“Prepare for Take Off”
Acts Chapter 1
The Bible is the most popular and sought-after books in human history. It is such a fixture in our world even non-Christians quote passages from it. One of the most common scriptures people quote is John 8:31-32 where Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly My disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Sadly, many who have referred to or heard this verse, ignore the first portion, don’t know even know what truth is, and in reality, would just prefer to have freedom to do whatever they want without consequence. Rather than seeking truth to become free, it is much more common for people to hide from the truth to remain slaves to sin.
One of the most obvious settings absent of truth is a political press conference. On one side of the coin, there are reporters who phrase questions in ways that seek to capitalize on someone else’s gullibility, or to receive responses they can use to make scandalous allegations. And on the other side of the coin, there are our supposed leaders, who answer questions with misleading statements or deflections from the specific issue at hand.
This tendency to suppress truth runs rampant all throughout society, not just in politics. Why is this the case? People know…when the truth gets out, there are inevitable and sometimes powerful consequences! Sometimes truth is obvious like a blaring car horn that causes people to cover their ears. Other times, truth is more subtle, like carbon monoxide leaking into a room.
When it comes to truth, the New Testament gospels could be compared to an active volcano spewing an extraordinary amount of ash and lava, or like the lit fuse on a stick of dynamite. Images that warn of something big about to happen! The book of Acts is what happened – it’s the explosion of Truth! It is a perfect example of the dramatic effects of truth becoming known. The author doesn’t use hollow words to subvert or hide anything. Instead, this book of the Bible, like all the rest, is an intentional effort to lay out truth in plain sight for the world to see.
In our overview of Acts last week, we learned that this book is the second letter Luke wrote to Theophilus. The first letter was the gospel of Luke. Here is a brief statement of what Luke said was the reason he wrote him the first time.
Luke 1:1- Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you’ve been taught.
So, the gospel of Luke was his way of making a compelling argument for Christianity based upon what happened during the time when Christ was alive. In that letter, he wrote about the certainty that Jesus was a real person and the amazing things He did. The gospel of Luke also contained evidence for the fact they Jesus died and was raised from dead.
Luke starts the book of Acts with a reminder of what he had written in his previous letter to Theophilus:
Acts 1:1-2: In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.
Now, in this second letter, Luke is going to make additional arguments about the reality of who Christ was by describing the great impact Jesus had on the world even after He ascended to heaven. This time Luke is going to focus on the growth of the early Christian Church that occurred when His disciples spread His teachings from beyond Jerusalem, out into lands that made up the Roman Empire (many scholars believe Theophilus was a prominent Roman).
In Acts 1:3, Luke starts this next letter where the other one left off. He provides more details about the last days of Christ on earth after the resurrection.
3 To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.
Jesus remained on earth for 40 days between His resurrection and ascension. The group of people that Jesus presented Himself to during this time included the remaining 11 apostles (Judas had committed suicide) as well as additional “disciples” (followers) of Jesus who travelled with them.
A. Luke said that Jesus made “appearances and convincing proofs” during this time. These appearances, which are documented in the gospels and in 1st Corinthians, include cases where Jesus physically appeared before individuals, small groups, and one before a group of 500 people. As far as convincing proofs go, Jesus’ first one was showing up alive after having been dead. But, to disprove potential theories that people only thought they saw Jesus, or that He was a kind of ghost, Jesus talked with people, allowed people to touch Him, and He ate food with them. And to make sure everyone knew that He hadn’t lost any of His abilities, He performed another fish catching miracle (John 21).
B. Jesus also spoke about things concerning the kingdom of God during these 40 days. In general, the things He talked about fell into two categories.
1. The first thing He did was to continue the education process by providing the disciples with a better understanding of what they had been taught up until now. Jesus, being the Great Teacher knew how to educate people. One way the process of education occurs is when we provide someone information about something before-hand. This would be similar to the way we’d warn a young toddler not to touch a hot stove. Another way to educate is to remind the person what we said after it has happened. “Do you feel that pain and burning on your finger right now? That’s why I told you not to touch the stove.”
Jesus was doing a lot of “reminder education” during this time. He helped connect the dots between what He had warned them was going to happen and what had just come true. He also showed them that these occurrences that they had witnessed were also predicted in the Old Testament scripture hundreds of years before. Here is what Luke said in the gospel of Luke about the way Jesus taught during this time…
Luke 24:45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
2. Jesus also gave the disciples new instructions on what they were to do going forward. One thing He told them to do was “make disciples of all the nations, baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teach them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” (The Great Commission - Matthew 28:18-20). But Luke tells us of another thing Jesus instructed in Acts 1:4.
