Rev. Dr. Ronald E. Braxton, Senior Pastor
Metropolitan AME Church
1518 M Street NW
Scripture Message: Luke 24:49-53, Acts 1:6-11 – Luke 24:49-53: Jesus appears to the disciples: 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high. ”The Ascension of Jesus 50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. Acts 1: 6-11: Jesus taken up into heaven:6 Then they gathered around him and 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 earth.” 9 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.”
The scripture provides two different takes on Jesus’ “ascension” into heaven after the crucifixion. We pick up the scripture to find Jesus assembling the disciples together at Bethany and pronouncing a blessing on them. Right before their eyes, he physically began to rise above them into the clouds and then beyond their view, just like a helium balloon.
David Cunningham, in his theological perspective on this passage, writes about “ascension day,” saying that it is not so much about the physical act of ascension, or even about the reuniting of the incarnate Word with the unbegotten Source; [ it is more about] the divine act of making space so that the mission of the church can begin. As long as God was in the world in human form, all eyes and hearts were fixed there. Jesus’ ascension makes space for the disciples to turn their gaze upon the world where repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in the Messiah’s name to all the world…”
I submit that, to be with Jesus – even in the spirit – requires rising above the grass, above the living room chair, above the mundane, above the ordinary, above trivia, above anything that would rob us of living life at its maximum.
From my own pastoral perspective let me suggest three helpful keys I found in this text which might enhance life and living in this modern era.
1. If you keep your eyes on the one who has promised to keep His eyes on you, He will turn your pain into purpose. In a Washington Post Women’s Health supplement the actress and cancer survivor Fran Drescher talks about, “Turning pain into purpose.” You can’t look up to the Ascension of Jesus without first looking up to the cross and crucifixion of Jesus. And looking up on that cross, pain is turned into purpose. Here is one of the keys: whatever you find yourself going through; whatever you have to endure; whatever pain you must suffer—physically, emotionally, financially, socially, or even spiritually—if you keep your eyes on the one who has promised to keep His eyes on you, he will turn your pain into purpose.
Sometimes we do not understand the “why” in life. Why the pain, why the loss, why the disappointment, why this hurt, why the downcast spirit, why the craziness, why the heartache, why, why, why. But just as His eye is on the sparrow, only God can turn our whys (pain) into purpose. Keep your eyes on the one who has His eyes on you and, as hard as it might get, “You’ll understand it better bye and bye.
In verse 6 in Acts 1, the disciples were about to fall in a usual human trap. They say (and I’m paraphrasing): “Jesus, this is a messed up world and some messed up times we are living in. Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now?” Jesus quickly challenges them by responding: “You don’t get to know the time…what you get is the Holy Spirit.” Here again, Jesus was saying, don’t worry about the when or the why – you don’t get to know that part. Just keep your eyes on the one who has His eyes on you;
2. If you keep your eyes on the living God instead of the “mess” going on around you, you will discover that God has ALREADY provided all that you need in your life. Here lies the 2nd key from this passage to help us live a little better today. If I keep my eyes on the living Lord and not all of the mess that is going on around me, I have discovered that God has already provided to meet whatever the need is in life. Jesus challenges the disciples not to try and be God. He says: “You go out and be a witness; you be a messenger; you go in my name — and God will provide.” What a vital lesson for us to wrap our minds and spirits around—doing what we are suppose to do and trusting God enough to do what only God can do.
Sometimes you just have to trust God; sometimes you just have to step out on God’s promise to provide. Somebody in here knows that if you keep your eyes on Him who has His eyes on you, you will discover that, just like He provided yesterday, he has already provided for today… and tomorrow.
Yes, you gotta go through/endure some things in your life, but God has a plan for your life. We are talking about tithing and giving? God has already stored up blessings you cannot imagine.
The same God who walked with the ancestors is walking with you right now! If God parted the waters for the children of Israel, why won’t that same God part the waters for you? Bring down the walls of Jericho for you? Put food on YOUR table; clothes on YOUR back; shelter on your table? If he feeds the little sparrow, why won’t he feed you? Look at the blade of grass. Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself. Seek first the kingdom of God, and keep your eyes on HIM. If you keep your eyes on all the mess going on out there, you will miss this one.
3. Keep your eyes on God. The third lesson is that, no matter what is going on around you, just keep your eyes on God. When all is said and done, Jesus was clear that God will send you the strength/power that you need in order to stand strong in this life. I know it, but in more recent times, I have become more keenly aware that the presence of God in your life can give you more power and strength than you can ever imagine.
In the scripture, in so many words, Jesus is warning the disciples that they really don’t have a clue about the future. They have no idea what lies waiting for them tomorrow. They don’t know what lies lurking around the corner of life. He cautions them to wait on God before they move and God will give them enough power and enough strength everyday to stand on him and stand for him.
There is enough going on in the world to knock you down. But the presence of God in your life will give you more power and strength than you can ever imagine. When you wake up in the morning, and you know that the Lord’s power and presence is on your life, you can say “I’m going to run on out and face whatever devils are out there.” Jesus said you don’t have a CLUE about what is going to happen; you don’t have a clue what is around the corner. But if you keep your eyes on him, you will have power to stand, power to fight, power to live, power to overcome!
Sometimes it doesn’t pay to run too quickly; you gotta wait for the power to come. You gotta “[s]tay in Jerusalem a little while longer” because power is coming, and when the power comes, you will be my disciple. You can go out and face the world, but don’t ever take your eyes off Him.
- Sermon Notes: When You and God Come to a Turning Point
- Sermon Notes: Hope for Weeping Eyes
- Sermon Notes: When God Goes to Work in a Life
- Sermon Notes: God Prevails in Our Desolate Places
- Sermon Notes: Living Above Transition and Change
Tags: Rev. Ronald E. Braxton