God in flesh, free from temptation, healer and restorer, seeking and saving the lost, betrayed/denied/tried/crucified, and he is Risen and lives forever!
This is what we have been thinking about for the last seven weeks. Jesus has done, is doing, and will continue to do incredible things in our midst and in our world. Are we paying attention?
Now we go to the event Jesus was preparing his followers for – his departure.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus says something interesting to his disciples. He says, “But very truly I tell you, it is for your own good that I am going away.”Why would he say this? Think about it. If Jesus was still here in the physical body form, as we are, then he would only be able to be in one particular place at one particular time. We would have to go to him to hear him and so we could be in his presence. We might say we want Jesus in the physical flesh now, but then we would have to be the ones who go to him.
But, because Jesus ascended into heaven, we do not have to go to him because he is already with us. It really is better for us that he ascended into heaven, otherwise he would not have sent the promised Holy Spirit (see John 16:7).
So now, let’s take time to read the passage, from Luke 24:
50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God
The ascension event is found in all four Gospel accounts and in the book of Acts. All of them differ to some degree.
Matthew’s gospel concludes with Jesus telling the disciples he has all authority in heaven and on earth and then gives them, what we call, the Great Commission, “go and make disciples of all nations…”
Mark’s (longer ending) gospel says something similar, but then adds, “After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat down at the right hand of God.”
Luke’s gospel is above.
John’s gospel shows Jesus alluding to his ascension when he speaks with Mary Magdelene after he rose from the grave. Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
The book of Acts says, “After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”
I used to picture the ascension like most people, Jesus floating off in the clouds and disappearing into the sky as he was on his way to heaven – a far-off location. But, as I have paid closer attention to the scripture, I now realize this was written in a similar form as when Moses went up the mountain to receive the law from God. Moses “ascended” the mountain and went into the clouds. This means Moses walked up the mountain to where the clouds were, and he was not seen for 40 days.
This is what I now picture. Jesus goes up the mountain and the clouds come down upon him and he disappears. Why clouds? What do they mean?
Clouds throughout scripture represented the fullness, the glory of God. When Moses was in the clouds, he was in the full glory of God. Jesus, when the clouds surrounded him, entered into the realm of heaven to be where he could reign forever.
All of the written accounts of Jesus’ departure (his ascension) point to his authority over all. This event also shows us he is King now. Jesus will not be crowned King when he returns. He is King now. He has full authority over all humanity and creation. The New Testament writers believed this too.
Do you know what the most quoted Old Testament scripture is? It may surprise you to know it is actually in the book of Psalms. Can you guess it? This scripture is quoted 23 times in the New Testament. Ready to find out what it is?
It is Psalm 110:1. That may seem like a strange scripture. But, it shows the authority and Kingship of Jesus here and now. The New Testament authors wanted to show Jesus’s authority to the believers so they could have the assurance Jesus is not in a far away place, but ruling now.
Psalm 110:1 says, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” (NIV)
Jesus sits down at the right hand of God. Why? The right side has always been referenced to as the strong side, the highest honor, the position of authority. Jesus sits down meaning his work has been done.
Hebrews 1:3 points again to the placement of Jesus’ position in heaven. “[H]e sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”(NIV)
What all of this is showing is that because Jesus has ascended into heaven, humanity now has a position and place in heaven! Why? Remember it was not the Spirit of Jesus that went into heaven. Jesus did not shed himself of his physical body to enter heaven. His body was made perfect before ascending. It was Jesus, in human bodily form, that entered into the realm of Heaven.
This means there is a human (Jesus) ruling in Heaven. Now, this is not diminishing Jesus in any way. Remember, in Heaven, humans are higher than the angels. Jesus is still fully God. He is also fully human. As Steve Seamands writes, “Because Jesus ascended, humanity has been exalted and brought into the life of God.”
See, it is not the resurrection that gives us life everlasting with God in Heaven. It is the ascension. Because Jesus is there, humanity has the place in Heaven now.
The ascension is so much more important for our life with God than we realize. The importance of this event has slipped from our minds, but this doesn’t change the reality of what Jesus did.
Jesus’ ascension is so important that, in the Roman Catholic Church, there are only six mandatory days to attend Mass. The Feast of the Ascension (Ascension Day) is one of them.Is this event as important to you? I hope the importance of this event is more real now and we can come to celebrate Jesus’ ascension more prominently.
WHERE IS HEAVEN?
