On the 40th day after the resurrection of Jesus, He ascended into heaven. In his sermon last weekend, Wu Yuzhuang explained the importance of this event.
The Book of Acts is a record of the events surrounding Pentecost—the acts of the Apostles and also the acts of the Holy Spirit. Written by Luke, who was a physician, this Book was a sequel to the Gospel of Luke; both books speak extensively of the Holy Spirit.
At the start of his sermon, “Taken Up” on 28 and 29 May, Pastor Wu Yuzhuang explained that Luke was the travelling companion of Apostle Paul and the one who went about interviewing the eyewitnesses of Jesus. “At the end of the Gospel of Luke, he mentioned the ascension of Christ, and in the early part of the book of Acts, he also mentioned the ascension,” noted the pastor.
There are three well-publicised events in Jesus’s life: His birth, death, and resurrection. However, many Christians do not realise that the resurrection was not the final event of Jesus’ life. Instead, it was the ascension that occurred 40 days after the resurrection and 10 days before Pentecost.
Between the resurrection and ascension, Jesus appeared to more than 500 people in multiple locations, including Mary Magdalene, the women returning from the tomb, Simon Peter, the disciples on the road to Emmaus, the disciples, the seven by the Lake of Tiberias, and the believers in Galilee.
“The fact that Jesus is alive is the bedrock of our Christian faith,” Pastor Zhuang emphasised. “The centre of Christianity is not based on a place. It is based on a Man who walked out of the tomb and into victory. Not only was Jesus resurrected, but He also ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.”
Pastor Zhuang noted that when Jesus first told the disciples that He was leaving, the disciples grieved and were troubled (Jn 16:5-6). However, when Jesus eventually left, the disciples returned to Jerusalem rejoicing (Lk 24:52). This drastic difference in reaction suggests that the disciples must have received a new level of understanding of why Jesus left, where He would be going and what He would be doing.
“The resurrected Christ did not just appear to prove that He is alive, He appeared to them to instruct them on the Kingdom of God,” said Pastor Zhuang. That was how they gained a new understanding of their purpose in God’s plan.
During the 40-day period, Jesus slowly weaned them off His physical presence by disappearing from time to time. He wanted them to learn to trust Him even when they could not see Him.
When Jesus finally ascended into heaven, it was visible to all the disciples (Acts 1:9-10). Their “training phase” was concluded—the disciples had acquired a new level of faith.
With that, Pastor Zhuang shared three reasons why the ascension of Jesus is important.
ONE: THE ASCENSION MARKS THE COMPLETION OF CHRIST’S EARTHLY WORK FOR US
Jesus humbled himself and paid the price for the sins mankind committed by fulfilling the wrath of God completely through His death on the cross. Because of His obedience, God exalted Him highly and bestowed upon Him the Name above every name (Phil 2: 7-9). Jesus’ ascension to heaven was how God exalted Jesus, therefore it cannot be neglected. “You should never think about crucifixion without the resurrection; you should never think about the resurrection without thinking about the ascension,” Pastor Zhuang remarked.
Jesus was taken up to the clouds. Clouds often represented the presence of God in the Old Testament. Jesus came from the Father, and after finishing His work on Earth, He returned to the clouds, that is, the presence of God.
“Since Adam was expelled from the Garden, this was the first time a Man had entered into the fullness of God’s glory and God’s presence,” asserted Pastor Zhuang. “When Adam was expelled from the presence of God, all His children were alienated. But when Jesus was welcomed into the presence of God, all His children were now accepted into the presence of God.”
The door to heaven that was once closed to mankind is now open because of the complete work of Jesus.
TWO: THE ASCENSION SIGNALS THE SENDING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Jesus instructed His disciples to stay in Jerusalem until the fulfilment of God’s promise (Acts 1:4). However, Jesus also told the disciples that He had to leave so that the Holy Spirit could come to them (Jn 16:7). In other words, there would be no Pentecost without the ascension.
Instead of having Jesus with them from time to time, the disciples will have the Holy Spirit at all times—He will live in them, empower them and be their Helper.
Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit because He was full of the Holy Spirit (Lk 4:1). Pastor Zhuang noted that in the same way, people will always be led by what they are full of, giving the example of how the pandemic has filled many with varying emotions, causing them to act out in violence and anger.
Pastor Zhuang shared a personal testimony reflecting this truth. In 2009, his two-month-old son was hospitalised for a medical condition and that caused the family to be drained emotionally, physically, and financially. One time, Pastor Zhuang had to wait two hours at the hospital to see the doctor, and another two hours at the pharmacy for his son’s medication. When his number was finally called, he went up to the pharmacist only to be told that the dosage was wrong and he would need to wait further. In his exhaustion, he flared up at the pharmacist, who said “I’m sorry, Pastor!” Realising she was a church member, he was filled with remorse and embarrassment, and asked God to change him and fill his heart with the Holy Spirit so that he would be led by Him and not his anger.
“Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to fill us so that we can be more like Jesus,” the pastor taught.
THREE: THE ASCENSION SIGNALS CHRIST’S CONTINUING WORK THROUGH US
The Gospel of Luke records what Jesus began to do and teach (Acts 1:1-2) while the Book of Acts records what Jesus continued to do and teach through the disciples. Even though the work of atonement has been completed on the cross, the work of preaching the gospel continues to this day. Jesus has passed the responsibility to His disciples (Eph 4:11).
“After Christ’s ascension, He passed the baton of preaching the gospel to the apostles, the prophets, to the evangelists, to the pastors, to the teachers, and to his people, which is all of us,” Pastor Zhuang taught, adding that all believers do the work of the ministry by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).
“The Father creates, the Son redeems, the Holy Spirit empowers,” he continued. “Jesus is saying to us, ‘I will get you from Earth to heaven, but the Holy Spirit will let you experience heaven on Earth’.”
In Mark 16:14, Jesus rebuked His disciples for their lack of faith but in verse 15, Jesus gave them the Great Commission. Why did Jesus give such an imperfect bunch of disciples such an important responsibility, asked the pastor. The answer lies in Luke 24:50—He gave them a blessing before He ascended into heaven. The last vision image the disciples saw of Jesus was Him lifting His hands up and blessing them.
“The blessing of God is a prophetic statement of God what God will do in and through a person’s life,” Pastor Zhuang explained. Jacob deceived his father and stole his brother’s blessing. That is why even though Jacob is inadequate and flawed, he went on to fulfil the purpose of God in his life. Similarly, Jesus has blessed His disciples with the Holy Spirit so that they can continue the work of the ministry.
“What is Jesus doing today? He is still blessing His people,” the pastor proclaimed. “Today if you feel that you cannot serve God, you feel inadequate, tired, or that you don’t have the personality, ability and talent, I want to encourage you to step out in faith. Look at the clouds in faith and remember Jesus is still praying for you.”
In closing, Pastor Zhuang shared how he never felt good about himself as a youth, but he had the desire to serve God. He admired his classmate, who is now CHC’s executive pastor Aries Zulkarnain, and prayed that he could be like Pastor Aries. God told him, “You don’t have to be like anyone else; you can just be you and I will use you to serve Me and fulfil My purpose for you.” Today, Pastor Zhuang is serving God in his own way by the grace of God.
In closing, Pastor Zhuang encouraged the church to look to Jesus for the faith to serve Him.