4 Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, "Which," He said, "you heard of from Me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
Luke had included this same instruction from Jesus about staying in Jerusalem and waiting for the Holy Spirit in the gospel of Luke as well:
49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
The event that Jesus was referring to, for which the disciples were supposed to wait, was that which was going to occur at Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. Jesus was giving instructions as to what the church as supposed to do after He left the earth, and He was letting them know that the things He was calling them to do required power and guidance by means of the Holy Spirit.
In some ways, what Jesus did after His resurrection and before His ascension into heaven reminds me of what someone might do who is passing their family business down to the next owner. A person who has poured his or her heart and soul into the business would talk about the value and benefits of why it should be kept running, and they would spend time teaching the new owner on how the business should be run. The soon to be new owner would surely ask a lot of questions before the old owner left too. Well, that’s exactly what the disciples did. In this case, they responded with questions about what was going to happen in the days to come.
6 So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?"
The disciples assumed that Christ was going to somehow defeat the Romans and restore the land of Israel back to the Israelites. But Jesus had to set their priorities straight. He let them know that other things were about to take place instead.
7 He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs (periods) which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 8 but 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."
Jesus basically said that something else was about to happen that was more important than the Israelites having their land restored. He told them about the process by which they would spread the news about Jesus to the entire world. And, as a result of what they were going to be involved in, Jews and Gentiles alike, including those of many future generations would have the opportunity to hear the gospel, respond to it in faith, and receive an inheritance in heaven.
Perhaps you are a fan of movies with multiple film releases that make up a series? I can think of examples in some of my favorites like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Rocky, and Back to the Future, where the movie sequel immediately begins by repeating the final scene where the previous release left off. Luke does the same thing.
When we get to Acts 1:9, Luke writes about the ascension of Jesus into heaven for the second time. This event provides an appropriate conclusion to the gospel of Luke (which centers around the life, death, and resurrection of Christ), as well as the book of Acts (which centers around the growth of the early church). The first time Luke described this event in the gospel of Luke, he didn’t provide a lot of details.
Luke 24:50 - When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
However, this time around, he provides a more thorough description.
9 And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
This event occurs on the Mount of Olives, which is about ¾ mile east/northeast of Jerusalem (the equivalent of what Jews were allowed to travel on the Sabbath-Acts 1:12).
The Mount of Olives is approximately 2600’ tall (1/2 mile). Compare this to the Empire state building, which is 1454’ tall.
Let’s make some observations about this ascension scene that Luke has included in both of his letters. First, when Jesus left the earth, it was not a disappearance, but His body literally went up, into heaven, gradually. The Greek word – Epairo is used in this verse - it means to be taken up, or lifted up. Psalm 68:18 describes the future event as an “ascension”. Mark 16:19 describes it as a “directional” event - “…He was received up into heaven…”, and Paul said Jesus was “taken up” in 1 Timothy 3:16. This ascension took long enough such that Jesus was visible for a while, until He got high enough to go into a cloud in the sky.
Second, the event was witnessed by multiple people. There were at least 13 individuals present, and most likely several more than that. You’ll see how we can conclude this in a little bit. The event reminds me of the way people sometimes gather to release balloons, filled with helium, to remember a loved one who has died. They stand there, continuing to gaze into the sky until the balloons are out of sight, in an effort to hold on to the memories for as long as possible.
What an extremely fitting and symbolic end to Jesus’ ministry while on earth! Rather than leaving this earth was a quick “poof”, leaving the disciples looking around scratching their head, Jesus uses a much more dramatic and obvious method. The relative “slowness” of leaving fits perfectly with the intentional, thorough, out in the open manner that Jesus had lived with these men all along. This event was one last proof of who He was! Earthly magicians are careful to hide their secrets to make you think they are more than they really ae. Jesus was no magician - what He did was real, He didn’t hide anything. Instead, Jesus intentionally did things to get people’s attention, which then forced them to respond, and their response would impact their lives.
10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. 11 They also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven."
