The Ascension — Part One
return to the main player
Return to the Main Player
return to the main player
Return to the Main Player

The Ascension — Part One

From Series: The Gospel According to Luke, Volume 11

It may be one of the most overlooked events in the Bible, but the Ascension is a key element in the Gospel story's completion. After His resurrection, Jesus continued teaching His followers and preparing them for his earthly departure. As His actions demonstrate, Jesus loves to bless His people: His last act on earth was to bless His followers, and He continues to care for us from the Father’s right hand. Alistair Begg urges us to respond with joyful worship and obedience.


Sermon Transcript:

Father, thank you for the privilege of giving our voices as part of the great cacophony of praise which ascends to you this day from nations and languages all around the world and from the angelic throng around your throne in heaven.[1] And we pray that as we have sought your help in singing, we seek your help in studying, and ask that your blessing may attend our meditation upon your Word. For we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

I invite you to be seated and to turn to Luke chapter 24, where our focus is on the concluding few verses, beginning with verse 50. If you turn there, I’ll read them in your hearing. Luke 24:50:

“When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.”

Well, it’s due time for us to conclude our studies in Luke’s Gospel. I’m sure that many of you have long since determined that. I was quite amazed this week to turn back to our introductory study and to read what I had said to you on that occasion: “We are placing our feet upon a path that stretches for some considerable distance. This is the longest book in the New Testament. We could be here for some time, from the annunciation of John the Baptist to the ascension of the Lord Jesus.” And what staggered me was that the day in which I said that was the fifth of December 1998. And so, it is high time for us to finish up in the Gospel of Luke. And we’ll do that today, I think—although you never know.

If you’re using an NIV, you will see that above verse 50 there are just two words—namely, “The Ascension.” “The Ascension.” The departure of Christ into heaven is arguably the least considered aspect of the work of Christ. The average person in the street will know something about the birth of Jesus, if they know anything at all. They will probably, and certainly this week, know something about the death of Jesus. But if you were to ask them where Jesus presently is or what he is currently doing, they probably would be at sea. And Luke ends his Gospel with the story of the ascension, and he begins his second volume—namely, the book of Acts—also with a description, a more detailed description, of the ascension.

A moment’s thought will make clear that without the ascension, the story is incomplete. With an incomplete story we will focus on the wrong things and get it dreadfully wrong. The hymn writers help us when, for example, we sing the words, post-Easter,

The head that once was crowned with thorns
Is crowned with glory now;
[And] a royal diadem adorns
The mighty victor’s brow.[2]

So that our focus and our preoccupation is not with a bloodied and distressed Christ, but our focus and preoccupation is with a kingly Christ, a reigning Christ, one who is now at his Father’s side. In the words with which we will end our worship this morning, we will remind ourselves before leaving,

We have a priest
Who is there interceding,
Pouring his grace
On our lives day by day.[3]

Therefore, we have a most necessary reminder in these closing verses of where Jesus is and what Jesus is doing. And I’ll suggest to you—and I hope I’m able to make it clear to you as we study the text—that this may well be the necessary corrective for some of us who have been looking in other places to find an antidote to our dispiritedness, perhaps to our defeat, to our ongoing sense of failure, or to an abject sense of discouragement: the necessity of being reminded of the fact that Jesus is an ascended King.

Now, with three words we will trace a line through the text. The first word is transition, the second word is ascension, and the third word is reaction.

The Transition

The transition to which I’m referring is identified for us in the opening verses of Acts, where Luke tells us that Jesus, over a period of almost seven weeks, made appearances before his followers and taught them concerning the kingdom of God.[4] In other words, Jesus did not simply rise from the dead and go directly to heaven. I suppose it would’ve been possible for him to do so. We might have imagined that there were very good reasons for doing so. After all, the work of redemption is completed. What else is there for him to do? He has made a full atonement, and he has been raised in triumph over death; therefore, why not just go directly to the Father?

