MESSAGE DELIVERED: OCTOBER 29, 2017
The passage we just read is the very last thing that Jesus will say to the twelve. In it, He told the disciples “WHAT”, “WHERE”, “HOW” and “WHO”, in regards to witnessing. And it’s a really interesting statement, if we take the time to examine it closely.
It is said the NEW Testament is HIDDEN in the Old, and the OLD Testament is REVEALED in the NEW. And Jesus confirmed that, in verse 44, where He said The Books of the Law, the Writings of the Prophets, and the Songs of the Psalms, all spoke of HIM!
And then in verse 45, He “opened their understanding”. These men had SEEN and HEARD, so MANY things while they had been with Jesus. Unbelievable things, wonderful things, troubling things, and NOW, all at ONCE, EVERYTHING made sense! All those things that had left them scratching their heads in bewilderment, NOW they understood!
And in verse 46, with their NEW, SUPERNATURAL understanding, the very first thing He wants them to understand, is how it had ALWAYS been necessary for the Messiah to suffer and die as He had, and then be raised FROM the dead, as He had just accomplished.
The Sacrifice of God’s Own Son was the ONLY Perfect Sacrifice that COULD be made. And Jehovah God had deemed that Perfect Sacrifice to be acceptable. And so that acceptable Sacrifice had been raised FROM the dead.
Jesus had told His disciples the parable of the Grain of Wheat, and how, unless it goes into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But IF it dies, it produces much fruit. And thus it had been necessary for God’s Son to SUFFER, and DIE, and on the THIRD Day, be raised FROM the Dead.
And now, all who believe, by the virtue of that ONE PERFECT SACRIFICE, will be deemed ACCEPTABLE to God. Then in verses 47 and 48, Jesus inaugurates a brand new DISPENSATION…the Age of GRACE!
Up until His Resurrection, the world had been under the Dispensation of LAW…the Law that was IMPOSSIBLE to KEEP. But now all that changes. Now, through Faith, by believing in this Sacrifice and its resulting Resurrection, and REPENTING, one can receive the Forgiveness of their sins, and Forgiven people have access to God’s Heaven! NOW, we live under GRACE!
But, up to this point, the disciples, and Jesus Himself, had confined their activities to Israel, and the Jewish people. Now, and for the FIRST time, they will be sent to the whole WORLD!
Their understanding has been opened. They have witnessed so many things as they traveled with Jesus, during His earthly ministry. Now, supernaturally, they UNDERSTAND all the things He has said and done.
And NOW they receive their MARCHING orders. They know WHAT they are to say. They know WHO they are to say it to. They are to go to the whole world, and preach REPENTENCE, and the REMISSION of Sin, on the basis OF that Sacrifice.
So you might think they are now pretty well set. But Jesus restrained them. He told them to WAIT, in Jerusalem, until they had been EMPOWERED! I told you last week that I really admired the apostle Paul, but he had been a lot like these guys, at first.
Paul originally had been a Pharisee. By his own admission, he had been “a Pharisee among Pharisees”. And he had been a zealous persecutor of the new Church, until he had an encounter with Jesus. Then he had been completely changed, he repented of his sins, he was forgiven, and in gratitude, he went out IMMEDIATELY, and began to preach. He DID, the ONE thing the OTHERS had been instructed NOT to do!
The disciples who had been with Jesus from the very beginning, who had witnessed all the POWER, and the MIRACLES…THEY were told to WAIT, before THEY began preaching. But somehow Paul seemed to have MISSED that part of the message. Because HE went at ONCE to the Synagogue, and began proclaiming JESUS as the long-promised Messiah. And he got himself into so much trouble that the Jews were about to KILL him!
See, he had not yet been EMPOWERED for what he was now called to do. Just knowing WHAT to do, and WHO to do it FOR, was not enough. You must FIRST have the POWER and the AUTHORITY to do it.
