Day 3: One-Way Doors (Acts 1:1-1:11)
Today’s Passage: Acts 1:1-1:11
Traipse around any airport and you find quite a few one-way doors. You know those doors that once you walk through, you cannot go back.
In life we have metaphorical one-way doors. Events and situations, that once we cross through, life is different, and there is no going back.
Sometimes, we can choose to walk, or not walk, through them.
Sometimes, we have no choice.
The Ascension is a one-way door. For Jesus’ followers who lived immediately after his Resurrection, it was an inevitable doorway they faced, and they had to decide if they will walk through it. We too must decide.
One reflection earlier, I noted that something happened to the disciples. Actually, it is more than something, it is two—the Ascension being one.
In Luke there is this curious statement, as they are all standing and gazing at Jesus’ Ascension, it says, “some still doubted”.
For those of us alive today, you might say, born on the other side of that doorway in time, we might think it is simply an event; a powerful event, but one we merely take note of—I want to suggest it is much more.
Both the final chapter of Luke and the first chapter of Acts capture two events. Interesting that they are repeated. One is the Ascension and the other is the sending of the Holy Spirit.
One post earlier, we set the stage for the Holy Spirit, as we explored the Promise of the Father. We will talk more of the Spirit, soon, but first I want to focus our attention on this doorway that we are walking through: the Ascension. I find we, in Christian circles, don’t talk much about the Ascension. Do you notice an absence of discussion?
We talk of the Crucifixion and Resurrection (and we should), but the Ascension, not so much.
The Cross is Jesus taking the sin of the world upon himself—bearing its consequence of death—and we must appropriate the Cross—we must say, “Jesus died for my sins.”
The Empty Tomb is his glorious victory over sin and death. Here again, we must believe that Jesus is truly risen from the dead.
Both give us a vision of our eternal life with him, and we make them personal for ourselves—but what of the Ascension?
I want to suggest the same personal appropriation of the Ascension into our life is necessary.
For the Ascension, it is the final Act of Jesus going to the right hand of the Father—and for us, it is the moment that we should bow down and proclaim, “My Lord and my God.”
In the early church, and for centuries after, three questions were asked at baptism:
1. Will you turn from your sin and repent, trusting Jesus as your Savior—will you go to the Cross?
2. Will you put your whole trust in His grace and love—will you accept he has overcome all your shortcomings through the resurrection.
3. Will you follow and obey him as Lord—for he has ascended to the righthand of the Father.
We so often rush past this event, desiring the rush of the Holy Spirit, but there is, if you will, this doorway we must personally pass through. It is critical. Let me put a sharp point on it.
Is Jesus your Lord? Not merely will you call Jesus Lord, but more will you obey him.
“Go and wait…” was the first directive of the ascended Lord to the disciples. For those who doubted, I wonder if they went and waited, I wonder if they obeyed?
Today, it is no different. People doubt. They ask, “But did he really ascend, like superman?” Many today, in our scientific world, and even in our church world, struggle with the Ascension. John Stott, in his commentary on The Message of Acts (from The Bible Speaks Today series) does a masterful job working through the struggle that some have with this event.
For our purposes, let’s move beyond the struggle. The visible, historical Ascension has a readily intelligible purpose.
I know I am taking more time than normal in this post, but the Ascension is so often overlooked, I want to take a little more time asking you to consider his Ascension, for it drives home this point of his Lordship.
In the transition from his earthly to his heavenly state, Jesus could have perfectly well vanished, as on other occasions, and “gone to the Father” secretly and invisibly.
Yet he does not. Consider this man of humility. He never grandstanded. He never used his power to show-off. He was always pointing to the Father. Even his resurrection was in silence! Yet now, this Ascension is, well, rather, flashy!
I believe there are important reasons for this public and visible Ascension.
First, he surely wanted his followers to know that he had gone for good. During the forty days he had kept appearing, disappearing and reappearing. Imagine if you had experienced the thrill of Jesus simply “popping up unannounced”. It must have been disconcerting and delightful. As humans, we can grow dependent on this sort of experience.
But now this interim period was over.
Second, was his method. He ascended in visible, dramatic fashion to the right hand of the Father. This Jesus, who turned water into wine, who gave sight to the blind, who overcame his own death—this Jesus is God come to earth. His entrance into our world was as a humble human. His departure is the glorious Ascension. This visible exhalation is so we will understand he sits at the Father’s righthand. Philippians 2:5-11 captures these extreme positions.
Thirdly, with his departure until his final and ultimate return, we are given a new method of God working, of Jesus working, in his world. They (and we) need to realize this point. The Ascension provides a visible demarcation between Jesus’ physical ministry on earth, and his ministry from the righthand of God the Father. My point: Jesus’ ministry, continues. It marks a change not only in his “location”, but just as radically his method. The Ascension provides a way for a multiplication of his ministry through his Holy-Spirit-filled followers.
The Book of Acts is largely committed to chronicling much of this early work of Jesus through his disciples. We will spend many of the coming days examining Jesus working through the disciples. For now, we wait.
Not waiting around for his next post-resurrection appearance. No, instead:
We wait upon the Holy Spirit, listening for leading and preparation.
We wait upon the Holy Spirit, upon the Promise of the Father being fulfilled in our lives, that we might join in God’s plan.
We wait upon the Holy Spirit, planting deeply in our hearts that ministry in Jesus Name is not of our own power, but rather, Spirit lead.
We wait upon the Holy Spirit, bowing our hearts to Jesus—moving from the human Jesus among us, to Jesus the Lord of hosts.
And this waiting, for me, is more than a one-time event. In a few days, we will reflect on this special day, when the Spirit was poured out. Yet, for me, on a good day, a day when I am in tune with following Jesus, I am bowing to him as Lord and I am listening for his leading.
As you think of following Jesus, do you think more of his as a friend? Do you think more of him as paying your sin debt? Do you think more of him as Lord? I don’t believe it should be one or the other. I do believe we need to hold all of these in our minds. The Ascension is God’s gift to us for this purpose.