Well, this transition is an indication of what a wonderfully gracious friend and Savior Jesus is. Because he takes time over forty days to move amongst his followers. And in appearing to them, he answers their questions, he helps to banish their fears, he teaches them all that they need to know, and as we saw last time in verse 46 and 47—actually, verse 45—“he opened their minds so [that] they could understand the Scriptures,” and he prepared them for the coming of the Holy Spirit. And then, and only then, did he leave. And I say to you again, it is a mark of his grace and his kindness that he stayed around, if you like, in order to provide, in this transitional period, the kind of encouragement that his followers so desperately needed. And surely when they reflected on it in later years, when the time came for them to write down much of this material, they must have been glad of the transition.

How glad Thomas—doubting Thomas—must have been that Jesus had not left directly. Had he done so, Thomas would have been unable to address his doubts, to meet his Savior, to place his doubting hands into the nail prints of the body of the Lord Jesus Christ and have his questions answered and his fears allayed.

Surely Peter, in all of his discouragement and in his disgrace, was equally glad of the transition. He had made such a royal hash of things: “No, I don’t know the man. No, I never met the man. No, I may sound like the man—my accent may be similar—but no, I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about.” And then his eyes, meeting the eyes of Jesus, and then him going out and into the night and weeping bitterly,[5] eventually telling his followers, “I think I’m going back fishing.”[6] How glad he was for the transition—that Jesus comes, and meets him on the shore, and makes breakfast, and gives him the opportunity to reinstate himself with a threefold affirmation of his love for Christ and hear Jesus say, “Now go ahead, Peter, and do what I’ve asked you to do.”[7]

And don’t you think the mother of Jesus was glad for the transition? For she had stood with others at that scene and witnessed the sorry spectacle,[8] the brutality that was meted out upon her son, her boy. How glad she must have been. And if, in giving voice to the Magnificat, she did so in anticipation of all that this son would mean to her, surely she was able to sing the Magnificat at this point in a way that she’d never done before. You know what I’m referring to, don’t you?

My soul glorifies the Lord
 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
 of the humble state of his servant.[9]

Yes, he had. He comes from the cross and he says, “Disciple, your mother; mother, your son,”[10] caring for his mother in that moment. But that was not the closing scene. And now she along with the others is going to enjoy the journey back to Jerusalem—a joyful journey. Because the story doesn’t end with a distressed Christ, it doesn’t end with a crucified Christ, nor does it even end with a resurrected Christ, but it ends with an ascended Christ. He is Lord and he is King.

And I know many of you come from a background where this is difficult for you to hear, but if you want a picture of the Virgin Mary, have a dancing one. For her end, her conclusion, was not in the pie​tà, there with her son in all of his bloody distress, but her end was with a company of the pilgrims going back to Jerusalem, rejoicing in the fact that her son, who had been so dreadfully abused, was none other than the ascended Lord and King. And that’s how she ended her life. She did not end her life with the preoccupations that are customarily suggested to us. Those were real! We mitigate them in no sense. But I say again to you: the Scriptures do not encourage us to end with a bloody, distressed, and fearful Christ, a crucified, hanging Christ, or even a resurrected Christ, but in the most neglected aspect of the work of Christ, they encourage us to focus on the fact that he is an ascended Christ.

That’s why we’ve just sung what we sang. I’m not sure that we all paid attention to it: “Jesus, hail!” Worship Jesus! “Enthroned in glory.” That’s where he is. “There forever to abide.” That’s his dwelling place. He’s coming back momentarily to add to the number of those joining him, but that’s where he lives now. And “all the heav’nly hosts adore you, seated at your Father’s side.” What’re you doing there, Jesus? “There for sinners you are pleading, and our place you now prepare.” How he’s doing that, I don’t know. Presumably using helpers: “Now, I know this girl. She likes mauves. I would like her room to look just like this. And this chap who’s coming, he likes a kind of outdoor-indoor architecture. He likes to be able to sit out in the evenings. Let’s get his place just wonderfully the way he anticipates it.” And “our place you now prepare, and always for us interceding, till in glory we appear.”[11]

You see, these words give a necessary corrective to the fact that we’ve lost Jesus along the journey. Where is he? He’s at the Father’s right hand. What is he doing? Preparing our place, pleading our case.

