Equipped for a mission-focused
Journey With Jesus

Sermon for May 12, 2024 — Ascension Sunday

Program Transcript

Ascension Sunday

There is a moment that echoes through eternity, a moment when the servant became the sovereign, the humble rose to the throne. Welcome to this sacred celebration of Ascension Sunday. Here, we gather to celebrate the journey of Christ.

The journey of Christ—a path from earthly servitude to heavenly rulership. In the mundane moments of our lives, he walked beside us, a healer, a teacher, unveiling the boundless depths of the Father’s love.

But, as the heavens opened their gates, a transformation occurred. Like a silhouette against the clouds, Jesus ascended, leaving behind the earthly realm. From servant to ruler, his journey symbolizes the cosmic shift, the glorious ascension that crowns him Lord of all.

Today, as we lift our eyes to the heavens, we stand in reverence. Recognizing that in Christ’s ascension, the humanity of Christ persists in everlasting existence. Jesus’s earthly form, forever established in union with his divine nature, serves as an eternal bridge across the gulf between humanity and God. Through Christ, the identification between God and us remains unbroken, a testament to his boundless love for all of humanity.

In every heart filled with love for him, there lies a promise of glorification. He, who ascended as humanity’s representative, now intercedes on our behalf, ensuring our eternal destiny in the splendor of his presence.

As we celebrate this Ascension Sunday, let the words of Psalm 47 resonate in our spirits:

Clap your hands, all you nations;
shout to God with cries of joy.
For the Lord Most High is awesome,
the great King over all the earth.

He subdued nations under us,
peoples under our feet.
He chose our inheritance for us,
the pride of Jacob, whom he loved.

 God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.

For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.
God reigns over the nations;
God is seated on his holy throne. 

The nobles of the nations assemble
as the people of the God of Abraham,
for the kings of the earth belong to God;
he is greatly exalted.

And as we bask in the glory of his reign, let our hearts be filled with the hope that, just as Jesus ascended in the clouds, he will return the same way. Our eyes fixed on the horizon, awaiting the triumphant return of the King who ascended, and the Lord who will come again.

Psalm 47:1-9 • Acts 1:1-11 • Ephesians 1:15-23 • Luke 24:44-53

This week, we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord, when Jesus, in his glorified human body, returned to the Father’s side. We also conclude the Easter season with the image of the resurrected Christ raised above the heavens. The theme for this week is the blessing of Christ’s ascension. Our call to worship psalm encourages us to praise God for who he is and what he has done. In Acts, we read about Christ’s ascension into heaven, which was witnessed by the disciples. In Ephesians, Paul describes the supremacy of Jesus, who was raised to heaven and seated at the right hand of God. Our sermon is another account of the ascension by Luke, which captures important details about how Jesus spent his last moments with his followers.

To the Very End

Luke 24:44-53 NIV

Books are treasures. They can open our mind to new realities, help us experience life in another place and time, teach us things, and fill us with wonder. There are some people who like to skip to the end of a book. Many would consider such behavior a breach of some kind of cosmic rule. However, there is no single way to enjoy a book. Just like the people who eat dessert first, ending-readers find delayed gratification overrated. Some of those who skip to the end may do so to see if the book is worth reading. Others, caught up in the suspense or drama of a good tale, may read the ending to see if things end well for the main characters. For whatever reason, ending-readers have a hard time enjoying a book unless they know how it ends.

