He’ll be back! – Worship @ Home Sunday, 24 May 2020

Jesus ascends into Heaven

Song 141 At the name of Jesus

(Tune: Camberwell)

1. At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,
Every tongue confess him King of Glory now;
‘Tis the Father’s pleasure we should call him Lord,
Who from the beginning was the mighty Word.

2. At his voice creation sprang at once to sight,
All the angel faces, all the hosts of light,
Thrones and dominations, stars upon their way,
All the heavenly orders in their great array.

3. Humbled for a season, to receive a name
From the lips of sinners unto whom he came,
Faithfully he bore it spotless to the last,
Brought it back victorious when from death he passed.

4. Bore it up triumphant with its human light,
Through all ranks of creatures to the central height,
To the throne of Godhead, to the Father’s breast;
Filled it with the glory of that perfect rest.

5. In your hearts enthrone him; there let him subdue
All that is not holy, all that is not true;
Crown him as your captain in temptation’s hour;
Let his will enfold you in its light and power.

Caroline Maria Noel (1817-77)

Chorus            Come, beautiful Christ

(tune: Home on the range)

Come, beautiful Christ,
Radiate thy beauty in me.
Tis thee I adore,
What can I ask more
Than to live for thee, beautiful Christ?

Pray the Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY

Introduction

My sister had a tricycle when she was very young, but my first cycle had two wheels and no stabilisers. I learned to ride it in about 30 seconds, but no one told me to put my foot out when coming to a halt; I fell off and grazed my knee – lesson learned. Many pieces of machinery from ride-on children’s toys to factory equipment come with safety features which are designed to reassure us. But eventually the stabilisers are taken off, and some machines cannot be made completely safe. In a society obsessed with safety, especially in the face of a global pandemic, it can be hard to accept risk. Many people are expressing reluctance to venture out, to send their children to school or to visit a restaurant once they reopen.

Jesus knew that his disciples would also face the same anxieties when he left them. Immediately following Peter’s bold acknowledgement of Jesus’ status as Son of God and Messiah (Matthew 16:16), Jesus began to talk about his death and ultimate departure. Through a series of events and much teaching, he sought to prove who he was and to give them confidence to follow him even when he was no longer present.

We refer to one of these events as The Transfiguration (Luke 9:28‑36). On a mountain with only three disciples, Jesus meets with Moses and Elijah to speak about “his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem” (v31).

The presence of Moses and Elijah, the two greatest prophets of Judaism, were confirmation of Jesus’ status as Messiah, “the one who was to come” (Luke 7:20). In addition, a cloud envelopes the group and the voice of God declares, “This is my son, whom I have chosen; listen to him” (v35). There are echoes here of Jesus’ baptism by John in the Judean wilderness.


Sukkoth in Kfar Etzyon, Gush Etzyon, Israel
By Zachi Evenor – Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/zachievenor/21246640264, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43902432

Peter, overwhelmed by the occasion proposes putting up shelters, suggesting he wants to stay on the mountain, which has become a sacred, and possibly a safe, place. But life is inherently risky. Even for those of us with material wealth as security, unexpected sickness, disease, economic collapse, war, and terror can turn our lives upside. We cannot cocoon ourselves against every risk and trial of life. Rather, as the disciples, we must be prepared to come down from the mountain into the valley below.

When Jesus and his companions rejoin the main group, they discover the other disciples have failed in their attempts to heal a wee boy. Jesus comes to the rescue, explains the problem, and reminds them that he won’t always be around. There is a need for them to develop their faith and confidence in him. We need to be sure we know who Jesus is, and why we should trust him.

The song below may be unfamiliar, but it reminds us of our need to get to know Jesus in the blessed times, so that so that we might live his life and do his work in the hard times until he returns.

Song 145        Tis good, Lord, to be here

(Tune: Carlisle)

1. ‘Tis good, Lord, to be here,
Thy glory fills the night;
Thy face and garments, like the sun,
Shine with unborrowed light.

2. Tis good, Lord, to be here,
Thy beauty to behold,
Where Moses and Elijah stood,
The messengers of old.

3. Fulfiller of the past,
Promise of things to be,
We hail thy body glorified,
And our redemption see.

4. Before we taste of death,
We see thy Kingdom come.
O might we hold the vision bright
And make this hill our home!

5. Tis good, Lord, to be here,
Yet we may not remain;
But, since thou bidst us leave the mount
Come with us to the plain.