The Ascension

That’s the first word: transition. The second word is ascension.

“While,” verse 51, “he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.” The Lord Jesus had lived perfectly, fulfilling the law. He fulfilled the will of the Father completely. He had accomplished the work of atonement. He had risen in triumph. And so I can imagine (and I say so reverently) that when here in verse 50 he takes the followers with him out to familiar territory—for Bethany, on the foothills of the Mount of Olives, the slopes of the Mount of Olives, was certainly a familiar place. It was the home of Lazarus and Martha and Mary. They went there with frequency. It was here that they had gathered on a number of occasions. And as he takes them out, he must essentially turn to them and say, “Well, that’s it. There’s nothing more for me to do. I’ve done it all. That pretty well wraps it up, and, uh… I’m outta here.” You say, “Well, Jesus wouldn’t say, ‘I’m outta here.’” No, but he would say something like that in Aramaic. I mean, do you think he said, “I am now departing.” You know? No, they were his friends. He spoke to them. They spoke like normal people. They were normal people. “Fellas, you’ve watched me. You’ve listened to me. You’ve followed me. I’ve died for you. I’ve risen for you. And now I’m leaving. I’m leaving now.”

Now, his followers would not have been completely blindsided by this, because he had actually told them. In Luke chapter 9—you may want just to look at this to refresh your memory—in Luke chapter 9, in the record of the transfiguration… Remember, Jesus took Peter and James and John with him, and he “went up [to] a mountain to pray.”[12] And in the context of that—verse 30—“two men, Moses … Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor,” and they were “talking with Jesus.” And what did they talk about? Well, “they spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.” He was about to bring his departure to fulfillment. It’s an interesting expression, isn’t it? In other words, it’s almost as if the whole thing was about his departure—that his whole journey was a prolonged departure: that he had left the glory of heaven, that he had come to earth, he’d been born as a baby, he had lived as a man, he died as Savior, and the whole thing was working towards his departure.

In fact, the word is exodus: he spoke about his exodus. Moses also was able to speak about an exodus. He had been able to… They presumably compared exoduses with one another, you know. And Moses said, “Well, you remember my exodus? Brought the people out of Egypt! Liberated them from the bondage of Egypt!” “Yes,” Jesus said, “that was wonderful. And in my exodus, I’m going to lead my people out from the bondage of sin.”

And in verse 51, Luke follows up with this notion, and he describes the timeline in relationship to his ascension. Luke 9:51: “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” It doesn’t say, “As the time approached for him to die,” although it may well have said that, and it says that in other places. But in this context Luke says, “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven…” That’s ultimately what he’s doing: he is going back to the Father and to glory. Everything else will take place in process until then. And in John chapter 20, when Mary Magdalene meets Jesus in the garden post-resurrection and falls at his feet and grabs him, Jesus, you remember, says, “Mary, don’t hang on to me like that. I have not yet ascended to my Father.”[13] “I’m not staying here. I’m in a transition at the moment, but I am moving forward.”

Now, the verbs were helpful to me in just setting the picture clearly in my mind. Verse 50, the verb to lead: and “when he had led them out.” The whole story of their journey had been about Jesus, their leader. He had come to them and said, “Follow me,”[14] and they had begun to follow him, and here at the very end of it all, they’re still following. He sets out before them. He is in every sense their leader. He is their forerunner. He is the firstfruits of those who fall asleep.[15] And he leads them out, out to a location where, only a matter of a few weeks ago, he had dispatched a couple of them to go and get a donkey for him to ride on. You remember that, in the triumphal entry? If you go back to Luke chapter 19, right around verse 28 or so, you will discover that once again they’re in Bethany, and they’re about to begin another journey. And he leads them. Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers, and all the rest of them, he leads them out.