If we were to skip to the end of the account of Jesus’ earthly ministry, what would the ending reveal about his story? Would we find something in the ending of the story that makes Jesus’ story one worth telling? At the conclusion of Jesus’ embodied time on earth, would we find evidence that things end well for him? Or, for humanity? Let us take a look at Luke 24:44-53 for answers to these questions:

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” 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. (Luke 24:44-53 NIV)

This week, we celebrate the ascension of our Lord, which comes at the end of the Easter season. In the Easter season, we celebrated the victory of Christ over sin and death for our behalf and the new life his followers have in him. In the ascension, we are assured that Christ’s victory and our redemption are permanent because Jesus, in a human body, rose to heaven with all power. Jesus is still one of us and he is God. There are none who can undo what he did or disconnect us from the destiny we share with Christ. Furthermore, Jesus took steps to ensure that his earthly ministry — the work to reveal the present reality of the kingdom and invite people to follow Christ —continued through his disciples. There are three things Jesus did for his disciples before he left earth to sit at the Father’s side: he equipped, sent, and blessed them. In this activity of Jesus, ending-readers will find some of the most important themes of Christ’s story.


The equipping of the disciples took two forms: the opening of scripture and the sending of the Holy Spirit to clothe them with power. Jesus revealed that he is the interpretive key of scripture. In other words, we can only truly understand scripture by looking through the lens of Christ’s birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension. This is because the Bible is intended to reveal Christ to those who read it. By opening the scriptures to his disciples, Jesus was equipping them for the life they had been ushered into. He gave them the means by which they could continue to grow in their knowledge of him. He made it so that a part of himself stayed with them, continuing to help them navigate their relationship with God and their neighbor. The opening of the scriptures was not just about acquiring the means to follow the laws and rules of God. Yes, the Bible does contain valuable moral and ethical instruction. However, more than that, scripture helps open us up to a relationship with God and familiarizes us with his voice.  It is impossible to follow Christ unless we know him and can hear his voice. So, the disciples would not have been able to continue Christ’s ministry without understanding that the scriptures reveal Christ.

Jesus also equipped his followers by sending the Holy Spirit to clothe them in power. The phrase “clothe them in power” is Luke’s way of previewing the manifestation of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. On that day, the Holy Spirit, through wind and fire, empowered the disciples to preach Christ in languages they did not know. Pentecost, the next special day on the worship calendar, was not only the symbolic beginning of the church, it was evidence that God now lived in the hearts of those who love him. The Holy Spirit alighted on the disciples signifying that God’s presence would no longer be confined to the Temple. Christ followers were now the temple of the Living God and Jesus is the cornerstone. Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit was God, another like himself. He also taught that the Holy Spirit was the one who empowered him, telling him what the Father said and did. So, in sending the Holy Spirit to his disciples, Jesus connected them to God in a deep, intimate way. He offered them, and us, the connection with God that he enjoyed during his time on earth. Of course, his connection to the Spirit was and is perfect, and our connection is not. However, the empowerment of the Spirit enabled a ragtag crew of disciples to turn the world upside down.

In the equipping of his followers, we can see Christ’s desire to be known. The equipping of the disciples consisted of sharing things unique to himself. One could say that he equipped his disciples by sharing himself with them. Jesus shared the best he had to give with his followers, withholding nothing. His desire to give of his own resources for our benefit tells us a lot about who he is.


In addition to equipping his disciples, Jesus spent his last moments on earth sending his followers. He charged them with preaching the gospel, starting in Jerusalem then throughout the world. In other words, he invited them to continue the work he started. Jesus divinely equipped and commissioned them to participate in work only God could do. He did not send them because they were so smart. He did not send them because they deserved it. He did not send them because they were so spiritual. He did not send them because he needed them. Christ’s inclusion of his followers betrays the Lord’s desire never to do anything apart from us. Just like a father inviting his daughter to help with a chore he could do faster by himself, God gets great joy when we participate in his life. So, he invites Christ’s disciples to continue his ministry of transforming lives by the power of the gospel.

In sending his disciples, Jesus shows his care not only for his followers, but also for those who do not yet know him. Jesus is the one who leaves the 99 to pursue the 1. He is the woman with ten silver coins who sweeps the entire house to find the one she lost. Jesus is the father who welcomes with open arms the son who rejected him. Jesus wants his followers to love their neighbor as he loves us and join him in revealing the presence of the kingdom. He cares for all humanity, not just the ones who call him Lord.


