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Thursday, May 18, 2023

Jesus Is Lord

"Taken Up In Glory"

Message summary: Today we consider the account of the Ascension found in Luke’s Gospel when He was "taken up in glory".

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"And He (Jesus) led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God” (Luke 24:50-53). "Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory" (1 Timothy 3:16).

Yesterday Brooksyne talked with our Amish neighbor to see if their older daughters could come over sometime this week to help her spread mulch. As Annie was reviewing their schedule she reminded Brooksyne that on Thursday (today) they take off work since it is Ascension Day, which for some reason receives little notice among many branches of Christianity.

The girls made plans to come over Saturday morning. They are good workers and as we age some routine  household and outdoor chores have gotten a bit harder, and it's an opportunity for the young ladies to earn some spending money! Our neighbors grow vegetables for the Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-op along with field corn, wheat, etc. While Brooksyne was visiting their home yesterday their dad came in a bit upset after a piece of equipment broke down that was needed to finish baling the hay in their field. Typical of farmers, who work with a lot of heavy duty equipment, machinery breaks down and repairs can be very costly and the crop won't wait!

Ascension Day is commemorated in the Amish tradition by families getting together for fellowship, games, and potluck meals. There are several very specific events in the life of Christ and the church that we commemorate. At Christmas we celebrate the incarnation and birth of Christ. On Good Friday we focus on His sacrificial death and on Easter His glorious resurrection. On Sunday, May 28, we will observe Pentecost.

But for some reason Ascension Day doesn’t get nearly as much attention in most church traditions, including those of which we have been a part. How many of you awakened today with Ascension Day on your mind. before reading this message?

Ascension is defined as "the act of rising to an important position or a higher level". Theologically it is the ascent of Christ into heaven on the fortieth day after the Resurrection.

Today’s Scripture portion gives us the account of the Ascension found in Luke’s Gospel although the more well-known account is found in Acts 1.

This account describes the place of the Ascension: “He led them out as far as Bethany”. John 11:18 informs us that “Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off". So during the period following His resurrection Christ traveled to Galilee but was now back near Jerusalem for His great departure from earth.

“He lifted up His hands and blessed them.” That must have been a remarkable experience! I can think of several deeply memorable blessings I have received through life. Bill Shibilo and his wife Veda, both now with the Lord, were a great encouragement to us during our years in New England. They were steady and loyal, which any pastor will tell you is a tremendous blessing.

Over twenty years ago as Bill’s time of departure neared we gathered in his hospital room at New England Medical Center in Boston and sang hymns, read Scripture and prayed. Bill had a respiratory illness and had great difficulty speaking but I will never forget when he mustered enough physical strength to look directly at Brooksyne and me and proclaim, “God bless your ministry". We still stay in touch with their son Greg, who carries the esteemed position of being Ester's favorite Sunday School teacher.

Likewise I am sure each of the disciples remembered this special blessing all through the remainder of their lives. But I wonder if they had any idea what would happen next?

“While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.” An ancient creedal statement of the early church is found in 1 Timothy 3:16, “He was taken up in glory.”

The account in Acts 1 states, “He was taken up before their very eyes". This was important for the disciples to witness and is an essential part of the Biblical record. It reinforces that Jesus Christ is God and that He returned to His home in heaven 40 days after He was resurrected from the dead.

“And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God.” This worship experience sets a pattern for the Church. Christ was no longer visible nor was He in their midst physically. At this point their worship was similar to ours.

Peter expressed it this way many years later in his epistle, “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).

The Acts account provides this additional detail, “He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.”

These two angels of the Lord dressed in white assured those early disciples that “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.”

The angels’ promise of His return is reinforced and elaborated on throughout the New Testament. Paul calls it the “blessed hope”. One day, perhaps even today, this glorious event will take place. In the meantime let us faithfully serve the Lord who was taken up in glory. Let us look to Him who now sits at the right hand of the Father, until that great day is fully realized!