That’s what Jesus told the disciples, there on the Mount of Olives. “WAIT, in Jerusalem, until you have been FILLED with POWER from on high.” He meant that for US, too.
Oh, we don’t have to travel to Jerusalem to wait, but we do have to wait…until we’ve been taught HOW we should witness, as well as knowing WHO we should witness to, and WHO we are to witness FOR!
Then in verse 50, “having said all these things, Jesus lifted up His Hands” with the prints of the nails plainly visible…”And He blessed them”. It is very appropriate for Luke to close his Gospel this way, since he had begun it with a PRIEST, being UNABLE to bless the people.
In the 1st chapter of Luke’s Gospel, in verse 22, a priest named Zacharias, the soon-to-be father of John the Baptist, had been offering incense before the Altar…and those waiting outside were becoming concerned because he was gone for so long, and when he finally reappeared, he was SUPPOSED to offer a blessing. But he was unable to, because he had been struck DUMB by the angel Gabriel, the messenger of God.
And now, Jesus delivers that missing blessing. And I see tremendous symbolism in that. See, BEFORE Jesus’ Sacrifice, men had needed a HUMAN mediator to go before God on their behalf. But NOW, Jesus has OPENED the Throne Room of God the Father in Heaven. And NOW, ANYone can, by FAITH, go directly to God, with their own requests…their praises…their needs and concerns.
No longer does man need a HUMAN High Priest, because we now have a DEVINE High Priest…one who has experienced ALL of our cares and needs. One Who WANTS to bless US, as He so long ago blessed those disciples.
Now, if someone tells you they will take your concerns to God for you, just tell them ‘thanks’. But remember: NO one has a BETTER connection to God than ANYone else! Sure, when Billy Graham prays, God listens! That is true! But beloved, if YOU have been Saved by the Blood of Calvary, He listens JUST as closely when YOU pray! You don’t need ANYone to intercede with God for you. We now have Jesus Christ to do that FOR us.
But, back to verse 50…having blessed the disciples, Jesus then ROSE, bodily, physically, and was received into the Shekinah Glory Cloud of God the Father…back to from where He had come, 30-some years ago.
And it’s important that He left this way. He had appeared to the disciples before, since Rising from the Grave. And He HAD left them, after appearing to them. But then, He had left INSTANTLY, only to REappear, somewhere else.
But THAT isn’t going to happen again. So THIS time when He leaves them, He goes SLOWLY from their sight. And as He rises back to His Father, two ANGELS suddenly appear TO those disciples, to announce that this SAME Jesus WILL, one day, RETURN, in EXACTLY the SAME way they now see Him leaving. So THIS time, He will NOT suddenly reappear in a different place, as He had done during the 40 days following the Resurrection.
For NOW, His work of Redemption is FINISHED, and He is finally able to RETURN to The Father…and now, probably for the very FIRST time, those disciples WORSHIP Jesus, AS GOD! Now they understand, the One Who had LED them, and FED them, and TAUGHT them, they now understand was nothing LESS than Jehovah God Himself, clothed in human flesh.
THAT was a TREMENDOUS revelation. All their doubts and confusion have been removed. And now they recognize the FULL truth of the DIETY of Christ; The One they have called TEACHER, and LORD, and FRIEND! And they fall to their knees, and they WORSHIP Him, AS God!
And listen, church. WE need to come to that SAME conclusion. And we ALSO need that same EMPOWERING, so WE can go out and witness, AS we SHOULD! It’s not likely that we will experience the same coming of He the Holy Spirit as a MIGHTY WIND and a BURNING FLAME. That was the FIRST, dramatic outpouring of the Holy Spirit. For US, it will NOT be that outpouring. For US, it’s an INDWELLING! And we have to LEARN, and GROW, just as Paul did.
And that growth process will not be the same for everyone. Some will be ready sooner, and some later, but EVERYone who HAS been Saved, has a DUTY to the Lord, to SHARE your Faith with others. NO one is exempt!