As I have said, I do not picture Jesus going off into the sky on his way to heaven. Too often, we tend to think of heaven as some far off place that we go to after we die. Remember Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God is at hand. He was proclaiming God’s Kingdom here on earth. He was not proclaiming a place far away from earth. Neither was he saying we “go to heaven.” Jesus was proclaiming heaven on earth.
Steve Seamands reminds us of how NT Wright teaches about the realm of Heaven. This is what Jesus seems to be proclaiming while on the physical earth. “As NT Wright points out, in biblical cosmology, heaven and earth are not two locations within the same special continuum; rather they are dimensions of God’s creations. And since heaven relates to earth tangentially, the one who is in heaven can be present everywhere at once on earth. ‘The Ascension, therefore, means that Jesus is available, accessible, without people having to travel to a particular spot on earth to find him.”
Heaven is not some place we go after we die. Heaven is the reality of the full presence of God here and now AND in the life to come. Heaven, therefore, is already here. We just do not have the eyes to see it fully nor live into it because Jesus has not come back.
Heaven is here among us. We see glimpses of heaven each and every day. One day, the fullness and glory of heaven will take over the earth once again. Heaven and earth will become one, just as in the Garden of Eden. This earth will not be destroyed, but it will be transformed and redeemed. This is why we pray, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This is our prayer. That earth will be just like heaven.
JESUS IS STILL HERE
Since heaven is here on earth, as another dimension of the reality we live in, Jesus is still here. And, we are with Jesus in heaven.
The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 2:6 that we are in Christ. We are really with him in heaven at the same time we are here on earth. Heaven can be, and is, experienced here on earth because, as Paul says, we have one foot in heaven and one foot on earth. Because we are in Christ, we also get to be with him in heaven too! The reality of Jesus is here. We are also with him.
Seamands reminds us “Jesus is always with us in actual presence. Because we are with him in heaven and he’s with us on earth, that means we can live every moment in the holy of holies presence of God.”
Remember in the Old Testament, the Tabernacle , nd the Temple? There was a room, separated by a thick curtain called the “Holy of Holies.” This was the space that only the High Priest could enter. This was the most sacred space on earth, the place where God resides.
When Jesus was crucified on the cross, the curtain in the Temple was torn in two, symbolizing there was nothing separating God from the people anymore. God has broke the barriers created by Sin and has allowed humanity to enter into his presence anytime we want. We get to live in the presence of God here and now and we do not have to go through a mediator.
We can live, knowing the reality of Jesus is with us always. Look at Psalm 16:
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
STAY HEAVENLY MINDED AND EARTHLY FOCUSED
I’m sure you may have heard the phrase, “don’t be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good.” Well, we really need to scratch that phrase so we do not use it again. We really do need to remain heavenly minded, because we, who are in Christ, are with Christ in heaven here and now. This is the reality we know will come to fruition at the right time.
We need to remember that we are called to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven wherever we are and wherever we go in whatever we do. Our focus should always remain on Jesus Christ because it is his image we are being molded and transformed to.
Jesus is on the throne and this has an incredible impact for how we live our life. Because Jesus is on the throne, we can approach with confidence the Throne of Grace. (Hebrews 4:16)
We exalt Jesus as the rightful King of the world (really universe) because if we do not, something or someone else will be exalted in our own lives and we will miss out on living in and experiencing heaven on earth here and now.
Jesus gives himself for the mission he called us to and he does not leave us on our own. Nor, do we go into the mission field in our own strength and power. Jesus guides and gives us all power and everything else we need. He does this through the Holy Spirit.
Whenever we love God by loving people and we love people by loving God, we are doing what we were created for. This is what we are called to do.
So, who is Jesus? Jesus is….
God in flesh, free from the power of temptations, healing and restoring, seeking and saving the lost, betrayed/denied/tried/crucified, risen and lives forever, ascended and reigns forever.
That’s who Jesus is. Now the question becomes, “What would Jesus say about you?”
John 16:7a NIV
Mark 16:19 NIV
John 20:17 NIV
Acts 1:9 NIV
Seamands, Stephen. “Unseen Real”
Seamands, Stephen. “Give Them Christ”
Seamands, Stephen. “Give Them Christ”
Seamands, Stephen. “Give Them Christ”
Psalm 16:8-9,11 NIV
2 Corinthians 3:11-12: “And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.”
We are on week 5 of a 12 week time of prayer and study for revival and awakening.
This week, we’re talking about allowing God’s glory to shine though our lives. Below the video link is a historical example of revival.
