Finally Listen, Do What I Tell You, and Goodbye
Acts 1:4-11 and Matthew 28:16-20
Acts 1:4–11 (NIV): 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He 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.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Matthew 28:16–20 (NIV): 16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
There is a little bit of comedy in these passages of Scripture in my opinion. Repeatedly, Jesus has asked them to go back and stay in Jerusalem the entire time between his resurrection and ascension. To be more correct, he told them to stay in Jerusalem before he was arrested and crucified. Now, we are at the ascension of Jesus in the land of Galilee! However, Jesus himself was leading them back.
Acts 1:12 (ESV) “[After the Ascension] they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away.”
Luke 24:50–51 (ESV) “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.”
Now, I purposely put the Acts record and the Matthew record out of order for purposes of my own devices. However, you will see something awesome that you may have missed. Matthew’s record of the Great Commission happens at Mount Tabor, which you might remember is the Mount of Transfiguration, a place that Peter, James, and John knew well. Luke’s record in Acts has Jesus ascending from Olivet, or more properly, the Mount of Olives. Mount Tabor is 6 miles east of Nazareth, between Jesus’ hometown and the Sea of Galilee. This would be roughly a 2 hour and 30-minute drive if you drove the same route today that they took. If all you did was walk without a break, it would take 30 hours to walk this road.
- From the very beginning, people were walking away from the commands of Jesus.
- Even that is true, Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, went after them.
- He walked with them on the way back to Jerusalem, appearing when needed to encourage them, even feed them.
- Their travel took them from the place were some had witnessed the Transfiguration of Jesus while also seeing Moses and Elijah, who were very much alive.
- It would end at the place where Jesus submitted to his Father and was arrested, betrayed by a kiss from Judas.
- He brought them back to the place where you could look directly at Jerusalem. However, he had promised them at Mount Tabor that he would truly never leave them and that he would always be with them. Indeed, he meant what he said. He is ruling over us now as High Priest and King. Also, since he and the Father and the Holy Spirit are One, they would then be receiving a great baptism if they simply would return to Jerusalem and finally listen to Jesus. Since the day of Pentecost, we are living in the age of the Holy Spirit.
- Sometimes, like the 11 Apostles at the day that Jesus ascended, we just stare blanking into the Heavens waiting for Jesus to come back when instead we should be doing what he has taught us.