Lesson 2: The Ascension of Jesus/ Disciples Wait in Jerusalem
Now we were studying and looking at verse 5 before the break. Did you observe that all of verse 5 and the last part of verse 4 is a direct quotation from Jesus? Verse 5 is a complete sentence. Notice in that sentence Jesus makes a contrast between the past and the future with reference to these apostles. John baptized - now that's past tense - "but ye shall be." That's future. This John is John the Baptist, the prophet that came before Jesus. Now focus in on the word "with" in verse 5. John baptized with what? Ok. Water. But what did Jesus say the apostles would be baptized with? Water? No sir. In this future baptism that Jesus referred to, he said the apostles shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost; not by the Holy Ghost, nor for the Holy Ghost, but with the Holy Ghost. Now the Holy Ghost stands in that promised baptism where the water stood in John's baptism. John the Baptist said in Mark 1:8 while preaching in the wilderness: "I indeed have baptized you with water." Then with reference to Jesus, John finished his sentence in that verse with this contrast: "but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost." Thus, John had made a prophesy. Now that prophesy was that Jesus would do some baptizing at a later time and Jesus would baptize with the Holy Ghost. Where John used water, Jesus would use the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit. Now it's evident from the verse we're looking at that Jesus had told the apostles after Jesus' resurrection from the dead that John's prophesy had not yet been fulfilled, but it was going to be "not many days hence." That's at the end of verse 5. Now it's interesting that John the Baptist in connection with that prophesy also prophesied or foretold about a kingdom which he said "is at hand." That is, the kingdom would come in the near future. Now that's in Matt. 3:2. Likewise, Jesus had repeated that same prophesy after John’s imprisonment. Now that's in Matt. 3:17 and again in Mark 1:15. Now you remember Jesus' conversation pertained to the kingdom up in verse 3. This promise of the Father as it's referred to in verse 4 is what Jesus commanded the apostles to wait for up in Jerusalem. Now, anxiety was building. Let's read together verses 6, 7 and 8: “When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, it is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
These verses record a discussion between Jesus and his apostles that took place on that 40th day after Jesus came forth from the grave on that glorious Sunday morning that we read about in the gospels. Doubtless, these apostles did not realize that the time was so far spent and that such a miracle was destined to take place in just a minute or two. Now I suppose they had by this time grown accustomed to Jesus' miraculous appearances to them, if that's possible, and as they gathered that Thursday on Mt. Olivet with Jesus, they must have pondered how that only a few days before they had been on a mountain in Galilee with Jesus when he said to them: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
Their anticipation of the kingdom or church that Jesus had promised them must have raised a thousand questions in their minds. Now it must have been all of those eager thoughts that prompted one of them here on Mt. Olivet to ask the question that is recorded in verse 6 of our text. "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" You can see that this kingdom business was kind of heavy on their brain and Luke recorded this question for our benefit. He wants us to see how vaguely the apostles understood this coming kingdom or church. Now, it's clear from their question they were thinking of an earthly kingdom like the Jews had known in the glorious days of David and Solomon. They must have subconsciously wanted this. Now some are still looking for an earthly kingdom today, but Jesus had said in John 18:36 "My kingdom is not of this world". I guess it would be a little bit Like you and I trying to visualize what heaven is like. You see, it's in the future to us. The Bible tells us much about it; yet, I must confess to you that my understanding of that future state is vague. Now I wish I understood heaven better. Don't you? We always anticipate the future, you know, with eagerness -especially as it draws near - what about the time you started to school, the time that you moved to a new city, or you got married? You see, it's just natural isn't it? Notice how Jesus answered this question in verse 7. "It is not for you to know." Now that seems blunt, but I'll bet they got the message. Sweep around your own back door! What Jesus said had reference to the time part of the question. He simply ignored the rest of the question. You see, they were thinking of an earthly kingdom; their question was not relevant anyhow, but Jesus did give them some assurance by re-emphasizing the promise he had made to them before: "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost has come upon you." When were they to receive this power? Notice in verse 8 it is "after the Holy Ghost has come upon you". Don't forget verse 5: "Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." Obviously, the Holy Ghost coming upon them and being baptized with the Holy Ghost is the same thing. If one is baptized in water, then water comes upon him. When the apostles were to be baptized with the Holy Ghost, then the Holy Ghost would come upon them. Now the last part of verse 8 is a mini outline of how the church came down to you and me. It's an outline of the missionary program of