You are invited to go through this time of study and prayer either individually (i.e. journal), or gather a group together to pray and discuss each week’s topic. Our guide for this time will be the scriptures, prayer, and the book “Revival Rising.” You can get this book at www.seedbed.com
Feel free to share this video study with your friends.
From the book Revival Rising:
Revival love pours out on Jonathan Edwards’ church in 1742. This revival under the ministry of Mr. Buell exceeds the one eight years before. A visit by George Whitfield some months earlier triggers events leading to the revival.
In the month of May, 1741, a sermon was preached to a company, at a private house. Near the conclusion of the discourse, one or two persons that were professors, were so greatly affected with a sense of the greatness and glory of divine thing they were not able to conceal it—the affections of their minds overcoming their strength, and having visible effect upon their bodies. . . .
About the beginning of February, 1742, Mr. Buell came to this town. . . . There were very extraordinary effects of Mr. Buell’s labors; the people were exceedingly moved, crying out in great numbers in the meeting-house, and a great part of the congregation commonly staying in the house of God for hours after the public service. . . .
Mr. Buell continued here a fortnight or three weeks after I returned: there being still great appearances attending his labors; many in their religious affections being raised far beyond what they had ever been before: and there were some instances of persons lying in a sort of trance, remaining perhaps for a whole twenty-four hours motionless. . . .
Mark 10:41-43 Now when the other ten disciples heard about this, they became angry with James and John. Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the ones who are considered the rulers by the Gentiles show off their authority over them and their high-ranking officials order them around. But that’s not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant.
There have been may times that something I have said has made another person, or even a group of people, angry or upset. I have gotten upset over words from another person (hearing a voice or via written message). We can easily allow what people say to upset us and let our emotions determine how we act.
This is how I imagine the disciples mindset at this point in time. I cannot blame them for feeling the way do at this point. It is easy to understand what might be going through their minds at this point. If they would have taken time to talk with James and John, would they have gotten angry? Would they be able to understand the brothers’ background and meet them where they were? Did the other ten disciples want to have the same position of greatness and were angry because they did not ask first?
I wonder if James and John understood why the other disciples were angry.
Jesus teaches his disciples about true greatness. He tells them that earthly position and authority are fragile. We should not strive to gain earthly recognition, but to strive for the glory of God.
To live for the glory of God means we live our life for something bigger than we are. When we do this, we become more humble. Becoming more humble means we begin to be a servant rather than a master. It seems backwards. Becoming a servant to become great. I think this makes good sense when we think about it. We cannot just jump to becoming an owner, we have to work for it. We have to be able to do the lowliest tasks in order to become ready for the bigger tasks.
“Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant.”
Mark 10:2-8 “Some Pharisees came and, trying to test him, they asked, “Does the Law allow a man to divorce his wife?” Jesus answered, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a divorce certificate and to divorce his wife.” Jesus said to them, “He wrote this commandment for you because of your unyielding hearts. At the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. Because of this, a man should leave his father and mother and be joined together with his wife, and the two will be one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.”
Today, we look at a passage that can be a place of argument and division among people. There may be things I say people may not agree with, and that’s okay.
What is happening in this passage? The Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus by getting him to say anything contrary to the Law that was passed down by Moses. In one way, I think, they were trying to show their own superiority based upon their knowledge and were trying to show how “ignorant” or “uninformed” Jesus was. As we already know, Jesus proves the contrary.
The Pharisees were asking about a Law that was given by Moses. Right away, we can see they were elevating Moses to the position of God by saying his law had more authority. Jesus listened to their question, and answered their question directly. Not really going into further details or explanation except what had been written down in the Scriptures. The Pharisees were looking at this life from the point of view of man. Jesus was looking at life from the point of view of God the Father.
So, where does this leave us? I believe there is something in Jesus’ words that we can take out and help guide us today. What was He talking about? Division. Separation. Consequences of doing our own things.
The line that strikes me more than any of the others is “Because of your hardness of hearts…” The people were given what they wanted, a chance to break union “because of their hard hearts;” because of the human rebellious spirit. Now, to be clear on something, I don’t see Jesus here saying that every divorce is because of a person’s rebellious spirit, just wanting to get what ever they want. Commentators point out that Jesus was simply answering the question of the Pharisees. He wasn’t, here, giving regulations or stipulations that are acceptable for divorce.