Right about the moment that these men were catching their last glimpse of Jesus as He disappeared into the cloud, two angels appeared. The bible records appearances of angels at numerous key points within the context of Jesus’ life on this earth:
1. They predicted His birth (Luke 1:30-33).
2. They were present at His birth (Luke 2:13-14).
3. They warned Joseph about Herod’s plot to kill Jesus (Matthew 2:19-20).
4. They ministered to Him when He was being tempted in the wilderness by Satan (Matthew 4:11).
5. An angel rolled the rock away from the tomb (Matthew 28:2).
6. An angel announced Jesus’ resurrection (Matthew 28:5-6).
7. They were present when Jesus ascended (Acts 1:10).
8. They will be present at His second coming (Matthew 24:31).
*On a side note, it is interesting that from the time Jesus was betrayed, up through His crucifixion, there is no mention of angels being present. In fact, in Matthew 26:53, Jesus said that He could have had angels come to His assistance to stop those things from happening, but He didn’t.
Based upon what the angels said and from what the disciples do shortly thereafter, it wasn’t appropriate for these people to stand around looking at the sky. This event signaled the next phase of Christianity, the torch was being passed from Christ to His disciples, and it was now their responsibility to carry it.
THE UPPER ROOM – CHOOSING THE REPLACEMENT APOSTLE
12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. 13 When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. 14 These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
Luke says that they went to “the upper room”. The fact that Luke calls it “the upper room” doesn’t necessarily mean it was literally the same upper room as where they had their last supper with Jesus. In those days, it was common to use upper rooms of buildings to congregate for fellowship, communion, prayer, teaching. That is exactly what they did, and appropriately so, in this place.
We know that the group of people who witnessed the ascension and were now returning to Jerusalem included all the eleven remaining apostles. We can also see that by the time they arrived to the upper room the group included Jesus’ mother Mary, “the women”, and Jesus’ brothers. This means it’s possible these same people were also present at the ascension. The “women” could have included Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of apostle James (wife of Alphaeus), and Joanna – women who were referred to at other points when Jesus was alive. The group also included Jesus’ actual brothers (James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas/Jude) – men who were now believers in Jesus, but had previously been skeptics (John 7:1-10).
15 At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said, 16 "Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 "For he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry." 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. 19 And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 "For it is written in the book of Psalms, 'LET HIS HOMESTEAD BE MADE DESOLATE, AND LET NO ONE DWELL IN IT'; and, 'LET ANOTHER MAN TAKE HIS OFFICE.'
When Peter stood up to talk, the number people who were there was about 120. We don’t know if all 120 of them had necessarily witnessed the ascension, but that was the number who were gathered after the event. Regardless, Peter takes this opportunity to educate in the way Jesus did – he also connected the dots between current events and Old Testament prophecies (John 5:39, Luke 24:44). Standing among this group of Jesus followers, Peter refers to the former apostle, Judas Iscariot. He makes sure that everyone understands that this man who had betrayed Jesus, for financial gain, who then committed suicide, was the one who David had wrote about hundreds of years earlier (see Psalm 41:9, 69:25, 109:8). Based upon their understanding of scripture, and believing in the importance of restoring the number of apostles to be the same as what Jesus had originally appointed, they set out to choose a replacement. * Zechariah 11:12-13 provides additional prophecy about the betrayal, specifically concerning the money that exchanged hands.
21 "Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us- 22 beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us-one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection." 23 So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus ), and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen 25 to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place." 26 And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.
Peter describes the qualifications that Judas’ replacement must have. It must be someone who has been a part of this Jesus “movement” right from the beginning. This person didn’t have to be someone whom Jesus called to be His disciple personally, but the replacement did have to be someone who made a personal decision to believe in the coming Messiah. The specific qualifications included three primary things. First, it needed to be someone who was baptized by John the Baptist, right around the time John baptized Jesus’ (v 22). John brought the good news of Christ to a lot of people and a fairly significant area. Mark 1:5 says that “the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River”. John 3 says that John the Baptist, “…went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” – this included people like tax collectors and soldiers.
The second qualification was that the person also had to have been among the group of followers with whom Jesus had regular, personal contact. And third, it had to be someone who witnessed the ascension of Jesus on the Mount of Olives. This final qualification proves that the ascension was witnessed by well more than the eleven apostles.
Since this was such an important decision in the beginning of the “New Testament church”, they prayed about the situation asking that God would supernaturally intervene by choosing the one whose heart would remain fully devoted to the task to which they were being called.