work that Jesus left to the apostles. Now they must have had their eyes glued on Jesus as he spoke; they must have been hanging onto every word; they must have thought at least that they had at least a thousand more questions in their heart. They must have been studying Jesus' every movement and every gesture here on Mt. Olivet. With no prior warning, almost in the middle of the sentence, verse 9 tells us that Jesus began to rise in the air. Now I would assume more slowly at first, and then faster and faster, and finally higher and higher, and he must have appeared smaller and smaller, and then zoom! He disappeared either into a cloud or behind a cloud. I bet their lower jaw fell down like the tail gate on a pickup truck. Imagine a man defying gravity as Jesus did. You know, I've never seen anyone anytime in my life defy gravity. Have you? Now those people today who try to imitate Jesus' miracles, I say try – why don't they try this one? Ok. Let's read those verses-verses 9, 10 and 11: “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? 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.”
Suddenly two men were standing beside them in white clothing while they were still staring up at that cloud, and these angels broke the silence in verse 11 by asking the question before these apostles could get their lower mandible back in place, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?" Now I guess you'll have to admit that that's a little unusual posture for 11 men to be in. Even Peter, who was quick to speak, couldn't get it out that time. Then these angels gave the apostles a gem of information that simply awes me, I'm sure, just as much as it did those 11 men. Now listen to it again. This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven." When will Jesus return? It could be before I finish this tape; it could be thousands of years. Jesus once told these same apostles in John 14:3, And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. Now you've heard that read at every funeral you ever attended. Now the Apostle Peter, one of the men here, wrote several years later in II Peter 3:10: But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night. John, another one of that company, wrote about 60 years later: He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him." Rev. 1:7. Luke doesn't tell us what happened to the angels in verses 10 and 11. I would assume that they disappeared about like they appeared, but Luke uses the rest of the book of Acts to tell us what the apostles did and how this promised kingdom came into being. Now those apostles must have had mixed emotions as they looked across the Kedron valley toward the temple and Jerusalem only a mile or so away. Now, let's read verse 12: Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey. They were obeying Jesus. You will recall that verse 4 up above states that Jesus had commanded them to wait in Jerusalem. Now that command does not apply to you nor does it apply to me. You are not obligated to go to or wait in Jerusalem. It is important for us to rightly divide the scripture. Someone may say "Oh I believe in doing just what the apostles did." Now that sounds very noble doesn't it? The apostles went to Jerusalem. They were commanded to go to Jerusalem. Are you going to Jerusalem? I think you get the point. You know, there are enough commands that apply to us without trying to take care of someone else's business. It's important to obey, but it's also important to find out what we must do to obey. Now that's the difference in obedience and just being religious. Jesus never asked anyone to just be religious. John hi his first epistle, I John 2:3, gave a little test that we can apply to determine if we know God. Listen to it: And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
You know, we need to take a personal lesson when we study the Bible. There is nothing that God hates more than religious confusion and religious division. Now our world today is just simply steaming with it. What if the apostles had gotten into a theological debate about whether to go back to Jerusalem or not? Suppose one apostle had said "I'm going to Jerico"; another "I'm gonna go to Galilee"; another might have argued "I like Jerico better than Jerusalem," and you know, they could have argued "go to the city of your choice," but they didn't do that. They went back to Jerusalem because that was Jesus' instruction to them. They were obeying Jesus. That was not what they liked necessarily. Their choice didn't have anything to do with it. God requires obedience today just like he did then. His instruction may be different to us than it was to them, but we obey or disobey just like they did. Now the sabbath day's journey in verse 12 has reference to distance; not the day of the week. Nave says that this distance was about 2,000 paces. Now the day of the week was Thursday. Verse 13, let's read: “And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.” I think that this is saying that their hotel room was upstairs. The fact that verse 12 says "returned they to Jerusalem" implies that they had been staying there before. Now verse 13 contains a list of the apostles and if you count them, you will find 11 names. Judas Iscariot that betrayed Jesus, one of the original 12, is not listed there. Besides being a traitor, he had committed suicide and had been dead for over a month. Now the Judas listed in verse 13 was a different Judas, being the brother of James. Now some versions say the son of James. Ok. we're ready for verse 14. Let's read it: “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.”