I do think that Jesus is bringing the human condition to light. We simply want things our way, and will try in whatever manner to get it. Instead of leaving this statement alone and walking away, Jesus points all the way back to the beginning…God. He stressed the basis and purpose of God’s creation of humans, to be in relationship with one another. Then He talks about the two becoming one.
Glue is fun to use. I like to glue objects together to try and fix the brokenness. What happens when I try to take apart something that has been joined together by glue? A mess, the two piece are never the same. There has been an unjoining of the union. The two are no longer part of the one, they are separated. If this were done on people, we would feel a lot of pain.
I believe one of our purposes is to be in relationship with other people. Our relationship with people should be based upon our relationship with God. But our hard, rebellious hearts cause us to not look to God. But, we can go back and see God’s original purpose. At points like this, we can see grace because God has not left us.
James 4:7-10 “Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you. Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded. Cry out in sorrow, mourn, and weep! Let your laughter become mourning and your joy become sadness. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
Do you ever have those days where the scripture seems to beat you down? We can personalize scripture and, if we’re not careful, we’ll make it all about us and feel like it’s telling us what a bad person we are. Even throughout the Old Testament, I read grace. Specifically grace from God.
There is always hope. God has not abandoned. Jesus will not forsake. The Holy Spirit is with us and guiding us. This is where we are today with the passage. All week long, there have been times in the scripture (James 3:13-4:6) where it can seem like we have to have our lives perfect. Arrogance, pride, jealousy, selfish ambition, etc have all been talked about and discussed. I pray this is not where you are left, dwelling on any negative aspect you may view about yourself.
Today, we see something amazing. God is saying, “come near.” This doesn’t mean that God is far off and He is wanting us to go up to Him to be in His presence. God is already near to us. There are times when we feel like we are distant from God or that God is distant from us. God’s proximity to us is always the same. Our proximity to God is always the same. We will still feel distant because of a number of reasons: we know we sinned, how much sleep we got, how hungry we are, having a rough day or a rough week.
These are all reasons we feel distant from God, and I’m sure there are more. God says “come near.” When we realize He is already present among us, all we have to do is acknowledge His presence.
I invite you right now to pause, close your eyes, and thank God for His presence with you at this moment.
It is through these times when we realize we can still come close to God, even though we messed up, even though we feel low, that we can experience and live into the grace He gives. We have this opportunity to confess, repent, and allow God to purify us.
God will “lift you up.” I don’t take this to mean that He will automatically make everything better, or that He will wipe away consequences from our actions. He does make His presence known, and somehow gives us the strength and the power to endure the situation and allow Him to shine through us.
Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” What an incredible verse in scripture! The Apostle Paul is showing that he can handle and still live joyfully in every situation. He wasn’t saying that he can do anything he wants because Jesus said he could. Paul is saying that because of the power of Jesus Christ working through him, he is able to handle what comes his way.
I believe God does the same for you and for me. So, draw near to God, confess, repent, purify, humble yourself and see how God is working in you and through you.
We all need the power of Jesus Christ in our lives. It is through grace that we are able to be lifted up and brought to a place of knowing who and whose we are.
Lord God, you are close to us. Help us see you and experience your presence. We confess the ways We have gone against you….We pray for the strength to handle the situations in life and for your power and grace to shine through us. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
John 6:1-15 After this Jesus went across the Galilee Sea (that is, the Tiberias Sea). A large crowd followed him, because they had seen the miraculous signs he had done among the sick. Jesus went up a mountain and sat there with his disciples. It was nearly time for Passover, the Jewish festival. Jesus looked up and saw the large crowd coming toward him. He asked Philip,“Where will we buy food to feed these people?” Jesus said this to test him, for he already knew what he was going to do. Philip replied, “More than a half year’s salary worth of food wouldn’t be enough for each person to have even a little bit.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “A youth here has five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that for a crowd like this?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there. They sat down, about five thousand of them. Then Jesus took the bread. When he had given thanks, he distributed it to those who were sitting there. He did the same with the fish, each getting as much as they wanted. When they had plenty to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather up the leftover pieces, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves that had been left over by those who had eaten. When the people saw that he had done a miraculous sign, they said, “This is truly the prophet who is coming into the world.” Jesus understood that they were about to come and force him to be their king, so he took refuge again, alone on a mountain.
This is a passage we read a lot and think we hear the same message each time. Today, I invite us to look at this passage in a different light.