And then we’re told, “He lifted up his hands.” He leads them out; he lifts his hands. They would understand this gesture in a way that most of us do not, whether they understood it in terms of the Aaronic priestly blessing—“The Lord bless you and keep you,”[16] as we often will say, from Numbers—or whether they thought of it in terms of Moses’s departure, or the departure of Jacob in Genesis 49, where, you remember, in there he blesses all of the sons of Israel. It was customary for someone of stature and significance not simply to walk out the door and walk away but to extend blessing upon those who were in his custody and under his care. And it surely was very meaningful to them that their final view of their beloved master is a picture of him with his hands raised in blessing upon them.

You see, that’s another reason that without the transition, that would not have been the final view. It wouldn’t have been the final view for Mary. It wouldn’t have been the final view for Peter. It wouldn’t have been the final view for Thomas. What a gracious Savior! What a wonderful Lord we have, that he loves to lift his hands up in blessing upon his own—says, “I bless you with my love and with my life and with my power and with my will.”

You will remember, won’t you, from our studies in Joseph, that the way we say hello and the way we say goodbye really matters. And if it matters on a superficial level in terms of our interpersonal relationships, it should be no surprise that it really mattered to Jesus, that it wasn’t just a passing gesture—“Hey guys, I’ll see you”—but rather, when he said, “I’m out of here, I’m leaving, I’m going,” he didn’t just walk away; he stood with his hands raised in blessing.

Jesus loves to bless us. Jesus is far more willing to bless us then we are to even take the time to ask him to bless us. He loves to do so.

And, you will notice, he leads them out, he lifts his hands, and then he leaves them. Luke tells us, with an eye for detail, that “while he was [still] blessing them, he left.” So their very final picture of him, his posture before them, is this wonderful picture. God loves to bless us, you know. Jesus loves to bless us. Jesus is far more willing to bless us then we are to even take the time to ask him to bless us. He loves to do so. Is that the picture you have of Christ, with his hands raised in blessing on your life? You may. You should!

Now, isn’t it wonderful that he leaves in such a decisive and defining way? If the appearances of Jesus had just grown fewer and fewer and then petered out, nobody would have really known what was going on. You know, if they said to one another, “Well, it’s a week since he was here. Do you think he’ll come back again?” “Well, he was here last… Two weeks ago he did that. Yes, I wonder if he will do that this week.” If it had all just been going away from them, dissipating, they wouldn’t have known. And so Jesus very decisively and very wonderfully leaves them in no doubt that he is at the end. He’s at the end, he’s at the beginning. It is the end of the beginning, it’s the beginning of the end. It’s the end of all that Jesus has begun to do and teach, as Luke says in his second volume.[17] Now the responsibility of teaching, now the responsibility of proclaiming the kingdom of God, is going to fall to his followers as they’re empowered by the Holy Spirit. It’s now over to them to take the news of repentance and faith to all the nations, and they’re to begin this evangelism program, as we saw last time, beginning in Jerusalem.[18] But he wants his disciples to understand they will no longer be able to see him and talk with him as before, and they’re about to discover that what he had told them previously about how good this was going to be, that he was true in what he said. Remember he said in John 16, “I’m going to go away from you, and when I go the Father will send the Counselor, the Comforter; the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, will come, and he will abide with you forever.”[19]

And that’s essentially it: “While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.” There you have the ascension, in a sentence.

And I say to you again that it is an ongoing matter of wonder to me that at the most pivotal points in Christianity, the Scriptures are so cryptic. There is no elaboration. For example, the birth of Jesus. What do we have? A sentence: “And she brought forth her firstborn son … and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”[20] That’s the incarnation. The incarnation! That God became a fetus! That the creator of the universe, accommodating himself to our humanity, that he walked into our life and into our experience! It’s not covered with some great forty-seven-page scientific journal, some great theological insight. It simply says, “And she brought forth her son.” He was born. When you get to the crucifixion, you don’t have an hour and a half on the sufferings of Christ. You have a sentence: “And there they crucified him, between two thieves.”[21] And you come to the ascension, and you have a sentence: “And he was taken up into heaven.”

