"And Then He Left Again"
"Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven. And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God."
Did you ever feel sorry for the disciples? After looking at this text, it came to me that they were really having a bad time. They had been learning from Jesus for three years. There were times when they didnít understand what was really happening, but they absorbed a great deal. Then, just as everything seemed to come together, Jesus had a last meal with them and seemed to let himself be arrested. That in itself probably wasnít so terrible because, after all people do get out of jail, even Roman ones. Then the next bad thing happened, he was taken to Pilate. That in itself probably wasnít so terrible either because at that time of the Jewish year, Pilate always released someone.
Then came the really bad news, the prisoner to be released wasnít going to be Jesus.
Jesus was to be crucified. Now the disciples had, as I said, been with Jesus for three years. They had seen him perform miracles in impossible circumstances and had even been with him when he raised Lazarus from the dead. SoÖ. maybe, just maybe this would end all right too.
But, it wasnít to be. He hung on the tree, he died, he was buried.
Best friends do die. Family members die too. We have seen it and will continue to see it.
It is sad and it takes time to overcome the feelings of loss, anger, and desertion when it happens.
In addition to that, the disciples were afraid. They were afraid they would be next.
Three days of fear and sorrow and then
THE WONDERFUL EASTER.
The women said it first, the men saw the tomb was empty and then, through closed and locked doors, he appeared.
What joy! The faith of the disciples that Jesus is indeed God is confirmed. Paul tells us in I Cor. 15:5-7 that (Jesus) appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
Time passed. We donít know much of what happened but we do know that he was with them for forty days. That is a good amount of time, a long time if you have a cough like I have had since Palm Sunday, but not long when you are with those you care about and who care about you. It must have seemed like just a day to the disciples because of their joy and excitement and Iím sure that they continued to learn as the days passed. We remember that on the road to Emmaus, he opened their eyes and hearts as he explained the Scriptures to them.
Now weíve come to the end of the forty days, weíve come to today.
Just imagine what Jesus says to the disciples. He says, "Letís go for a walk." So they take a stroll out to Bethany and there, He leaves them again.
Imagine! He died, he rose, he returned, he left again.
As I said, the disciples were really having a bad couple of months.
But, what did they do in that moment, they worshipped him and went away joyfully. Their faith brought them to that---they believed and worshiped him.
Then, itís my guess, reality set in. The first question when they got back to Jerusalem was probably, now what?
Many of you were here when our previous pastor, Pastor David, announced that he was going to leave the congregation of St. Andrew. There was a great deal of sadness, grief, and yes, anger at his leaving.
What will we do now? Who will lead us? Where do we go from here?
We have been through an experience of loss as a congregation much like that of the disciples when Jesus ascended into heaven.
How can we function without a leader?
While Jesus was with his disciples, they had someone to take the responsibility, shoulder the burdens, make the decisions. Do you remember when the disciples were not able to heal the child who was possessed by a demon? They came to Jesus and he took care of it.
Now that he had left, they were on their own. No Leader/mommy/daddy to run home to.
While Jesus was with them, they had opportunity to test themselves. For Jesus sent them out to minister to the people. They healed many and cast out demons. Now, however he was gone and they probably thought that they could not possibly do anything again. He was the Greatest.
After the ascension, they didnít have a choice. If they were to live according to what he had taught them, and according to the instructions he had given them before he ascended, they had to do the spreading of the Gospel themselves. He told them, "you are my witnesses of these things."
Are we in the same position? Do we continue to rely so heavily on our leadership, especially our pastor that we are afraid to go out on our own? Are we afraid, as the disciples must have been, that we are going to fail? I can guarantee that you will not fail. Thatís right, I can absolutely, positively guarantee that you will not fail. The only thing that you have to do to ensure that you will not fail isÖ. NOTHING. Thatís right, if you do nothing there is no way that you can fail.
What about these leaders that we have that do things well. Why should you try to do anything since they can do so well? What if you donít do as well as they? So. They didnít necessarily do it right the first time either. How can we learn if we do not fail? The best way to handle failure is to know that it is forgivable. God does not expect us to be perfect. He knows that we are not. If we were, then He would not have had to send his Son to save us. We must trust in him for all that we need. If it is important to our growth that we fail, then that is what will happen. If it is, on the other hand, important to our growth that we succeed, then we will. The most important aspect is that we TRUST. If we feed our faith, our fears will starve to death.
The old hymn says, "If you cannot speak like angels, if you cannot preach like Paul, you can tell the love of Jesus, you can say He died for all."
Some of us find even that intimidating. Some of us are not risk takers.
As a speech teacher, I am well aware that one of the greatest fears most people have is getting up in front of a group and giving a speech. Telling others that Jesus died for them is in about the same category. You say, I canít witness to anyone and that is one of the least things, one of the seemingly easiest things that God expects of me.
But for some it isnít easy. Maybe you canít tell the story, but you can sweep the floor, you can serve the coffee, you can write the invitations, you can wash the curtains or plant the flowers.
Everything that you do affects someone. The ripples go on and on. If you canít tell the story you can be it.
Not only by the words you say, not only in your deeds confessed,
But in the most unconscious way is Christ expressed.
Is it a beatific smile, a holy light upon your brow?
Oh, no! I felt His presence when you laughed just now.
For me, Ďtwas not the truth you taught, to you so clear, to me so dim,
But when you came to me, you brought a sense of Him.
And from your eyes He beckons me, and from your lips His love is shed,
ĎTil I lose sight of you and see the Christ instead.
The disciples did get their act together, they did begin their ministry and look what has happened.
We are here today because they took up the challenge of being the living Gospel that Jesus had shown them. Sure, they took risks but they had a safety net, Jesus was with them. Some of them failed in the eyes of the world; they were put to death. John was exiled to Patmos and look what a wonderful book, the book of Revelation, came from that.
Go ahead, take a chance, be a risk taker, try something for him who gave everything for you.
Fail, I dare you. It means you are doing something.
Fail, I dare you. It means you have risked something.
Fail, I dare you. God is with you.
The disciples did it so can you.
I saw Jesus last week.
He was wearing blue jeans and an old shirt.
He was up at the church building.
He was alone and working hard.
For just a minute he looked a little like one of our members.
But it was Jesus, I could tell by his smile.
I saw Jesus last Sunday.
He was teaching a Bible class.
He didnít talk real loud or use long words,
But you could tell he believed what he said.
For just a minute, he looked like my Sunday school teacher.
But it was Jesus, I could tell by his loving voice.
I saw Jesus yesterday.
He was at the hospital visiting a friend who was sick.
They prayed together quietly.
For just a minute he looked like Ron Jones.
But it was Jesus, I could tell by the tears in his eyes.
I saw Jesus this morning.
He was in my kitchen making my breakfast and fixing me a special lunch.
For just a minute he looked like my mom.
But it was Jesus, I could feel the love from his heart.
I see Jesus everywhere,
Taking food to the sick,
Welcoming others to his home,
Being friendly to a newcomer and for just a minute
I think heís someone I know.
But itís always Jesus, I can tell by the way he serves.
Let someone see Jesus in you today.