Be encouraged today, (Hebrews 3:13)

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Praying manDaily prayer: Father, Scripture teaches us that even as Jesus ascended into heaven 40 days after His resurrection He will come again, but this time we have the blessed hope of ascending with Him and joining with those of like precious faith. Thank You for loved ones and witnesses of the truth who have repeated this glorious life-transforming message to us over the years preparing our hearts for this major event. May it be the resounding message from our own lips as we anticipate the glorious moment when we will all be changed in the twinkling of an eye. Help us to be faithful and watching eagerly for the blessed hope of Your second coming where those of us on earth will take up eternal residency in heaven. In Your name, Jesus, we pray to You as we also look for Your reappearing. Amen.

More study on Ascension Day from the gotquestions.org teaching site:

Forty days after the resurrection, Jesus and His disciples went to Mount Olivet, near Jerusalem. There, Jesus promised His followers that they would soon receive the Holy Spirit, and He instructed them to remain in Jerusalem until the Spirit had come. Then Jesus blessed them, and as He gave the blessing, He began to ascend into heaven. The account of Jesus’ ascension is found in Luke 24:50-51 and Acts 1:9-11.

It is plain from Scripture that Jesus’ ascension was a literal, bodily return to heaven. He rose from the ground gradually and visibly, observed by many intent onlookers. As the disciples strained to catch a last glimpse of Jesus, a cloud hid Him from their view, and two angels appeared and promised Christ’s return "in just the same way that you have watched Him go" (Acts 1:11).

The Ascension of Jesus Christ is meaningful for several reasons:

1) It signaled the end of His earthly ministry. God the Father had lovingly sent His Son into the world at Bethlehem, and now the Son was returning to the Father. The period of human limitation was at an end.

2) It signified success in His earthly work. All that He had come to do, He had accomplished.

3) It marked the return of His heavenly glory. Jesus’ glory had been veiled during His sojourn on earth, with one brief exception at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9).

4) It symbolized His exaltation by the Father (Ephesians 1:20-23). The One with whom the Father is well pleased (Matthew 17:5) was received up in honor and given a name above all names (Philippians 2:9).

5) It allowed Him to prepare a place for us (John 14:2).

6) It indicated the beginning of His new work as High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16) and Mediator of the New Covenant (Hebrews 9:15).

7) It set the pattern for His return. When Jesus comes to set up the Kingdom, He will return just as He left-literally, bodily, and visibly in the clouds (Acts 1:11; Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 24:30; Revelation 1:7).

Currently, the Lord Jesus is in heaven. The Scriptures frequently picture Him at the right hand of the Father-a position of honor and authority (Psalm 110:1; Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 8:1). Christ is the Head of the Church (Colossians 1:18), the giver of spiritual gifts (Ephesians 4:7-8), and the One who fills all in all (Ephesians 4:9-10).

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Glorious Day (Living He loved me)"  Click to listen on YouTube   Casting Crowns

"One Day"  Click to listen on YouTube   Free Presbyterian Church  (The Casting Crown song is based on this old hymn)

"Glorious Day"  Click to listen on YouTube  Passion

Amish hay wagon
Brooksyne's Note: Here's the wagon partially loaded with baled hay. Hopefully Chris was able to borrow from another Amish neighbor the needed equipment so he could finish the work he and the boys started. After Annie called  and told me that Chris had a box of rhubarb ends for me I went to pick them up. The last several years he has given me boxes of rhubarb stems since only bundles of stalks are sold at market and stems are discarded (a stem is part of the plant that is a central shoot that holds the leaves, the branches, flowers and so on). The stems do not give an attractive or neat appearance would be my guess as to why they are cut off the stalks before going to market. Chris claims that the sweetest part of the rhubarb is found in the stems. He provides me with a lot of rhubarb which I chop, freeze and use in pies, jam and rhubarb punch. 

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