Lastly, Jesus blessed his disciples as his time on earth (in that way) concluded. To be more specific, Jesus continued to bless them as he was ascending into heaven. To the very last moment, he was speaking words of life over his followers. No one would fault Jesus if, distracted by the miracle of flight, he stopped his blessing. No one would fault Jesus if his excitement over being reunited with the Father caused him to stop his blessing. No one would fault Jesus if the relief of the end of his suffering caused him to stop his blessing. Yet, Jesus blessed his disciples to the very end. This shows the deep love Jesus had for his followers. Despite the amazing things happening to him, his unselfish love continued to shower down on the disciples.

If you skip to the end of the tale of Jesus of Nazareth, you get common themes from the rest of his story. In his last moments on earth, we see Jesus desiring to be known and unselfishly giving from his own resources for the betterment of his followers. We see a God who invites Christians to participate in his saving work because of his boundless love for all humanity. And we find a God who unselfishly expresses his love for his followers to the very end. Jesus’ story is a love story. It is the story of a love for the world that was so strong that God gave all he had to give. I hope it is a story we want to read over and over again. I hope it is a story we want to live and share.

Can I Get a Witness? w/ Terry Ishee W2

Video unavailable (video not checked).

May 12—Ascension Sunday
Luke 24:44-53, “Can I Get a Witness?”

CLICK HERE to listen to the whole podcast.

If you get a chance to rate and review the show, that helps a lot. And invite your fellow preachers and Bible lovers to join us!

Follow us on SpotifyGoogle Podcast, and Apple Podcast.

Program Transcript

Can I Get a Witness? w/ Terry Ishee W2

Anthony: Let’s pivot to our next pericope of the month. It’s Luke 24:44-53. It is a Revised Common Lectionary passage for Ascension Sunday, which is May the 12th. Terry, would you read it for us, please?

Terry: I’d be honored to.

Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the Law from Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. 46 He said to them, “This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 Look, I’m sending to you what my Father promised, but you are to stay in the city until you have been furnished with heavenly power.” 50 He led them out as far as Bethany, where he lifted his hands and blessed them. 51 As he blessed them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. 52 They worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem overwhelmed with joy. 53 And they were continuously in the temple praising God.

Anthony: I can hear Kirk Franklin in my head chanting, “Can I get a witness?” Yeah, and Jesus said you are witnesses of these things. But I’m curious; maybe we don’t have a full comprehension of what it means to be a witness. Is it just seeing the goodness of God?

Privatizing that or is there more to it?

Terry: Yeah, I think that’s a fantastic question. Again, I think we have to keep it simple. I think if you are born anew, if you are a follower of Jesus, if Jesus is king and Lord of your life, there has been something transformative in you, right?

God is doing a work in us. And that is something that we witness. And by faith, we witness who Jesus is, that he is the incarnated God, that he came and lived a life amongst us and lived it as perfect as you can. No one could live a better life. And even in spite of that perfect life of doing no wrong was found by man to be wrong and died on our behalf and in his death, not being defeated, rose again and ascended. Here in this passage, we see him returning to heaven, being taken up.

We are a witness of this. There is a tradition that we are a collective witness to who Jesus is and the work of the Father. I do believe that one, being a witness is a bit self-serving and I don’t say that negatively. It is good. I am grateful that I have eyes to see who Jesus is. That is a blessing and a gift from God. And I have people in my life who do not have that gift. That they, for some reason, they just cannot wrap their mind around the idea of Jesus as Lord, as Jesus as king. And my heart grieves for them. But I don’t think that witness stays there alone.

Being a witness isn’t for my own purpose, my own satisfaction, my own worth, but I am to be a witness for the world; I am to give a report of what I have seen, right? And here’s the thing. I think again, this is so natural in what it means to be human. I think the human experience is to be a witness because we give testimony to all sorts of things, right?

There’s not a person on this earth that doesn’t give witness to something. The question is what are you giving testimony to? And I’m not advocating that we just walk around and talk about Jesus ad nauseam. I don’t think that’s what Jesus would want.