There must be something to this notion that “we walk by faith, [and] not by sight,”[22] don’t you think? You see, nobody is going to be argued into the incarnation. If you’re here today expecting some slick argument that will convince you of a resurrected Christ, I have long since run out of slick arguments. If you demand from me or from others some explication of the ascension that will appeal to your intellect and draw you to faith, I can only tell you it’s not going to happen. But if you will humble your heart and mind before the living God, the spirit of God will bring the Word of God home to your heart and take the veil from your eyes and convince you that these simple sentences are pivotal not only for life but for death and for all of eternity.

Yeah, but there’s a ten-year-old boy here, and he’s not happy with that. “No, I think Begg’s dodging,” he says to his mother. “I wanna know what happened in the ascension! What happened? Is Jesus the first space traveler? Was it like Cape Canaveral, Cape Kennedy? Is that how it went?” Well, God’s power was certainly as much at work in the taking of Jesus in the ascension as it was at work in the resurrection. And it does say that “he was taken up … and a cloud hid him from their sight.”[23] So we know that Jesus was going up in the world. All right? We talk about people going up in the world, don’t we? We use that phraseology: “Oh, I see George. He’s going up in the world. He used to be on the fourth floor; now he’s on the seventh floor. He has a different key, and his own parking space. He’s going up in the world.” Well, in a very realistic sense, that is what’s happening here. Jesus is going up in the world. He for our sakes had humiliated himself and was born as a babe—didn’t count equality with God something to be grasped, made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, made in the likeness of man, humbled himself unto death, even death on a cross. Now he’s going up in the world. Therefore, God highly exalted him,[24] said, “Come on now, Son. Come up here.” The Father brings him home, advancing him, restoring him to his majesty and to a dignity that he knew with the Father and the Spirit before time began.

Jim Packer, in an uncharacteristically “down there” kind of illustration, says, “It is as if, having travelled successfully in the firm’s interest, the Son was now recalled to headquarters to become [the CEO].”[25] It’s an approximation to the idea. What’s happening here? Well, the Son has traveled on the Father’s business, completed the task that he has been given, and now he’s coming back to heaven, and he’s going to be the Father’s right-hand man. The Father’s right-hand man. Isn’t that what we’re told? That

He sits at God’s right hand,
Till all his foes submit,
And bow to His command,
And fall beneath His feet.[26]

Where is Jesus today?

Now, for my ten-year-old inquirer I’ll say just this: it’s very important that when the Bible doesn’t explain things, that we don’t allow our imaginations to go crazy. Because we can imagine all kinds of stuff that isn’t worthy of our thoughts. And I’m pretty sure that if we think of Jesus as the first space traveler zooming light-years away from us, we probably got it wrong. Probably. In fact, I think if we think of eternity as way up there and out there in sort of Platonic terms, in spatial terms, then we probably got it wrong as well.

I think C. S. Lewis is probably closer to it when he thinks in terms of “the Son being withdrawn through a ‘fold’ in space.”[27] And for those of you who read books about the fourth dimension, that’s closer to it. As we live in three dimensions, Jesus has made… He has conquered all the dimensions of space. He is liberated from any limitation that attaches to those three dimensions, even in his resurrection appearances. And so it’s a nice idea for me to think of eternity not as being light-years away out there, somewhere that I have to go after I die, but that actually, I’m just going to pass through a scrim that I cannot see that takes me from time into eternity—the same way that an actor when he takes his bow, and then when you look up, he moves, and it’s as though he disappeared into the folds of a curtain. But he didn’t! He actually disappeared in between two curtains.

And when we think of the ascension of Jesus, however we try and grapple with that, we dare not miss the significant point—namely, that we are now faced with the absence of his physical presence, but we now enjoy the availability of his spiritual presence, as do all who call on him everywhere.

