“Ascended into Heaven”
Acts 1:1-11 (1:11) – May 29, 2022
When I was young, I attended a Lutheran church on the northwest side of Chicago. That church had many traditions, including everyone in the church reciting the Apostles Creed after the sermon each Sunday. This church does not have this tradition, at least, it hasn’t for a long time. Many words from the Apostles Creed are familiar, of course, but it is not quite like the Lord’s Prayer. We do not recite it here as often as every single Sunday.
What about the section of the Apostles Creed that highlights our Lord Jesus Christ? I invite you to say it along with me: I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Today we are celebrating “On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven,” How amazing this must have been for Jesus’ followers! I know we have been over the same ground during this Easter season, as we consider Jesus and the time line after His resurrection. This whole string of events must have been absolutely out of the disciples’ experience.
Imagine, your Rabbi and leader gets arrested, tried, and killed in a most horrible way. You are devastated. Then, on the third day, some of your women companions come back with a wild story – absolutely amazing! And, it’s true. You see the risen Jesus, too!
Fast forward several weeks, The risen Lord Jesus appears to you and your companions a number of times, and continues to teach and prepare you – for what? If we go back to the Apostles Creed, this creed is a quick synopsis and theological summary of Jesus, His life, death, resurrection and ascension. Except, we are going to stay on the ascension part. The resurrected Jesus was around for some weeks, long enough for the disciples to kind of accustom themselves to His presence.
What do you know? The disciples (at least most of them!) were more interested in what was going to happen politically! Look at what Dr. Luke highlights for us here in Acts 1: “Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
“The disciples were still interested in the restoration of the kingdom of Israel. [Except,] the days and seasons of coming events were not something the disciples needed to worry about. Matters of churchmanship, denominational doctrines, church growth, church/state relations…… and the like, all pale before a far greater purpose”  that the risen Lord Jesus tried to communicate just before He ascended into heaven.
We can see this clearly from our Lord’s response: “Jesus said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Jesus used stories to communicate great truths all during the three years He was an itinerant Rabbi, journeying all around Palestine. Is it any wonder that one of the most effective ways of “witnessing” to our Lord Jesus is by telling our personal stories?
The Apostles Creed states that Jesus “ascended to heaven” and “he sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” We can see God sitting on a heavenly throne (perhaps in the temple from Isaiah 6!), and Jesus sits right beside God on God’s right hand. This was a very important place in historic accounts about kings. “The most important person other than the king always sat on the kings’ right hand. What we are saying about Jesus is that he is right with God and that he is more important than any angel or any person who has ever lived.” 
Yes, this account from Acts 1 is one of our most treasured stories about Jesus, along with the story of the Passion, the trials, and the Crucifixion. And then, we have the greatest story ever told in the account of the Resurrection and its aftermath! Can’t these stories about Jesus be paired with our own personal stories?
In track and field, when the runners run a relay race, they pass a baton from one to another as each begins to run their leg of the race. Another way to think about the risen Lord Jesus ascending into heaven is Jesus passing the baton to His disciples. They have been in training for these past three years, and now our Lord Jesus is about to leave. “Jesus did tell them very clearly that they were to take up his ministry on earth. His earthly part of the race was complete, but theirs was just starting.” 
We are witnesses to Jesus and His power and transformation in our lives today. Jesus “comes to you and me, he comes to his Church, lifts us up, loves us without limit, and invites us to tell the story of love over and over again. Remember His words: ”You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and in Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the world.”  How has Jesus been active in our lives, today? How is He telling the story of love to each of us? Jesus invites us to go and tell – tell others, today! Alleluia, amen.
 “‘Why do you stand looking up into heaven?’ (Acts 1:11),” William Loader, Being the Church Then and Now: Issues from the Acts of the Apostles.