1. It is not accurate to call someone an apostle today if the implication is that the person has special authority in the church above and beyond any other believer. As we’ve seen from Acts 1, modern day believers do not qualify to fill the “office” of apostle: baptized by John, having spent time with Him in person, and present at the ascension. As such, Paul calls apostles a foundation (built once) in Ephesians 2:20. Part of the confusion for what it means to be an apostle is because the Greek word, Apostolos, is used in the New Testament to describe someone who was a delegate, messenger, or one sent forth with orders, in two ways. The first way was in regards to the apostles appointed by Christ. In this sense, the word implied special designation or authority. In addition, the word is used in a broader sense applied to other Christian leaders who had a special gift of teaching or spreading the gospel. Men like James (1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19), Barnabas (Acts 14:4, 14; 1 Corinthians 9:6), Andronicus and Junias (Romans 16:7), possibly Silas and Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:7), and Apollos (1 Corinthians 4:6, 9) would fall into this category of apostle. Since the word can be so easily confused, terms like teacher, evangelist, pastor, elder, or overseer seem better words to use today.
2. However, we can still be disciples of Christ, and more specifically, leaders in the church. Similar to apostles, leaders in the church should have the proper qualifications.
We should be careful about who we elevate into the limelight because this can affect believers and non-believers. I bet you can think of cases where the church has allowed new or questionable believers to become spokesmen or cover stories for Christianity, merely because they were famous. New Testament scripture like 1st Timothy 3 reveals qualifications of leaders. Instead of popularity, skill, and beauty, Godly leaders should be known for their faithfulness, honesty, dependability, and courage. They need to be people who have been believers long enough to have developed a solid foundation through study and contemplation of God’s word. Instead of being eager for personal power or position, they need to be servants, filled with power of Holy Spirit.
3. There are a lot of people today who are masters at “hoodwinking” and there are a lot of people who are willing to be hoodwinked if they believe they’ll benefit from it. Christianity is based upon reality and truth through presentation of a strong, evidential case. Luke, like other biblical authors, provide names of specific people and places, and describe events in detail. These writers tell us that Jesus lived His life in the open surrounded by witnesses, performing miracles without smoke, mirrors, or cleverly edited video. People become believers in Jesus through an intentional presentation of the evidence and then thoughtful consideration of the evidence. People who decide to follow Christ, prove the certainty of their decisions by actions, and these actions often put their lives at risk.
4. Jesus did it all, perfectly, with style, and with power. His deeds span the entire spectrum of what a good person would do - things like spending quality time with people, crying over the death of his friends, and concern for His mother. But, His actions went far beyond that. He did numerous things, in front of crowds of people, that proved He was not a mere man. Whether from the miracles He performed before He died, His resurrection, or His ascension into heaven, Jesus proved He was God Himself. Sometimes we get mesmerized by the everyday, monotony, or predictability of life on earth. One day, this natural world is going to overwhelmed by the supernatural return of Jesus, the same way He left it! When that occurs, people are going to know that this man named Jesus, who they were warned about in the past, is truly who He said He was.
Acts Chapter 1 “Prepare for Take Off” Mark Kolbe
The book of Acts is the explosion of Truth! It is a perfect example of the dramatic effects of truth becoming known. This book of the Bible is an intentional effort to lay out truth in plain sight for the world to see. Luke makes arguments about the reality of who Christ was by describing the great impact Jesus had on the world, even after He ascended to heaven.
During the forty days between the resurrection and ascension, Jesus:
A. Made a and convincing p____________.
B. S__________ about things concerning the kingdom of God.
1. He continued the e_____________ process by providing the disciples with a better understanding of what they had been taught up until now.
2. Jesus also gave the disciples n________ instructions on what they were to do going forward. The most important instruction was to w________ for the H________ S________.
This event occurs on the Mount of Olives.
A. When Jesus left the earth, His body l__________ went up, into heaven, gradually.
B. The event was w______________ by multiple people.
THE UPPER ROOM – CHOOSING THE REPLACEMENT APOSTLE
A. The total number people who were there was about ______. The group included the a____________, Jesus’ m_______ Mary, the women (i.e. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of apostle James, Joanna) , and Jesus’ b____________ (James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas/Jude).
B. Peter c____________ the dots between current events and Old Testament prophecies (John 5:39, Luke 24:44).
C. Peter describes the q___________________ that Judas’ replacement must have. It had to be someone who:
1. was b____________ by John the Baptist.
2. was among the group of followers with whom Jesus had r__________, personal contact.
3. witnessed the a_______________ of Jesus on the Mount of Olives.
1. Modern day believers do not q__________ to fill the “office” of apostle. Since the word can be so easily confused, terms like teacher, evangelist, pastor, elder, or overseer seem better words to use today.
2. Modern day disciples of Christ should have certain q_______________. Some of which include:
3. Christianity is based upon r_________ and t_________, through presentation of a strong, e_____________ case.
4. Jesus did it all, perfectly, with style and p________. One day, this natural world is going to overwhelmed by the supernatural return of Jesus, the same way He left it!