(These notes were presented in a sermon on Sunday, July 26, 2015)
Where do you see God in your life? What motivates us to see God in our everyday lives? Do we simply go when we’re hungry or need something? Do we only praise God when things are going right and forget about him when things go “wrong”? Or do we see and praise God in all aspects of our lives, recognizing he is part of every part, including the seemingly ordinary parts?
There are people sitting down, reading this, and need to be reminded that Jesus is with you. He is not turning you away. We can go to be with Jesus any time, and he will care for us. Jesus is with you and cares for you, even in the ordinary parts of the day, like meal times. All it takes is for us to see and notice his presence.
So, as we look at this passage, I invite you to consider the question, “What motivates you to go to be with Jesus?” We all have our reasons. Some person reading this may need to feel justified. Another valued. Another loved. Another seeking a friend. Someone may have hit rock bottom and are searching for a reason to continue living. Whatever our motive, we are still moving toward the presence of Christ.
The people followed Jesus up the mountain because they had seen him do miraculous signs of healing and they wanted to see more. The people seemed to be following Jesus as an entertainment venue. We can see throughout scripture how the people “missed it” and did not see what was really going on. It is easy to look back at events and see what happened, after all hindsight is 20×20! But if we think about it, we do the same thing today. We go to God and ask, plead for miracles. Do we stay and still praise him even when what we want doesn’t happen? It is challenging to want to be in the presence of Christ and not expect to be entertained or expect him to do something for us.
A point that we should not miss is that it doesn’t matter why the people were following Jesus up the mountain. Verse 5 says, “Jesus looked up and saw.” That is great news for us! Jesus took the time to, not only look at the people and notice they were there, he took the time to assess the situation and “see” what the people needed. The people wanted to see signs of a great prophet or magician, and Jesus knew they needed nourishment. He saw this need in all of the people present.
He saw the hurting. He saw the hungry. He saw the “religious.” He saw the hypocrites. He saw those hungry for God. He saw those hurting and seeking God. He saw the religious studying God. He saw people wanting to leave their hypocritical lives behind. He saw everyone! He sees you too.
So, Jesus asks a question. He asks Philip where they could get food to feed the people. Philip answered by saying there is not enough money. Jesus was asking WHERE (meaning we are going to feed these people) and Philip answered with a HOW (meaning I don’t see how we can do this task). Isn’t it amazing that the ones who were with Jesus daily and saw all the things he could do, still didn’t understand the power of God through Jesus? We all miss seeing and recognizing what Jesus can do in our lives and the world.
How is our response when we feel a nudging from the Holy Spirit to do some task? How do we respond when we sense a nudging to help someone? If we’re honest, we respond like I do a lot of the time. We’ll look at our limited resources and forget to keep the possibilities in mind. We can ask ourselves this to help keep things in perspective, “If we allowed God in the situation, how would it be different?” We could be so focused on the issue or problem at hand that we have tunnel vision and do not pay attention to the little opportunity right in front of us that could be a solution that God wants us to use.
It is in times like this we should recognize God and see he is still there and still working to take care of the needs of the people. When we allow God to come into the situation, we can see that we actually do have enough (and sometimes God somehow multiplies resources) to take care of the needs and situation. The amazing thing is that everyone is taking care of! He even provides for his people.
God is in all aspects of our lives, and his presence never changes. He is the same God from the beginning of time until the present day. He is the same when life is easy and when it is challenging and difficult (almost impossible). How do we know this? Jesus.
I love the book of John because there is always an underlying message in the book. Jesus is showing he can take care of the physical needs of the people; but he is really showing that he takes care of the spiritual needs (spiritual nourishing). Jesus is the Word made flesh. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning.” (John 1:1-2) Jesus was right there in the beginning. God has been the same. We can see this by what Jesus has the disciples do. He asks them to collect the left over bread and fish in baskets and there was enough to fill 12 baskets. The bread (12 loaves for each tribe of Israel) within the Holy of Holies, in the Temple, was taken by baskets. Jesus was showing the God of the Old Testament is still the same today.
This is one of those miracles that can leave us with many questions. How did he actually multiply the bread and fish? Was it in a cave hidden already? Did people just share the food they brought? I’m not sure how it happened. I do believe Christ has the power to multiply food. His purpose was not to just feed the people some bread and fish. His purpose was to show the people he will feed with food that matters and will not leave us or go bad.
We can recognize that Jesus is more than we realize at times. How do you want Jesus in your life? As a “magic man”? Or as the Source of your life who can sustain you and provide you with everything you need?
The challenge for us is to recognize who Jesus is and see him as he really is.