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WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT?
Intro: The past month and a half had been a whirlwind for the Lord’s disciples. Just forty days earlier they had seen Him die on a cross. On that day all their dreams and hopes came crashing to the ground.
They hid themselves away in fear of suffering the same fate Jesus had experienced. But, three days after Jesus died, He appeared to them alive again. Their Lord has risen from the dead! There was hope. Still they wavered. They were up and they were down.
Then, the Lord took them aside and began to teach them some truths they desperately needed to know, v. 3. He is going away He tells them, and He is leaving HIs work, His ministry in their hands.
• They needed to know what the Lord expected of them, and He taught them.
• They needed to know what they were to be doing, and the Lord taught them.
• They needed comfort for their troubled hearts, and He gave it to them.
• He spent forty days with His men instructing them, comforting them, and spending time with them.
After spending the forty days with Jesus after His resurrection, the disciples are standing with Jesus on the Mount of Olives. He gives them some final words of instruction, then while they are watching Him, He begins to rise up, ascending into the heavens. Suddenly, He is gone. He is taken from their presence, and they are left in bewilderment on the mountain without him.
In that moment, the disciples are filled with more questions than answers. Their minds are doubtless filled with many confusing thoughts.
While they stand there looking up in to the sky, angels, messengers from God, appear to them and say, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?” The angels ask, “What Are You Looking At?” In other words, “What has your attention? What are you focused on?” “What are you looking at?”
That’s the thought I would like to explore today. I want to preach on the question, What Are You Looking At? I want to point out some issues that occupied the minds of the disciples the day Jesus ascended back into Heaven. Those same issues are on the minds of many of God’s children today. Let’s explore these issues together and hear the word God has for us today
I. V. 9 A COMPELLING DEPARTURE
While Jesus stands with His disciples on the Mount of Olives, instructing them in their task and in His truth, He is suddenly “taken up” into Heaven. Gravity suddenly lost its power over Jesus, and He began to ascend up into the sky, until He disappeared into a “cloud”.
The word “cloud” does not refer to a typical rain cloud. It refers to the glory cloud that surrounds the very presence of God. In other words, when it came time for Jesus to leave this world, His Father received Him up into the Father’s Own glory, and took Him home.
After Jesus ascends into Heaven, His disciples “looked steadfastly toward Heaven”, v. 10. Verse 11 says they were “gazing up into Heaven”. The words “looked steadfastly” and “gazing” translate the same word. It means “to fasten the eyes upon, to look intently at something”. It means they were transfixed on Jesus as He ascended back into Heaven, amazed at what was taking place. They really shouldn’t have been amazed. After all, Jesus told them it would happen, John 6:62; 16:28; 17:11.
This transfixed “looking” and “gazing” of the disciples into Heaven speaks of more than them just standing there in rapt amazement. It suggests that they were looking after Him like men who were worried they had lost someone forever. It suggests a look of hopeless bewilderment, of sadness, of brokenhearted astonishment. Perhaps that is why the angels issued a mild rebuke to the disciples in verse 10.
For the disciples, the ascension of the Lord back into Heaven changed everything. For the last three years these men had spent nearly every moment with Jesus. They had left family, friends, and business to follow Him. Now, He is gone, and they don’t know what to do.
I am certain that the Lord’s departure left the disciples confused and concerned. They did not understand completely why He had to leave them here, while He returned to the Father.
There are least three reasons why Jesus had to go to Heaven while His men stayed here.
• If Jesus had not gone away, the Spirit of God could not have come, John 16:7. These men had been walking by sight. They lived with Jesus. They heard His voice. They saw His miracles. They felt His touch. He was real. He was tangible. The was there.
When Jesus died on the cross, the disciples were filled with fear, John 20:19. Even after the resurrection, some of them nearly quit on the Lord, John 21:3. These men were so accustomed to be with Jesus they did not believe they could function without Him.
When Jesus leaves, and the Holy Spirit comes, these men will learn to “walk by faith, not by sight”, 2 Corinthians 5:7. The Spirit of God will be in them to empower them for service. Jesus wanted to use HIs men to accomplish great things. He would accomplish that through the Holy Spirit, John 14:12.
We enjoy that same blessing today. Because Jesus went away, and the Spirit came, He dwells within every child of God to lead them, guide them, help them, comfort them, and instruct them in the ways of God, John 16.
