Devotional Word for Friday, May 22, 2020
Thank you for being part of these daily devotions. Working through the various facets of Jesus’ Ascension has been a blessing for me. It also has sensitized me to all the other places in the Bible where the Ascension is part of the fabric of the story, as it were. For instance, until this week, I had never realized the Ascension of Jesus is at the heart of what Psalm 110 teaches. Sit at My right hand is exactly what the Ascension is about.
There are two matters I’d like for us to think about today. I’m still struck by the force of Luke’s words in Acts 1:2 where he says that after His resurrection, Jesus had given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. That’s forceful language. Jesus gave orders. What were they?
First, Jesus knew His Ascension was not the end, but the beginning. Something new was to begin. He commissioned or commanded His disciples about it. Yes, I’m referring to the Great Commission. We know it is in Matthew 28, but Luke also gives an account of it in his gospel. He includes some important matters not found in Matthew. The most significant part Luke includes is in verse 45 of chapter 24: Then He [Jesus] opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. I suspect that encompasses a great deal of what Jesus did during those 40 days prior to the Ascension. What the disciples could not understand before, now they do. It is worth noting what they learned came from a proper understanding of Scripture.
Here’s what they learned: Jesus said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. [Luke 24:46-48] So, all of what they do and proclaim is to be based on Scripture. It is to be about the Lord Jesus and the necessity of His suffering and dying to make atonement for sins. He alone is sufficient to bring about forgiveness. They are to know that by no other name, by no other way, is possible to deal with human sin.
Also, what it took them awhile to grasp fully, this proclamation was to go out to all the nations. Matthew adds to a fuller picture of what that entails when he relates that Jesus told them to make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all I have commanded you. [Matt. 28:18-20] This means Jesus commands more than mere proclamation. He commands them to make disciples of the nations. We’re still under that mandate. Jesus has not backed off from that a bit.
So, that’s one particular about which Jesus gave them orders, the other has to do with what they need to carry out that order. Here’s how Luke records that second order: You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. [Luke 24:48-49] He explains it more explicitly in his record in Acts 1: . . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. [Acts 1:8]
What Jesus told the disciples then, remains true for us today. We need the Holy Spirit. Yes, I know that all Christians are born again by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit dwells in us. But I find it is all too easy to go forward in our own strength and forget the power of the Holy Spirit. I’m not advocating for powerful, emotional experiences as the basis for what we do. What we need, rather, is a conscious dependence on the work of the Holy Spirit. We need to pray each day – indeed, many times each day – for the Holy Spirit to guide us and to use us and to help us. What the Lord spoke through Zechariah to Zerubbabel is still true today: This is the word of the Lord . . . Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. [Zech. 4:6]
The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, has been at work in the world from the beginning, obviously. Now, just prior to His Ascension, Jesus tells the disciples to wait, because a new work of the Holy Spirit is going to take place. He will transform the world, through them. What vision! I’m certain those disciples had no idea that 2,000 years later billions of people all around the globe would be joined in following Jesus as Savior and Lord of their lives. Praise God that we’re part of those billions! Praise God, that He is still focused on all the nations of the world, and the billions who have not yet heard the gospel of Jesus. The orders Jesus gave to the disciples just prior to His Ascension remain in effect for us, His disciples today.
Though Monday is Memorial Day, I will have devotional thoughts for the day. I hope to be able to share them with you on Monday. Let us pray: Gracious God, we bow our hearts before You. You are the Lord of all creation. You are sovereign over all things. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for making us part of Your people. Holy Spirit, come and continue to work in us so that we might declare the good news of Christ by our words and by our deeds. Watch over us this holiday weekend. We commend ourselves to Your care. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.