Now "These all", of course, has reference to the list in verse 13, the 11 apostles. Verse 14 points out that others were staying in Jerusalem besides the apostles, but the primary group that is discussed throughout this chapter is the apostles. Now can you imagine how excited, how emotional this group must have been as they discussed Jesus ascending from Mt. Olivet, Jesus' death, his burial, his resurrection, those several appearances that Jesus had made to them? "Wait in Jerusalem." You know, I think I get more impatient waiting than anything else. Thirty minutes in the doctor's office seems like a half a day. You know, I bet they glanced up at those clouds too occasionally. Can you imagine how the time must have drug on, anticipation, the 41st day, then the 42nd, the 43rd day, etc.? Now notice in verse 14 that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was in the group. In John 19:27, apparently Jesus assigned John, the son of Zebedee, one of the apostles, the responsibility for taking care of his mother. I believe that the apostles and all of the disciples must have shown her great respect, but you know it's incorrect to think that they worshiped her as some do today and would have you believe that they did then. Now verse 14 ends by saying that they "continued with his brethren." The fact that this follows Mary makes me think of Jesus' earthly brothers, you know, the sons of Joseph and Mary, are indicated here. Their names are mentioned in Matt. 13:55: James, Joses, Simon, and Judas. Now their attitude had apparently changed recently. Maybe they had seen some of those "infallible proofs" that Luke mentions up in verse 3 of our chapter. John 7:5 said "for neither did his brethren believe in him," but from this time forward they were undoubtedly faithful disciples. Two of them wrote inspired books that are included in the New Testament - James and Jude.
Now waiting there in Jerusalem were fishermen, a tax collector, Galileans, some old, some young. Some of the apostles were married men according to II Cor. 9:5. No doubt some in that group had children. Now verse 15 says in the parenthesis "the number of names together were about 120" waiting -just waiting -1 guess no one really knew how long it would be. The 11 apostles had heard Jesus say according to verse 5 up above "Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence," but then in verse 7 Jesus had said "It is not for you to know the times nor the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power". They must have woke up every morning wondering if that would be the day. You see, obeying God can be frustrating at times, but then think of the alternative. Now it must have given them time to think and reflect and recreate. Can you visualize this little tatted crew, God's choice of all the multitudes of the Roman world? This 120 are not all of Jesus disciples - it included the ones that had followed the apostles to Jerusalem and were camping there with them. Paul says in I Cor. 15:6 that Jesus was seen of about 500 brethren at once during the 40 days before Jesus ascended at Mt. Olivet. Jesus hand-picked 12 lowly men, gave them about three and a half years of intensive practical instruction, and here they are with their families and friends obeying God and waiting for the kingdom to come not many days hence. Verse 14 says that they continued in prayer. Now I would assume they visited the temple in Jerusalem two or three times a day for this purpose. In Luke 24:53, it says that they were continually in the temple. Now Jesus had taught them to pray. Matt. 6:10 you remember Jesus taught them to pray "Thy kingdom come". They must have uttered that prayer many times as they waited for they were ready. Some still pray that prayer today. You hear it every once in awhile at a PTA meeting or some other public gathering. The Lord's Prayer. "Thy kingdom come." I guess it's all right except that that part of the prayer is almost 2000 years too late. I always change that part of the prayer to say "Thy kingdom be continued" because that kingdom they were waiting for did come. Now we start with verse 15 next time.