But I think in our everyday life, are we able to attribute who we are and what we exist for? Do we give attribution? Do we give credit to who Jesus is in our life? Can we actually speak of the king and kingdom?

And yeah, so that’s my quick answer. I think we have to be active that it’s not just simply, oh yeah, I saw this, I received this and then it ends with me receiving. But I think there is a sense of receiving and now giving back to others.

Anthony: Yeah, you mentioned it in one of the previous passages about, or the previous one about love. It moves. There’s a movement. Love cannot be static. It’s got to move toward the other. That’s what it always does. And witnessing, birthed out of love, has to move toward others, right? You can’t keep the story to yourself, man. What good is that? Share it with your lives.

Speaking of the Ascension, it’s often considered one of the big six of Jesus’ earthly activities: birth, baptism, transfiguration, death, resurrection, and Ascension. But it seems to me the Ascension is the one that’s a little bit overlooked and under discussed.

So, from your perspective, Terry, if you agree, why pay attention to Jesus ascending back to the Father?

Terry: Fantastic question. I agree wholeheartedly and a little soapbox is going to pop out. So, if you want to get your preacher Kirk Franklin on, here we go. No, I won’t go there.

I think one of the reasons why we don’t discuss the Ascension as much is because you can’t talk about the Ascension without a commission, the ascension and the commissioning that Jesus has for us as the witnesses — John 20:21, as the Father has sent me, I now send you. Throughout all of Jesus’ life, he was hinting towards this idea that we are the sent ones that will go and bear witness into the world. That we will go from Jerusalem into Judea and to the ends of the earth.

That’s who we are. It’s part of our identity. We are both created in the image of God, but we are also created as the sent ones of God. And we don’t talk about the ascension because we don’t want to talk about the commission, at times, because the commission costs, right?

I heard someone recently was preaching, and I was fascinated. And at first thought I was like, oh, I got to wrestle with the theology of this. Is this correct? And I haven’t yet pulled away from it. I think it’s spot on. And what they were saying was Jesus’ work towards salvation is free. It costs you nothing except to receive it. It is grace and grace alone that we are found and made right with Jesus. But discipleship, obedience, apprenticeship to Jesus as king and Lord, that cost.

That’s the cost of taking up your cross, to deny yourself. And so, when we talk about the Ascension, it’s just impossible to talk about the Ascension and not talk about that. We will be witnesses.

And the beautiful thing about that is part of the Ascension is that he gives us this power. He gives us the Holy Spirit. We have not been sent to do this of our own accord or our own will, our own power, but that we have been supercharged through the Holy Spirit. That the Spirit is in us, dwells inside of us, and flows from us. And all we have to do is find where God is moving and working and join him.

And there’s something that just comes alive inside of us. And it doesn’t matter how charismatic you are on that scale, and that’s fine. But the Spirit is the Spirit. And so, if it moves you at one mile per hour, it moves you at a hundred miles per hour, it’s the same Spirit. And so can we give way to the Spirit and say, Lord, move through me as I just live an obedient life.

I think that’s how I see it, that I think the Ascension and commissioning are just so intertwined because it was his last thing said for us is that the Spirit is coming, it’s going to indwell in you, and from there you will go and be my witnesses.

Anthony: Yeah. And that’s that word in the Greek and Acts 1, that you’ll be my witnesses. The word for witnesses, martyr, it’s martyrdom. You talk about costly! Like you were referring to, this will cost you your life and it will give you your life. Paradoxical. Absolutely.

Small Group Discussion Questions

  • Do you like skipping to the end of a story? Why or why not?
  • After witnessing Jesus’ ascension, why do you think the disciples returned to Jerusalem with great joy?
  • How should the circumstances before and during Christ’s ascension affect how we treat our neighbor?

Leave a Reply

© Copyright 2024 Grace Communion International

GCI Equipper Privacy Policy