Monday, June 15, 2015

Have You Believed?

 The Gospel Story tells us that several times during Jesus’ earthly ministry He would disappear into the crowd unnoticed by those around Him. The disciples were probably used to this by now, probably not even giving it a second thought. They knew they would meet again at a later time that day or night. But this time was different. Maybe that’s why Jesus left this earth in physical form in such a dramatic way. His eleven disciples, now missing Judas would know that Jesus’ departure was final (or the time being.) Luke makes note of the two men dressed in white, these Angelic beings escorting Jesus upward into Heaven. Maybe these two were the same ones who appeared some days earlier in the transfiguration. Maybe at the tomb when they appeared to Mary? We don’t know and can only speculate on this and other events leading up this defining moment, this ascension to the right hand of God. Whatever the details may be, one thing surely stands out about Jesus ascension. This was the defining moment between two phases of ministry-the earthly and the heavenly. Jesus was not taken up until after He had given instructions through the Holy Spirit to the disciples he had chosen to carry on the earthly ministry.
        Luke is the only Gospel writer who records the event of Jesus’
Ascension. There were some who did not believe the ascension to be a literal and historical event. Maybe its because they didn’t realize the importance of this event and what it signified to the beginnings of the early church and the dawn of Christianity. These would say that since this miracle had not happened before it wasn’t genuine. Miracles do not need precedents to be real. Before Jesus, the blind were not healed, or the lame given the ability to walk. Even when we look at the Old Testament, no one had parted the Red Sea before Moses. You see, for those of us who were not eyewitnesses, we must choose to believe. Today we would like to look at some of the reasons why Jesus ascension was so important to we who remain until Jesus comes again for His Church.
        As I once heard a Sunday School teacher say, ”Jesus went up and the Holy Spirit came down.” That’s pretty basic isn’t it? And actually makes it really easy to understand. For a few moments today, let us look at what the coming of the Holy Spirit really meant.
                Witnesses, not Stargazers: The two men in white robes asked Jesus’ disciples why they were gazing up into the sky. The Holy Spirit was given to empower Jesus followers and the early church. Jesus told them they had been baptized with water. He told them that very soon they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Denominations will differ on what this baptism means. The most important takeaway here is that the Holy Spirit was given that these new Christians could spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the region and eventually the entire world. You see, they were to be witnesses, not stargazers.
On June 11, 1739, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism signified a defining moment when he made a entry into his journal. He wrote that famous statement, he viewed the entire world as his parish. John wanted us to remember that God doesn’t just show up within the four walls of the church. God wants us to take the Gospel everywhere. When you drive throughout the countryside you will notice Methodist churches even in the most remote places. When I watch the movie with John Wayne and Kathryn Hepburn, I notice she is playing a female preacher. I told Vicky that even though this was fiction, since she was in a remote place, and a female, she would most likely be a Methodist. Early circuit riders traveled by horseback in all kinds of weather, usually in pairs. The seasoned pastor would train the younger, who would sometimes be his replacement. That why we see churches all over the countryside.

The disciples and the apostle Paul spread the Gospel throughout their known
area. They were persecuted, killed, and often tortured for the Gospel’s. Foxes Book of Martyrs records the brutal treatment Jesus followers were given throughout the centuries. But something amazing happened. Today we would call this a God Thing. Just when the rulers of the day thought they had killed the last follower. Just when they though that now we have put a stop to these Jesus people. Guess what? They would rise up with a new group somewhere else and start all over again, even stronger and bolder than before. They could never have had this boldness on their own. That’s the boldness God gave them through the Holy Spirit. That’s the boldness to witness that we need in this day and age. Jesus may longer be with us physically, but the Holy Spirit was sent to guide us and give us strength when we need encouragement from above.