There is a story, supposedly true, about a down-and-out-alcoholic in Chicago, who was SAVED at the “Pacific Garden Mission”. While the preacher was speaking, the Holy Spirit got ahold of this poor specimen, and he accepted Jesus as his Savior.
And IMMEDIATELY, filled with the Spirit, but UN-taught, he wanted his best friend to experience the same thing HE had. So he went out into the street and found his friend, another alcoholic, and said “I want you to come back to the Mission with me, to hear this preacher, so you can get Saved too”.
But the friend said “I don’t believe I would care to do that”. Well, the new convert said “But you GOTTA”! And the friend said “I ain’t GONNA”! And the argument began…”Yes you are!”…”No I ain’t.” Back and forth. Until finally the first friend said “Well, that preacher said we were to go out into the highways and hedge rows, and COMPEL them to come in”.
Well, he only knew ONE way to “compel” someone. So he balled up his fist and cracked his friend right on the jaw, dropped him to his knees, and said “You GOTTA come”! And the second friend got slowly to his feet and said “Well, alright, I guess I will”.
Now, I don’t know too many people that would be comfortable being on either side of THAT kind of evangelism, but, whatever works!
There was another story about a barber who went to a hellfire and brimstone revival meeting, and found himself filled with a brand new enthusiasm for sharing Christ. And the next day he went to his job, and a customer came in asking for a shave.
So the barber sat him in the chair, pulled the cloth over him, got him lathered up, stropped his razor, and as he leaned over the man, he said something to him in a low voice.
The customer leaped to his feet, threw the cloth to the ground and ran out the door, lather and all. The other barber in the shop asked “What in the world did YOU SAY to him”?
The first barber stood there with that gleaming sharp razor in his hand and said “AII I asked him was if he was ready to meet his maker”.
Again, the MOTIVES may have been right, but the METHODS needed a bit of work. But then, there is ANOTHER side to that coin…it is one whole bunch EASIER to sit back and CRITICIZE somebody ELSE’S efforts, than to go out and actually witness, yourself.
Dwight L. Moody was an amazing preacher, but he was not a highly educated man. And he was once approached by a high-society-type matron who chastised him for the poor grammar he used in his sermons. He told the lady, “Madam, I prefer my own IMPROPER method of presenting the Gospel, to YOUR very PROPER way of NOT presenting it”.
It’s really easy for us to sit back and take potshots at, say, some of those TV evangelists and their constant requests for you to send them your money. As someone once said, “they ask you to send your money to God, but they give you their OWN address.
But as Paul once said “whether they do it for right or wrong reasons, either way, the Gospel is preached and for that I rejoice”.
The plain, unvarnished truth is, if you’re here this morning as a child of God, it is because at some point, SOMEBODY has witnessed to YOU. So instead of throwing rocks at OTHER people and their methods, we need to look at our OWN lives, and ask ourselves: “how many people are WE bringing into the Kingdom?”
There are so MANY ways of evangelizing, and one of them is simply by LISTENING. We’re sometimes bombarded by religious messages…from billboards telling you “God loves you, and has a plan for your life”…that’s true…or you’ll see bumper stickers encouraging you to “honk if you love Jesus”. And you can almost always find some evangelist on the radio or TV. They’re really good at making sales pitches. But how often do you find someone who will simply LISTEN to you?
In Davenport, Iowa, they started a phone service called “Dial-A-Listener”. The service focused on lonely people who were hungry for a sympathetic ear. The callers never got a recorded message. Instead they found another human being who would just listen to them. There is a tremendous need for that.
And, you know, maybe by just listening to others and their problems, you could find a way to lead them to the truth that Jesus is the answer to every problem.
Or, how about ministering to others through service? There was a guy who found a little stray dog that had a broken leg. He took the dog to the vet and got the leg set, took the dog home and cared for it, fed it, pampered it, until the leg was all healed.