• Jesus went to Heaven to make intercession for them. When He ascended back into Heaven, Jesus sat on the right hand of His Father, Hebrews 1:3. I can’t explain how all this works, but the Bible teaches us that when Jesus ascended into Heaven, He took His people with Him, Ephesians 2:6. When He sat down in Heaven, His people sat down in Heaven with Him. He is there today as our representative, guaranteeing that where He is, we will one day be too, John 14:1-3.
We have a representative on the inside. Our Savior is in the presence of God, where “He ever lives to make intercession for us”, Hebrews 7:25. That is, when sin creeps into our lives, when Satan accuses us before the throne of God, we have a Savior Who says, “That debt has already been paid”, 1 John 2:1.
His presence in Heaven is why the saints of God are eternally secure. The Savior is ever interceding with the Father. Thus, we are able to stand, both now and later, blameless in the Father’s sight. “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,” (Jude 1:24 KJV)
• Jesus went to Heaven so that He could return for His people some day. Before went to the cross, He promised that He would return for His people, John 14:3. The angels at the ascension reaffirmed that promise, Acts 1:9-10. As the Scripture closes, His promise is repeated again in Revelation 22:20. In that verse Jesus said, “Surely, I come quickly”.
All we as believers have ever known is that Jesus is not here physically. I want to remind that, while He is not here with us, He is physically present in Heaven. One day, He will return for His people to take them to Heaven, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52.
One element that occupied the minds of the disciples that day was the ascension of Jesus into glory of Heaven, and into the presence of His Father. We would do well to meditate on His ascension and rejoice in what it means for us.
I. A Compelling Departure
II. V. 6-7 A CONFUSING FUTURE
With Jesus going away, the disciples are concerned about what the future holds both for them, and for the work of the Lord. They ask Jesus about the future, and about when they can expect Him to establish the kingdom of God. They want to know if the time has come, or if they must wait.
The answer the Lord gives them is anything but clear. Jesus tells them, essentially, that such matters are not their business, but belong to the secret, providential workings of the Lord. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God…”
The future is a secret thing, which man is prevented from knowing. No so-called psychic, medium, soothsayer, or prophet can tell you what will happen tomorrow. No one but God knows what the future holds or when Jesus will come for His people. Anyone who says different is deceiving you.
While no human may know what the future holds, we do know Who holds the future. Our Father stands outside time. He transcends the boundaries of time and space. While we cannot see the future, the Lord is already in all our tomorrows. He has prepared our way, and ordered our steps, Psalm 37:23; Proverbs 16:9.
That is a comforting thought, isn’t it? Our world is filled with pain, sorrow, and heartache. None of knows whether tomorrow will be better or worse than today. Regardless of what the path of life hold for us, our Father not only walks with us, Hebrews 13:5, He also walks ahead of us to secure our future.
Tomorrow is a confusing thing to us mortals. After all, we are not even promised that we will be here, Proverbs 27:1. Today we are here, tomorrow we may be in eternity. Today the fair winds may be blowing around us, tomorrow may find us in the storm of our lives. While the future may be shrouded in mystery, as far as we were concerned, we have the Lord’s assurance that He is already there, and that He has the future well in hand.
The disciples were concerned about the future, but they had no need to be. The Father had the future well in hand. How about you? Are you concerned about tomorrow? Do worries, fears, and doubts about tomorrow trouble you? If they do, you have no need to be worried or afraid. Your Father has already taken care of all your tomorrows. They are all in His hand and so are you!
I. A Compelling Departure
II. A Confusing Future
III. V. 4-5, 8 A CHALLENGING TASK
Another element that had the attention of the disciples that day was the assignment they were given in verse 8. Jesus tells them that they were to be His “witnesses” to the world. They were to begin at Jerusalem, then they must take the message to Judaea, then to Samaria, then to “the uttermost part of the world”. They were tasked with sharing the Gospel with all people in all places.
Their mandate was to “preach the Gospel to every creature”, Mark 16:15. They were to “go and teach all nations”, Matthew 28:19. These men had a message to tell, and the Lord sent them out to tell it. That assignment must have been front and center in their minds as they watched Jesus depart from the world, and disappear into the glory cloud.
For the last three years the disciples had watched the Lord Jesus do what He was sending them out to do. They had heard Him preach the Gospel, watched Him love the lost, and seen Him cross all social and religious barriers to reach sinners. He had used them too. He has sent them out to preach, but He had always been there when they went out and when they came back in.
