical for a new volume to overlap the previous one by referring to the previous work. This seems to be the case in the first few verses of Acts 1.

Vs. 1-2: In the Gospel, Luke wrote about the things Jesus did and taught from His birth to His ascension. Jesus was one whose talk matched His walk. Also in this overlapping opening, Luke points out that Jesus gave the apostles instructions through the Holy Spirit—Preach the Gospel!

In verse 3, Luke gives details about the 40 days between the Resurrection and Ascension. Jesus appeared several times to the disciples to prepare them for his departure. He had to first prove He was actually alive. His resurrection was a bodily resurrection and He demonstrated it. The word used for giving “convincing proofs” is tekmērion. It means supplying unmistakable, indisputable information. It’s a sure sign, marking something off as irrefutable. This word is only used in Acts 1:3.

When Jesus was placed in the tomb His body was severely damaged. His cause of death was crucifixion and before that his body was beaten meaning— His actual body was wrecked and ravaged when placed in the tomb! On the third day that same body was raised with a beating heart, healed wounds and breath restored. Jesus was indeed alive again, and He proved it. Jesus demonstrated He was not a ghost. He ate, drank, walked, talked and invited them to actually touch Him.

During the forty days, He also talked about the Kingdom of God. Of course, this was the topic throughout His earthly ministry, and Kingdom talk was on His heart and lips until He departed.

Luke reminds us in verse 4 that Jesus commanded the disciples to stay put in Jerusalem until they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Perhaps they didn’t want to stay in Jerusalem, after all it was hostile, a place of violence and persecution, but nevertheless it would be the beginning point where the rest of the Acts narrative would unfold.

In verse 5, Jesus tells them that in a few days they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew they would need to be inundated, saturated and flooded with the Holy Spirit to be able to carry out His commandment of preaching the Gospel to everyone everywhere.

Being that the disciples knew from Old Testament prophecies that the Spirit was associated with the promised era of Restoration and with Jesus’ talk of the Kingdom, in their minds it’s possible they were putting two and two together and that’s what prompted their questioning in verse 6. It could have been their own desires to experience peace from the harsh Roman rule, but they asked: “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel” (vs 6, NRSV)?

The word used for ask is erōtáō. It means to make an earnest request, especially by someone on special footing or in a preferred position. The generic word 154 aitéō isn’t used here. With that definition, John 15:14-15 comes to mind, perhaps it came to theirs: “You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (NRSV). It’s not unreasonable to think the disciples earnestly pressed the issue leaning on the privileged relationship they had with Jesus. Even so, without a reprimand, Jesus gives them the information they needed instead of what they wanted.

Jesus diverts the disciples’ attention and gives them his parting words saying, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (vs 8). The Greek word for receive is lambánō meaning to actively lay hold of. This is interesting. Another word choice for receive is déxomai stressing the passive attitude of receiving, but lambánō suggests an aggressive laying hold of to appropriate what’s being received. What’s being received? Power—dýnamis, the Lord’s inherent ability to achieve. This is enablement, empowerment. When would they receive this power? When the Holy Spirit would come upon them. The term “come upon” is epérxomai and is the same word used in Luke 1:35 regarding the Holy Spirit coming upon Mary— the power of the Most High’s overshadowing. Jesus said the disciples wouldlay hold of supernatural, divine ability to achieve what He had commanded only when the Holy Spirit would come upon them.

It was after saying this, Jesus was “taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see Him” (vs 9, NRSV). Biblically, clouds are symbolic of God’s presence and activity. Jesus was lifted from the earth and entered into God’s presence and into a realm to be physically seen no more…until the right time! “As they strained to see Him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go’” (vs. 10,11 NRSV).

The white-robed men left the disciples with a word of comfort. Other translations say, “This” Jesus, or “this same Jesus” will return. It would have been comforting to know Jesus would return, but perhaps the thought of “this same Jesus” was comforting as well. The person you know, the familiar. The one that walks, talks, breathes…. Jesus—who was raised in body, ascended in body, would someday return in all His glory and there will be no doubt as to who it is! “Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail” (Rev. 1:7 NRSV). Jesus will return.

As the people of God, we should fully appreciate what the ascension means. The Ascension is a divine promise fulfilled. Also—this is where we find ourselves written into the grand narrative. We are in the space between His departure and return. We are called to be effective witnesses. The torch has been passed to us and we will pass it to the next generation, and that generation to the next until Christ comes again. We are to testify that Christ is King, not the King-to-be. He sits at the right hand of the Father with all authority. He is ruling, reigning—seated but not still! His Kingdom has already been inaugurated and we are to proclaim the message of repentance, and forgiveness for entrance into the Kingdom and we are to model Kingdom life. We are to do this diligently until the King returns.