Introduction: We have seen in notes on Christ’s post-resurrection ministry how for forty days Christ solidified the tottering faith of His church before going back to heaven. After the shock of the Cross, His disciples needed Christ to give “many convincing proofs of His resurrection” as well as “teach about the Kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). But now here is the question: How does Christ continue to strengthen His church now that He has disappeared into heaven? The clouds of Acts 1:9-11 have hidden Jesus from our sight. We don’t have the privilege of seeing Christ for forty days alive or to experience “our hearts burning” as He teaches us the Scriptures! Ah, but we do! By His Spirit Christ now exercises a world-wide ministry as Prophet, Priest and King! May this week’s notes convince us that Christ’s heavenly ministry on our behalf is even more effective than when He walked among us on earth.
Mon/Tues: read John 20:11-18 and Acts 1:1-3. Christ’s heavenly ministry of mediation and intercession was uppermost in His mind after rising from the dead. For example, notice how He tells Mary that she was to go and tell the disciples that He was literally already ascending in John 20:17. His instructions are clear on this point: “Say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” The reality of His ascension was so present to Him because He knew that it was there in the heavenly Holy of Holies that He would effectively control our destinies, convert our hearts and preserve our faith. Never before this had the human race had a physically present Mediator in God’s court in heaven until Jesus ascended to that post at the right hand of God! This, then, is why Jesus speaks in the present tense: He so wanted to be there, knowing that there He would exercise a world-wide reign over sinners – rather than remaining localized on earth, limited to being in one place at a time.
Meditate and pray: “Lord Jesus, thank you for your eagerness that we should be saved, preserved and redeemed by your intercessions for us in heaven. Thank you for how eagerly you looked forward in John 20:17 to beginning the business of interceding in heaven on our behalf. Thank you that every day you are up early to order and shape the daily experiences of our lives – quickly forgetting our failures and sins against you from the day before in order to begin afresh with us each day as a day of grace! Who would not want to follow such an eager Savior who has gone in John 20:17 not only to His Father but to ours as well to be our Advocate there! Thank you Jesus, Amen!”
Wednesday: read Luke 24:50-53. What causes the disciples’ joy at the Ascension of the Lord Jesus? It was the posture of blessing which He adopted as He was taken up from them. With His hands raised He blessed them, and, “while He blessed them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.” Who can tell on a daily basis what such blessing means on our lives, as He “lives to intercede for us” and tirelessly keeps His hands raised in order to carry our every need in prayer to the Father? Jesus is no mere Moses, whose hands grew weary every time the battle went poorly for Israel in Exodus 17:11!
Meditate and Pray: “Once again, Lord Jesus, we thank you that with your Father and the Holy Spirit it is your will to keep watch over your people – even as you did over Israel in the past (Psalm 121:3-4). Thank you also that your watchcare is an active oversight, and that you can intervene at any point of need. Please, therefore give us boldness to enter into your throne room when we need help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16). Most of all, thank you that your aid is timely: never premature or tardy. Please, therefore, order the events of our lives according to your heavenly timetable, and persevere with your Father in asking for all that we need at every moment. Amen.”
Thurs/Fri: read John 16:16 and Acts 1:6-7. Because of His strong faith and His victory over every form of opposition through the Cross, Christ is full of joy at the prospect of his work for us in heaven. He is so full of joy forty days prior to His ascension that He speaks of it as a present reality in John 20:17! In the same way, He amazingly views the time between His ascension and His second coming as just “a little while” in John 16:16! Let’s look at this verse more closely now.
At first glance Jesus could be understood as speaking in verse 16 of His impending death (“a little while and you will see me no more”), followed “a little while” later by His post-resurrection appearances. But notice how the Apostles talk among themselves in John 16:17 – connecting this “little while” of Jesus’ departure and return with what Jesus has said in verse 10 about “going to His Father.” It seems most natural, then, to understand that Jesus is speaking about His ascension to the Father, and then “after a little while” His return at His second coming and judgment. That is what the disciples seem to think they hear from Jesus. But wait we may say! How can Jesus speak of the long period until His return (which Jesus must have known would be a long time) as “just a little while”? The timing of all this confuses us as much as it confused the Apostles!
But, once again, we fail to appreciate how the strength of Jesus’ love for us, and how His eagerness to work each day to make us His bride, would make the time between our engagement to be the Lord’s and our ‘wedding supper’ upon His return just a “little while” for Him! It is much like Jacob’s 7 years of labor to win Rachel to be His wife in Genesis 29:20 – “they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.” In the same way, how beautifully comforting for us to learn that Jesus is counting the days – and busying Himself to make all necessary preparations in heaven for us. As soon as all that work is done up there, He will return without a moment’s delay!
This is why we are not to be overly concerned that we “know not the day or the hour,” according to Acts 1:7. If the date of Christ’s return is so eagerly anticipated and planned for by Him, so that He will return from heaven as soon as His work is finished for the church’s welfare there, then clearly we have no need to worry about times or dates!
Meditate and Pray: “Lord Jesus, thank you once again for the eagerness of your love for us, that you are making such good use of your time for us in heaven. Thank you for the promise that ‘yet a little while, and you shall come and not tarry’ (Hebrews 10:37)!”
Prayers for Sat/Sun: “Jesus, thank you that because of your Ascension, you now exercise an all-prevailing and omni-present ministry of intercession and kingdom-rule. You ask for the nations (Psalm 2:8) – and world-wide missions are born because of your request! You ask for individual sinners to be converted, and the Spirit applies your redemptive work by working faith in each elect heart unto saving faith and repentance. You ask for sin and evil to be restrained, and revival breaks out on earth, as “repentance and faith are proclaimed to all nations” (Luke 24:47).
Everything arises because you have asked for it to be done. Oh, increase our trust in you as you “live to intercede for us and for the nations” (Hebrews 7:25). Increase also our gratitude as we realize anew that all good things in our lives arise because you ask for them to be given. We magnify you as our generous and giving heavenly King and High-Priest. Amen.”