Luke 24:49-53 click here for audio
We look now at the Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s a wonderful event to read and learn as Luke concludes his gospel account. The last few verses in Luke give a brief description of Jesus’ departure up to heaven. In the beginning of Luke’s gospel we have Jesus descending from heaven to earth to be born of the Virgin Mary. Here at the end is Jesus ascending from earth to heaven being born from the dead. At the beginning of Luke we see the incarnation of the Son of God; at the end we see the exaltation of the Son of God. At the beginning of Luke there are those who worship the Infant Christ. There’s the worship from the shepherds; the wise men; the angels; and there’s Simeon and Anna. At the end of Luke there are those who worship the Risen Christ. It is said in the text, And they worshiped him. At the beginning of Luke there are the sounds of peace and joy. The angels said at the birth of Christ, “…Behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. And “peace on earth good will toward men.” Likewise at the end of Luke we hear words of peace from our Lord who says “peace to you”; and “they returned to Jerusalem with great joy” That’s the conclusion of Luke’s gospel – “great joy” Not just “joy” but “great joy”.
Notice again in our text this morning – 50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple praising God. The days between the Lord’s resurrection and His ascension back to heaven covered forty days. In that time Jesus showed with many infallible proofs of His resurrection, and spoke much about things relating to the kingdom of God. The main thing is that the apostles and other disciples had sufficient time to accept and fully believe in the Risen Christ. The Apostle Paul speaks in 1Cor. 15:6 that “more than 500 brothers at one time” saw Jesus in the flesh after His death and resurrection. They were fully convinced! He’s alive! They were fully persuaded! Beyond all doubt they knew Jesus to be Real, and Really Risen from the dead! They were eye-witnesses to His ascension. After Jesus vanished out of sight, they returned to Jerusalem. Notice how they returned to Jerusalem – not they returned to Jerusalem fully convinced (though they were); It’s not they returned to Jerusalem fully persuaded (though they were); BUT RATHER they returned to Jerusalem with GREAT JOY! They were now WITNESSES; The JOY of the Lord would say it all! Being witnesses to the Lord’s resurrection; and witnesses to His glorious ascension; there’s got to be JOY, or something’s wrong. What is the source of their joy? And for all who have come to believe in Christ, what is their source of joy? The answer is given in our reading of the text before us. Answer – the Lord’s blessings – it says “he lifted up his hands and he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven” Jesus left giving a blessing! Jesus left giving to His followers the source of those blessings!
Source #1 – The Blessings of His Word –
As Jesus lifted up his hands – He gave them His blessings! We don’t have everything recorded as to what Jesus said, but we have all that is necessary for our joy. We can experience “great joy” by being immersed in His Word. This is what Jesus did – He gave them His Words of Blessings. (READ vv.44-47) these are my words God’s Word is OUR Source of Strength, Source of Comfort, and the Source FOR OUR JOY. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11 Jesus will speak to His church in the Book of Revelation….John will write down what Jesus says… And it’s recorded there in Revelation 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. Here’s the PROMISE – that a special blessing comes to those who read, who hear and who keep what is written… Oh how we must stay in the Bible …..we must not neglect a regular time of hearing and meditating and thinking deeply on the truths of God’s Word David wrote asking God to Restore to me the joy of your salvation……….(Psalms 51:12) Salvation is never lost, but the joy of salvation can be temporaily lost. The remedy is returning to Hearing and Obeying God’s Word. The followers of Christ returned to Jerusalem with great joy because they had been taking in all the things Jesus had said to them.
The Blessings of His Spirit –
v.49 “I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” Acts 1:4-8 4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness 1Thess 1:6 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit We don’t have to wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit like the Early Believers. BECAUSE the Holy Spirit dwells in you. Romans 8:9 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. Paul speaks of the need for Christians to constantly “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18) and he spoke of the same thing in Colossians 3, but he said there to LET THE WORD OF CHRIST DWELL IN YOU RICHLY…Colossians 3:16 Ephesians 5:18 This is for OUR JOY! Our Joy is NOT based on our circumstances. The apostles asked Jesus “will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has fixed 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 AND IN ALL JUDEA AND SAMARIA, AND TO THE END OF THE EARTH. They were asking for BETTER Circumstances… restore the kingdom to Israel…. This is the promise in Scriptures… it’s a future event… The Lord will not adjust the TIMES and SEASONS to what we will want it to be. But FOR OUR JOY…. He has promised the Holy Spirit! The main thing about the Holy Spirit – He helps to keep our focus upon Christ. John 16:14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
The Blessings of Knowing and Pursuing Christ