Now, more can be said of the significance of the ascension. I’ll come to that this evening before we share in Communion.

The Reaction

Finally, the word reaction. Transition, ascension, reaction. We’ve grown used to the reaction of these people by now: “Everyone deserted him and fled.”[28] That was a reaction to the arrest of Jesus. “They did[n’t] believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.”[29] That was their reaction to the story that had come from the empty tomb. “They were startled and frightened.”[30] That was their reaction to the appearance of Jesus in the room beside them. And all of those prior responses make their reaction here all the more striking.

What is their reaction to his departure? Number one, worship. “While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him.” “Then they worshiped him.” They knew, as we know, that worship is due to God alone. To worship anyone or anything other than God is idolatry. And if never before, then in this final departing moment the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle all come together for these followers, and they say, “We worship him.” I’d like to think that they wrote the chorus there—which, clearly, they didn’t—as they stood there, and as Jesus was taken from them, someone said, “He is Lord,” and antiphonally somebody sang back, “He is Lord,” and someone said, “He is risen from the dead,” and then together they said, “and he is Lord,” and someone said, “Every knee will bow,” and someone said, “and every tongue confess,” and then together they said, “that Jesus Christ is Lord.” You see, their reaction was not bewilderment anymore. Their reaction was not chin down. Their reaction was worship. Worship! That is significant. They get to worship in the same way that the leper got to worship—one out of ten, admittedly—who, when he saw that he was healed, praised God, returned to Jesus, and worshiped.[31] Worship!

What else do they do? They praise him. Verse 53, they are “continually at the temple, praising God,” thanking him for what he’s done, adoring him for the wonder of his person.

Worship marks them. Praise marks them. Obedience marks them. They return to Jerusalem. That was an act of obedience. Jesus said, “I want you to make sure that you stay in Jerusalem until you receive the promise of the Father.”[32] And so, they’ve said goodbye to panic. They’ve said goodbye to bewilderment. They have remembered what Jesus told them to do, and they’re going to do it.

Their reaction is worship, praise, obedience, and joy. Actually, there’s an adjective there at the end of verse 52: “great joy.” Not the bewilderment of joy that is mentioned in verse 41: “while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement,” that strange emotional reaction. But no, this was “great joy.”

A Challenge and an Example

Now, before I just fold this up, let’s take those four identifying features of their reaction and take them to ourselves as both a challenge and as an example: worship, praise, obedience, and joy.

Christ is all our worship, he is all our joy, he is all our obedience, and he is all our praise. And we are accepted in him.

We’re about to go back into the routine of our lives. We can reflect on the last week of our lives—peculiar circumstances that came our way, encounters that we had with individuals, ways in which we reacted to different things, some of which were hard for us and some did not appeal to us. How much of last week was marked in my life by worship, praise, obedience, and joy? Okay, forget last week. This is the first day of the week. Fresh grace, clean page, new day; “Only by grace can we enter, only by grace can we stand.”[33] It’d be dreadful if the message was “Now go out and try and muster up some worship, will you? And some joy and praise and obedience. Go on, do your best. Have a great week.” What a sorry testimony that would be. But Christ is all our worship, he is all our joy, he is all our obedience, and he is all our praise. And we are accepted in him. The Father accepts all his worship and joy and obedience and praise on our behalf and in light of his gracious work within us. Then, by his enabling, we follow his example.

And finally, I think that Luke, in this final little section, fulfills in a masterful way his objective that he set out in writing his Gospel. He said, “I … have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good … to me to write an orderly account for you … so that you [might] know the certainty of the things [that] you have been taught.”[34] And they “stayed continually at the temple,” they “worshiped him,” and they “returned to Jerusalem.” This is just silly on my part, but you’ll forgive it to me, won’t you? I imagine him dictating this, and he says to his amanuensis, he says, “Now, let’s just write these final few verses here. Write this: ‘They worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with joy.’” So the person’s writing, he says, “Wait a minute. Have you finished that?” Said, “No.” Said, “No, don’t write that. Write, ‘They worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy!’” So the secretary says, “Okay, ‘great joy’ it is.”

