Ascension Sunday

‘Let not your heart be troubled..’

When we looked at this verse on Sunday, we asked the question, ‘Why did Jesus say this?’. To find out why we went back a chapter to chapter 13 of John’s Gospel and found that the context was Jesus telling his disciples that he was leaving them.

In their confusion and fear, summarised by Peter’s, ‘Where are you going?’ Jesus comforts them with these words – ‘don’t worry, I’m going away to do what I need to do, but I’ll be coming back.’

Like many of us though, in the heat of the moment, when emotions are raw and close to the surface these words probably weren’t heard, and, if they were, not understood.  The only reality they heard was that Jesus was leaving them. Imagine the betrayal. These men had grown close to Jesus over a long period of intimate companionship. They had learned to trust him, had seen what he could do, drew a sense of comfort and security from him. They had left comfort and security to follow him as he had asked them too, and now he’s going away.

I guess we can relate to their initial feelings. Those moments of confusion when news we have heard, circumstances we have encountered have left us speechless – the questions that we are left with. What am I going to do? What happens now? How will I cope? Why me?

Not too many weeks pass, and we have Jesus leaving his followers again. This time he is taken up to heaven before their eyes – what we call the ascension – and the response this time is radically different. Luke records it like this:

Luke 24:50-53 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.  While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.  And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

Sorrow and confusion is turned into joy. The reality of what Jesus has said sinks home. The bodily resurrection of Jesus is consummated by his return to his kingdom, his throne, the place of his glory. His humiliation is over, his glorious reign continues in new and powerful and wonderful ways.

He is now the resurrected and the ascended King of Kings – his role as ruler of all creation has been made clear to his followers. The reality of heaven and life eternal is beyond doubt, his promise has been made clear. He is at work preparing a place for his followers, and the beauty of that place is to enjoy his eternal company.

He hasn’t left his followers alone – he has sent the Holy Spirit to be with us wherever we are. Jesus is not limited by space and time. History isn’t his captive.

That’s the joy – have you experienced it? He longs for you to know him and enjoy him and to take comfort from him that no matter what you are going through, ‘Let not your heart be troubled’.

The Presence of God

Psalm 139:7
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

We spent time on Sunday looking at verses 1-12 in this wonderful Psalm (Psalm 139).  These verses indicate that with God we can run but we can’t hide.  God is wanting to be intimately engaged with our world, our lives, our concerns, our joy.

 We often feel that God is far from us. That somehow he isn’t interested in us, but this Psalm says He is. We cannot get away from the presence of God. The term used to describe this is that God is omnipresent, He is everywhere. It reminds us that the world, the whole of creation is His.

There are times though when we want to hide from God. Adam and Eve did it. Having had the most intimate of relationships with God, they acted in such a way that they spoiled that relationship. BUT God didn’t give up on them. He looked for them. He took the initiative to find them. God always takes the initiative. We don’t make friends with God, He makes friends with us – He has acted first.

The Gospel story is again of God taking the initiative to bring us back into His presence. He did it by sending Jesus. He did it again by sending his Holy Spirit.

We can run but we can’t hide. BUT we can choose to be in relationship with God and enjoy His presence.

As you go further through Psalm 139 we are reminded that despite what we think of ourselves, and why we might think of ourselves the way we do, God loves us, He knows us.

Will we take time to build that relationship with God that is for our good?

This week take time to read the Bible and meditate on it. Read a passage slowly, look for words or phrases that stand out to you. Put yourself in the passage, make yourself the object of what is being said, and allow God to speak to you.

He loves you and wants what is best for you.

John 1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him, nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. … The Word (Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling among us…

Here in the prologue to the Gospel of John, we are told something essential to us as Christians. Jesus is God!! Jesus is the eternal, creating, sustaining God. Not a created being but the always existent God.

And, John says, do you want to know God? Here he is, God lived among us. He became flesh and dwelt with us – Jesus is God incarnate – Jesus is God in the flesh. Jesus is God flesh and blood, skin and bone, muscle and sinew. Living breathing, walking talking God!! Not distant, not cosmic, here present with us!!

Here he is eternal, creating, all knowing, all powerful, life-giving, life-sustaining God – in a body. Touch him, speak with him, walk with him.

This bodily contained God came to earth with a purpose. I have come, He says, to tell you really good news. I’ve got to speak it directly to you, I’ve got to act it out. It can’t be done from a distance – I’ve got to come close – I’ve got to walk among you, and tell it to you and show it to you. You just won’t get it otherwise. I’ve got to come down to your level – I really want you to grasp it. But unless I’m here with you, you just won’t get it.

He so embraced us that he walked where people walked.

He got jostled and bumped, he walked down crowded streets – he didn’t hide himself away – he let his feet do the walking. He travelled the worn pathways – he encountered people – he chatted, he joked, he lived and laughed – and there was something about him that drew people to him.

But there is more to it than the people can see.

Jesus came to do what we could not do – he came to give himself for us. He came to call people back to a relationship with Him – he came to save people from the lives of destruction. He came to build a church !!

A people set apart and called to follow him with purpose.

Jesus came as God embodied and look at what he did with that body!!! We are to be Christ embodied – as Jesus came and lived among us with purpose so are we. As Jesus lived with people walked with people shared with people so must we. We are not to hide ourselves away.

We are to be selfless – we are to be spending time with those in need, we are to be looking for those who are in need. We have a message of good news, freedom and life and light that we are given to share.

We are to be so committed to that task that nothing will stop us – not our comfort, not our pride, not our lives. We are the agents of Jesus Christ – we are so connected to him – that when people see us, spend time with us, hear us they see Jesus.

This week, ask Jesus to show you want he wants you to see. Go and speak and make a difference in the lives of others.