come to the final lesson in this series on the life of Christ. The sections of
Scripture which tell us of events after the resurrection often seem fragmented
and of little importance. But we shall see there are some grand themes here.
Matthew 28:16-20 NIV
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told
them to go. (17) When they saw him, they worshiped
him; but some doubted. (18) Then Jesus came
to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to
me. (19) Therefore go and make disciples of
all nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) and teaching them to obey everything I have
commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the
is well for us to review the basics of authority. We know from this passage
that all authority belongs to Christ. It is therefore well to remember that in
the kingdom of God authority comes with responsibility (to him who created the
universe is given the task of sustaining it and providing for it) – and with
matching power. This authority is rightly his for two reasons:
by right of creation. It’s his universe; he made it. He therefore is
responsible for maintaining it – and from responsibility flows authority.
by right of conquest. The terror of this universe is death, and he has conquered
that usurping ruler. Satan is defeated.
is some confusion that arises here. Disciples of whom? Disciples of my
particular church, or of Christ? The answer seems simple until you remember
that the disciple in question is getting his answers from you. There is only
one way in which this will work – they must be disciples of Christ shown in
you. Follow me, as I follow Christ.
are told to baptize
them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It seems like a formula,
something to pronounce during the ceremony, but it is actually very important.
To do this is to acknowledge the unity of the Trinity. There are not three
gods, but God – three in one. This is fundamental to the faith, and we should
get it right from the start.
the church today largely neglects this aspect. In older times the
restorationist churches were accused of “dunk ‘em and drop ‘em.” Today, it seems
that we cannot risk suggesting to the new convert that there is anything he or
she really needs to learn. It’s not that we don’t want to teach them, but we
have good reasons for not teaching them, to wit:
implies the discipline of learning. Consumer Christianity asks what the
people want, and gives it to them. That usually doesn’t include the hard
work of study. So it is that I have heard (for over fifteen years so far)
that “Sunday School classes are obsolete and will wither away within five
implies the existence of a progression of learning. New Christians have
different needs that older ones. That implies careful planning on the
part of the staff of a church – and it also implies that learning will
take years. Our time horizons don’t stretch that long; hence it can’t be
implies the existence of teachers (note the plural). In the new theory of
mega-churches, teachers are replaced with people who can operate a DVD
player, so that all instruction will be lockstep the same. This is very
convenient for the new format, which allows only one “star” in the local
church. The consequences of this development are, I submit, much more
perilous than realized.
last is particularly important. “Teaching” by its very nature involves setting
an example. People are used to seeing “examples” like rock stars only from a
distance – which might explain why those growing up under the new system seem
to have such a mild affection for Christ.
too, that we are to teach the disciples to “observe all things” which Christ
commanded. It is not given to us to pick and choose. It is no great trick to
prepare a list of neglected things.
If followed, this alone would keep us in the world, not of the world.
Acts 1:4-8 NIV
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command:
"Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which
you have heard me speak about. (5) For John
baptized with water, but in a few
days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." (6)
So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time
going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" (7)
He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father
has set by his own authority. (8) But you
will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my
witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the
reader must understand that the author has a good deal of experience in the art
of waiting, if not waiting patiently. My wife was an hour late for our
wedding, and her promptitude has not really improved over the last forty
years. My tolerance, however, seems to have mellowed a bit with age.
are told, as the disciples were here, to wait. How does one go about “waiting
on the Lord?”
is not simply filing yourself away in the file cabinet until someone chooses to
open the drawer. Indeed, we are commanded to do some things while we wait:
are commanded to be strong and take heart while waiting.
we are commanded to put our trust in his word.
Waiting for the Lord involves reading the Scriptures, so that we will know
in whom we trust.
of course, we are to trust in Him.
He does while we wait
many Christians feel that waiting on the Lord means watching nothing happen,
with no sign from God. It is not so.
tells us, explicitly, that he will deliver us from that which threatens.
This is particularly true in the context of personal revenge – the
temptation to say that God isn’t doing anything about that jerk, so I
will uphold and comfort us; we shall “renew our strength.”
tells us also that at the end of the wait good things will happen.
our wait for his return is over, he will have mercy upon us.
We need not fear the judgment; he is merciful.
the ancient Jew he promised the inheritance of the land; but also he
promised that we would see the wicked cut off. Where are the Nazis now?
How about the Soviets? And where will American humanism be?
course, the ultimate reward is his return.
Acts 1:9-12 NIV
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him
from their sight. (10) They were looking
intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in
white stood beside them. (11) "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."
(12) Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill
called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk
from the city.
one sense, the reason for the ascension of Christ is simple: He is possessed
of the new body – and he must go somewhere. But there are less obvious
reasons as well:
is fitting to his honor, power and authority that he arise to the supreme
place. This is, after all, the one who created the world.
tells us, explicitly, that it was necessary that he go in order that the
Holy Spirit would come.
one may surprise you: his ascension was necessary so that spiritual gifts
well that we review just what benefits come from the ascension – benefits to
fairly obvious one is to prepare a place for us.
is a bit more subtle – to be our High Priest.
To us this seems somewhat less than important. But in the time in which
it happened, only the High Priest had access to God. In short, at the
Ascension our High Priest opened up direct access to God.
such, he serves as our intercessor with God.
Sometimes direct access to God is not what we want – we need someone to
speak up for the sinner.
ascended – and the angels assure us that he shall return in the same way. In
his first advent he came in weakness; he must leave to return again in power.
On that day shall come the judgment of mankind. When is that day? Only the
Father knows. But we shall find out soon enough. In the meanwhile, wait upon