And as soon as the cast came off, the dog TOOK off. The guy said “That figures! As soon as it didn’t need me anymore, off it went”! But shortly, he heard a scratching at his door, and when he opened it, there was that little dog, and it had with it, ANOTHER small dog, that ALSO had a broken leg.
And THAT is evangelism at its best. Find a need, and FILL it. Find a HURT, and HEAL it. Somebody once said “you can’t give someone a blessing, when they’re cold and wet. You can’t tell someone they need Jesus, when they have a throbbing TOOTHACHE.” FIRST fix the hurt, then present the Gospel. That’s what Jesus did. First He healed the sick, then He preached about the coming Kingdom.
You can also minister to people through your MORAL influence. Benjamin Franklin wanted to get the people of Philadelphia interested in STREET lighting, but he didn’t try to persuade them by talking about it. Instead he took a lantern and hung it from a long bracket outside his front door.
Every evening he would light that lantern, and soon people began to appreciate that little bit of light, and before long his neighbors were also hanging lanterns outside their doors. And before long the whole city saw the value of street lighting, and they set about installing lanterns all over town, and employing lamplighters to turn them off and on.
In the same way, when you display your CHRISTIAN morals and values, people NOTICE. And often they will FOLLOW the example you set. I mean, look at it this way…if WE don’t display Christian values to the world, who WILL?
John Wollman was a devout American Quaker in the 1700s. At the time, many other Quakers legally owned slaves. But as a young man, Wollman saw slavery as tragedy, and he set about doing something about it.
But he DIDN’T publish tirades against it. Instead, for the next thirty years, he went from farm to farm, quietly talking to other Quakers, and simply asking them, without condemnation or reproach, HOW it made them feel, OWNING another human being. Asking “what does owning slaves do to you, as a moral person? What sort of values are you passing along to your own children in this way?”
His one-man campaign was so successful, that fully 100 years before the Civil War, not a single Quaker owned a slave. That was the result of ONE man’s unorganized, and unofficial, social action.
So let me ask you. What are YOU doing, to fulfill Jesus’ ONE Command to us, to go out and make disciples? It’s not always necessary to CONFRONT people about their relationship with the Lord. DO that, if you find the opportunity. But sometimes you can reach them, just by LISTENING to them. Or by dealing with them as a SERVANT…or by displaying to them a MORAL influence.
John D. Rockefeller, at the time the richest man in America, once bought a $1,000,000 life insurance policy from a young man just starting out in the insurance business. But a friend of Rockefeller asked him “John, why didn’t you buy that policy from ME? You KNOW I’m in the insurance field. We even play golf together. Why didn’t you let ME sell you that policy?” Rockefeller told his friend “That young guy ASKED me to. YOU never did.”
And sometimes it’s as easy as that…by listening, by serving, by displaying a Godly influence, you can get people’s attention. And then, when you do, sometimes, all you need to do, is ASK!
But the undeniable truth is, IF you have been Saved by Christ’s Sacrifice, then you HAVE an obligation TO Him, to OBEY His ONE Command, that you go out and make disciples.
HOW you do that is up to you…but NOT doing it is not an option! So let me ask you, church…what are YOU doing, to fulfill the GREAT Commission?
Or let me ask this…is it possible that you haven’t yet made that first step, and accepted HIS Sacrifice as YOUR payment for your sin-debt to God? If you have never done that, not just me, but He, the Holy Spirit, is now pleading with you, to come TO Him now, since you never know if you’ll ever have the chance again!
Just a little while ago, a crowd of people were at a concert, having a great time…then in a matter of minutes dozens of them were dead…senselessly…but dead.
It’s not my intention to try to SCARE you into the Kingdom, but you have NO GUARANTEE of tomorrow. What you HAVE, is right HERE, and right NOW! So will you please come and be made whole while you have the chance?
Don’t leave Him waiting in vain. And if you HAVE accepted that Salvation, are you finally willing to accept His Command and BE a WITNESS?