Why? Because when the secretary had written the earlier part of the account, and the angels appeared, and they told the story: “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”[35] And the Gospel begins in the temple and ends in the temple. Go back to chapters 1 and 2, and there’s a whole crowd of people there, and they are anticipating the advent of this Lord and Savior and King. They’re living in hope on the advent of a Savior. And the angel has brought to them this “good news of great joy.” And here it ends with “great joy,” as the faithful wait for the empowering of the Holy Spirit and ultimately for the return of the King.

And while they wait for the return of the King, they get about the business of “repentance and forgiveness of sins” being “preached in his name to all [the] nations.”[36] At the bottom of the page we ought to write there, “To be continued,” and go over to the Acts of the Apostles, and go to the end of Acts, and write at the bottom of that, “To be continued as well.” To be continued in Cleveland, Ohio.

We’ve a story to tell to the nations
That will turn their hearts to the right,
A story of truth and gladness,
A story of love and light.

For the darkness will turn to the dawning,
And the dawning to noonday bright,
And Christ’s great kingdom will come on earth,
A kingdom of love and light.[37]

Where is Jesus? He’s ascended. He’s King. What’s he doing? Getting your room ready. Pleading your case. Okay, then. Chins up! Chins up.

Let’s pray:

Father, forgive us for allowing our eyes to run with the gloomy, for us to furtively skirt around with the fearful as they look over their shoulders. Enable us by your Word and Spirit to lift our eyes and look up, because we have in the Lord Jesus Christ an ascended King. May that make a difference, we pray, in the way we go about the routine of our lives. For his name’s sake. Amen.


[1] See Revelation 7:11–12.

[2] Thomas Kelly, “The Head That Once Was Crowned” (1820).

[3] Wendy Churchill, “Jesus Is King” (1982).

[4] See Acts 1:3.

[5] See Luke 22:54–62. See also Matthew 26:69–75; Mark 14:66–72; John 18:15–17, 25–26.

[6] John 21:3 (paraphrased).

[7] See John 21:15–19.

[8] See John 19:25.

[9] Luke 1:46–48 (NIV 1984).

[10] John 19:26–27 (paraphrased).

[11] John Bakewell, “Hail, Thou Once Despised Jesus!” (1757). Lyrics lightly altered.

[12] Luke 9:28 (NIV 1984).

[13] John 20:17 (paraphrased).

[14] Matthew 4:19 (NIV 1984). See also Matthew 9:9; Mark 1:17; 2:14; Luke 5:27.

[15] See 1 Corinthians 15:20.

[16] Numbers 6:24 (NIV 1984).

[17] See Acts 1:1.

[18] See Luke 24:47.

[19] John 16:7 (paraphrased).

[20] Luke 2:7 (KJV).

[21] Luke 23:33 (paraphrased). See also Matthew 27:38; Mark 15:27; John 19:18.

[22] 2 Corinthians 5:7 (KJV).

[23] Acts 1:9 (NIV 1984).

[24] See Philippians 2:6–9.

[25] J. I. Packer, Revelations of the Cross (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1998), 56.

[26] Charles Wesley, “Rejoice, the Lord Is King” (1744).

[27] C. S. Lewis, quoted in Packer, Revelations, 56.

[28] Mark 14:50 (NIV 1984). See also Matthew 26:56.

[29] Luke 24:11 (NIV 1984).

[30] Luke 24:37 (NIV 1984).

[31] See Luke 17:11–19.

[32] Luke 24:49 (paraphrased). See also Acts 1:4.

[33] “Only by Grace Can We Enter” (1990).

[34] Luke 1:3 (NIV 1984).

[35] Luke 2:10 (NIV 1984).

[36] Luke 24:47 (NIV 1984).

[37] H. Ernest Nichol, “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations” (1896). Lyrics lightly altered.

Copyright © 2021, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.