Now, He is going away and they are left behind to carry on without Him. Surely the task they faced filled them with fear. How would they do it without Him? How would they accomplish God’s work if He was not here to help them? In this text Jesus reminds them that, even though He is going away, He is not leaving them here to do this task alone.
• In verse 5, Jesus promises them that they will “be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence”. That promise was fulfilled ten days later on the Day of Pentecost, when the Spirit God came in power to fill the church with His power and presence, Acts 2.
The night before He died, the Lord Jesus promised His men that He would send them Someone to help them. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14:16–18 KJV)
• In verse 8, Jesus tells the disciples that the Holy Ghost will empower them to carry out the mission God is leaving them here to do. They will not have to do God’s alone; they are promised His power, His touch, and His blessing as they carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
We are still here, and God has not changed His mind! Do you know why you are still in this world? You are here because the Lord isn’t through with you yet. One reason He leaves us here in this world, with all its sin, its problems, and its pain, is so that we might be witnesses to His saving grace to a world is trapped in sin. He leaves you here so that the world might see Jesus in you, and so that you might tell the lost about the Christ who saves.
- “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.” (2 Corinthians 3:2–3 KJV)
- “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 KJV)
- 2 Corinthians 3 says that we are “epistles”. That is, we are God’s letters of love and grace to a lost world. When they read our lives, they should read of His love, His mercy, His grace, and of His saving power.
- Ephesians 2:10 says that we are God’s “workmanship”. That word comes from the Greek word that gives us our English word “poem”. It refers to “an artist’s master work”. In short, we are examples to he world of what God can do when He saves a soul.
That is why we should live for Him, and why we should always be ready to share the Gospel with a lost world. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1 Peter 3:15 KJV)
I am sure the task laid upon them occupied the minds of the disciples that day. I fear, however, that the task rarely cross our minds today. We have the same assignment today. May the Lord help us to be about our “Father’s business”.
I. A Compelling Departure
II. A Confusing Future
III. A Challenging Task
IV. V. 10-11 A COMFORTING PROMISE
The minds of the disciples are filled with many thoughts. They have been given an assignment that far exceeds their abilities. They face a future that is unknown and probably a little more than frightening to them. To top it all off, they have just watched as their Savior, their Lord, the One they have left everything behind to follow, disappeared into a cloud of glory. They are terrified, and filled with many questions about today and about all the tomorrow that lie ahead.
They are so captivated by the sight of Jesus going up into Heaven that they are oblivious to the two strangers who appear on the mountain with them. These men, who turn out to be angels, speak words of comfort to the confused disciples.
The angels tell them that “this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” They say, “Yes, He has gone away, but there is no use staring into Heaven with a sense of confused bewilderment. Jesus has gone away, but He is coming again”.
The implication is clear. They angels tell them to be about the business of the Lord, knowing that as they work for Him and serve Him, there is coming a day when He will return.
I have already referenced it, but that is the same assurance we live under today. While the future unfolds around us with all its uncertainties and questions and while our lives are occupied with serving Him, we have the blessed confidence that Jesus is coming again to claim His people, John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52. One day Jesus will come for you, and He will take you home to live with Him forever in Heaven. That is why Paul referred to the Lord’s coming is, “…blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ”.
No matter what today holds, or what tomorrow brings your way, rest in the knowledge that Jesus is coming. If you know Him as your Savior that day will be a day of wonder, blessing, and glory.
Conc: What are you looking at today? What has your attention? What are you occupied with today?
Are you caught up in the wonder of a risen Savior, Who loves you, and Who gave Himself for you on the cross of Calvary? If you are caught up in Jesus and in His glory, that is a wonderful thing. It means you are saved and will be ready to meet Jesus when He comes again?
Are you confused about the turns life has taken? Are you worried over the future and what it holds for you? If you are worried about today or tomorrow, I challenge you to leave that in the hands of the Lord. He has your today and all your tomorrows well in hand. Bring your fears to Him and let Him comfort your heart.
Are you actively serving the Lord and doing the work of sharing the Gospel He has called you too? If you are serving the Lord and sharing Him with the lost, carry on. One day He is coming and He will reward you for your faithful service to Him.
Are you looking for His coming? Are you even ready for His return? If you are looking for Him, don’t stop. He’s coming!