Joseph Armitage Robinson (1858-1933)

Bible Reading Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:1-14

Reflections

Can you recall how you felt when you left school to start work? Or perhaps you did an apprenticeship, or learned to drive, and then found yourself on your own, expected to do everything solo for the first time. It can be quite daunting leaving the safe surroundings of the learning environment to take responsibility for your own work or to get into your first car.

© 2020 Theory Test Advice. All Rights Reserved.
https://www.theorytestadvice.co.uk/
© 2020 Theory Test Advice. All Rights Reserved.
https://www.theorytestadvice.co.uk/

In those circumstances, holding onto something familiar can be very helpful. For example, Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre before pulling away in a car. Or perhaps you developed your own little rituals to make you feel comfortable: taking a particular route to work; placing your paper and pens on your office in a certain layout; pausing outside the factory gates to gather yourself.

Luke tells us that Jesus met with his disciples many times over 40 days “and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive” (Acts 1:3). As we have noted before, he often used familiar words or actions to show that he really was Jesus.

We see another familiar action in the lifting up of his hands to bless the disciples. They would have observed this same action many times: feeding the 5000 and 4000; breaking the bread at the last supper; breaking the bread in Emmaus. This same blessing and the same power that had been at work in the miracles was now bestowed upon them.

Even the appearance of the cloud was a symbol of Jesus’ divine status. Throughout the wanderings in the wilderness, the cloud led the Israelites by day, and settled over the Tabernacle as a sign of God’s presence whilst they were encamped. At the Transfiguration, God spoke to the disciples from a cloud and Jesus ascended to Heaven in a cloud. Not only that, but the angels reassured the disciples that Jesus would come back from Heaven to them “in the same way you have seen him go up into heaven” (Acts 1:10)

What a difference we see in the disciples following Jesus’ Ascension! At the end of the Gospel, Luke describes them “continually at the temple, praising God” (Luke 24:53). And in Acts, we find them in the upper room, “joined together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14). There is a new confidence to these previously frightened men and women, buoyed up by the resurrection appearances, and the confirmation by his ascension that Jesus remains alive. And, although no longer physically present, he had promised again his Spirit, who would remind them of his teaching, show them the truth, and give them power to witness. No more cowering behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews.” Instead, they were eagerly anticipating their commissioning by The Holy Spirit.

Incidentally, we note that Jesus’ brothers were now with them, their earlier cynicism (Mark 3:20-21 and John 7:2-4) having given way to bold faith. Indeed, James (apparently the eldest of Jesus’ siblings) become leader of the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 1:19). The flurry of post-resurrection appearances seems to have overcome their initial reluctant faith.

Conclusion

When a leader moves on from their position, whether in a church, a sports club, a business or a nation, there is often anxiety about what will follow. In more than one appointment, we have had to offer reassurance to anxious corps members about what the future holds. Thankfully, in most cases, our optimism has been justified.

From the moment that he “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51), Jesus carefully explained all that would happen, so that his disciples would not be afraid when he left them. As we have noted, there were many words and signs, linked to previous experience as well as Old Testament prophecy, that demonstrated he was God’s anointed son. Finally, his bodily ascension proved that he was alive forevermore (like Moses and Elijah before him).

As we look forward to Pentecost, let us review the things God has given us to strengthen our faith in Jesus as our friend and Saviour: the words and actions of Jesus, the writings of the apostles, the witness of countless believers before us, our previous experiences of the grace and power of God in our lives. And may God give us the power to be his witnesses wherever we may go.

Stuart Townend’s song reminds us of the reasons why we can have confidence in Jesus: as long as we trust in the finished work of Jesus, demonstrated by his resurrection and ascension, we can be confident that no external power can take us from God’s hands.

Song                In Christ Alone

(A capella version on YouTube)

IN CHRIST ALONE my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,

Here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone! – who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine –
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death,

This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand!

Stuart Townend & Keith Getty
Copyright © 2001 Thankyou Music

Benediction: May God’s blessing surround you each day

May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin,
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.

About prophetable

My wife Elizabeth and I were commissioned as Officers (ministers) in The Salvation Army in 1997, and have served in appointments in England and Scotland. Since July 2016 I have been working in The Salvation Army's Scotland Office as combined parliamentary and ecumenical representative.
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