Here’s the secret to GREAT JOY… They HAD Christ! He’s Risen. He’s not DEAD. God’s NOT DEAD. They have Jesus with them…. And when Jesus left….. several days later actually 10 days later….the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in them THEY HAVE GOD… but now they pursue God… they pursue Christ…. NOTICE – v.52 they worshiped him — If Jesus is NOT GOD, then they would be violating Scriptures: For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Matthew 4:10 They worshipped Christ because He is God. NOTICE – v.53 and were continually in the temple blessing God They had God in them; they had God with them; they also pursued God in worship What I am anxious to see in Christian believers is a beautiful paradox. I want to see in them the joy of finding God while at the same time they are blessedly pursuing Him. I want to see in them the great joy of having God yet always wanting Him.” ~ A. W. Tozer It’s knowing Christ and pursuing Christ… to know him more…. To love him more fully… to learn more of him. You would think the apostle Paul knew all that could be known of Christ… He was caught up into the third heavens according to what he has written…he was given great revelations and knowledge of the things of the Lord… yet here was Paul passion… 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection Philippians 3:8-10
The Blessings of Knowing Who WE ARE and to Whom WE Belong
This is important because there is great joy in knowing WHO YOU ARE…and to WHOM YOU BELONG. There is in our country and worldwide a great spiritual crisis. The reason for the growth of false religions especially Islam and Buddhist, Hindu and cults is due to the spiritual vacuum that exist in the hearts of millions of people. People must worship something. They are looking for something that satisfies the emptiness inside. There is an Identity crisis. People trying to find meaning and they seek to identify with some group that will give them a sense of belonging. People join clubs and pubs. People join up with movements and even a religious movement; they become members of gangs; they even become patriotic and wave flags; Some even become nostalgic and wave old dixie in their front yard to show their identity to a group. Not all movements are bad; some are good organizations doing some good things…….and doing good charitable things can give you satisfaction and enjoyment…. But there’s a GREATER JOY …. It’s an eternal joy that comes from knowing that you belong to Christ and your citizenship is in Heaven. Jesus spent 40 days after his resurrection presenting himself alive to His disciples and speaking about the kingdom of God. It’s not about our kingdom….our little world…..our agenda…..It’s about His agenda….YOUR KINGDOM COME….YOUR WILL BE DONE….. KNOWING THAT WE ARE PART OF THE KINGDOM…WE WERE MADE FOR HIS KINGDOM…. JESUS IS OUR KING!….WE ARE SUBJECTS IN HIS KINGDOM… Phil 3:20-21 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. When Jesus LIFTED up his hands……. The purpose was to bless them… as he rose from the earth …from the Mount of Olives…he was still blessing them with UPLIFTED hands… Jesus did not go up into HEAVEN waving the banner of the Roman Empire. ….or the banner of Judaism……………. It wasn’t the Baptist Banner; the Pentecostal Banner; or the Church of Christ Banner……. He was waving His uplifted HANDS…. Why? BECAUSE our true blessings… the source of our ETERNAL JOY is from Christ… We are His bride….and He is the bridegroom….we are members of His body…. HE raisies his uplifted hands…. We see the pierced hands… Our blessings in Christ came at a GREAT COST… our GREAT JOY came at a GREAT COST! Jesus is reminding his disciples…. With those uplifted hands….don’t forget… these pierced hands were nailed to a piece of wood….you are bought with a price…. Purchased by the blood of Christ… You are NOT your own… You belong to Christ… You are HIS Purchased possession… The temple of the Holy Spirit….and knowing WHO YOU ARE…and WHO you Belong brings GREAT JOY. The world will label you. The world will put a racial label on you; and political label on you; a nationality label on you…. They will put an ID on you…. a SSN on you…. to this world you are a number…. To a company or workplace…you are a tool …a piece of equipment……to some you are in the way….you are a burden… you are worthless… you are nothing to them…. They would rob you in a second and destroy you…. But JESUS…. His uplifted hands… He says…. YOU ARE MINE…. I will never leave you, nor forsake you… you are not just a number… I will give you a NEW Name….. one that I have selected for you.. No wonder they returned to Jerusalem with GREAT JOY…
The Blessings of the Trials of life
v.52 they returned to Jerusalem with great joy…. Jerusalem – had been a place of fear. When Jesus was directing his disciples to go toward Jerusalem, it was Thomas who said…let’s all go and die with you… he said sarcastically because he knew in Jerusalem the chief priest, rulers of the Jews were seeking to kill Jesus…. WE’RE ALL GOING TO BE KILLED… They stayed behind locked doors…. Not any more…. They didn’t return to Jerusalem in fear… in dread…. With GREAT JOY… How did Jesus describe Jerusalem? 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! Luke 13:34 The Believers were going back to a city that had NO LOVE for Jesus; and certainly NO Love for His followers. YET they found GREAT JOY. In spite of the trying times they knew was facing them, they had incredible joy in Christ. Some pop song lyrics go like this… “raining days and Mondays always get me down” The world seek happiness…..but that happiness depends on what “happens”. If good things are going on in their life…then they are happy…. The BLESSINGS that come in the trials and afflictions of life…is the sustaining JOY that Christ gives… It’s what James says James 1:2-4 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. There is the sanctifying work of trials that produces a JOYFUL Believer. Paul speaks of learning in whatever circumstances he was in to rejoice. Paul was under severe testing. He was beaten up; locked up; abandon by friends; YET His focus remained upon Christ. He had his presence… That makes it worth all… Having Christ… He said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Ps 16:11 in your presence is fulness of joy
The Blessings of Salvation see v.47
Acts 5:31 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” He is exalted to give repentance… You don’t work up repentance… it’s not something the flesh can produce… God gives repentance… God gives the New Birth… yet you are commanded to repent… Are you ready to surrender to the Lord Jesus? His uplifted hands means …He has extended forgiveness to you. receive the free gift of salvation. It’s not something you work to receive…the work of the cross has purchased salvation for sinners. Pray to Christ…turning from your sins and receive His saving grace today.