+ In the Name of Jesus +
Jesus Restores the Kingdom!
Sermon on Acts 1:1-11
May 18, 2023
- Almost two weeks ago, we had our Examination of Confirmands, and for “Your kingdom come” in the Lord’s Prayer I asked “What is God’s kingdom.” The first answer is usually “heaven.” I have to ask “Just heaven? Only heaven? God is the maker of heaven and earth, aren’t those God’s kingdom, too?” Of course! But with “Your kingdom come,” we are especially praying for God’s kingdom, that is, God’s rule, to be in one particular place: the human heart. God’s kingdom comes when people hear his Word, believe it, and strive to live it. That is how God’s kingdom comes. That is what Jesus was talking about in all of those parables: “The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, the smallest of seeds that grows into the largest of plants.” “The kingdom of God is like a farmer planting seed in the field. Some falls on the path. Some falls on the rocks. Some falls among the weeds, and some falls on good soil and produces a good crop.” Think again about how people hear the Word, believe it, and strive to live it.
- In Acts chapter 1, St. Luke tells us that Jesus appeared to the disciples over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. And after that we read about what some of that teaching of God’s kingdom was: “You will receive the gift my Father promised… You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” And after that, one of the disciples asked, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Here is another misunderstanding of God’s kingdom—a country on a map. At that time, the people in Judea were struggling under Roman rule with Roman soldiers marching through their streets and Roman tax collectors taking their money. Many were hoping for a Messiah or Savior who would drive the Romans out and establish Israel as its own kingdom. That’s why some people were shouting “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday. That’s why Peter said, “No, Lord. This should never happen to you,” when Jesus started talking about his suffering and death. That’s why James and John wanted thrones at Jesus side in his kingdom.
- First Jesus addresses the phrase “at this time.” “Lord are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel.” “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” When he taught about the end of the world, Jesus said, “No one knows the day or the hour.” “It is not yet the time for the new heavens and the new earth—heaven on earth—an earthly kingdom of God.” No. Instead, it’s time for another kingdom. “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.” Remember God’s kingdom as people hearing the Word, believing it, and striving to live it. Then remember Jesus’ words to his disciples, “You will be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth.” Ascension Day marks the transition from Jesus preaching the kingdom to the disciples, the apostles, going out and preaching the kingdom.
- Now, the kingdom is in our hands, and the Word that people are to hear, believe and strive to live is in our hands, too. What is it? What message brings God’s kingdom to us? It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ—our Savior who was born in human flesh, suffered and died for our sins, rose again to give us forgiveness, renewed life here and a promise of life with him forever. “Repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations.” Jesus speaks to you and me, this Ascension Day. “You will be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth.” We have opportunities to witness, that is, opportunities to tell what we know, accept and trust as God’s truth. Here at St. Stephen’s we have been reaching out to people that we haven’t seen in worship with our Elders and Inreach Callers. Who can you ask? Who can you invite? Who can you encourage? Who can you befriend? In Beaver Dam there is a church that is closing. Maybe you know someone who attended there. You can invite them, to come and listen to the voice of their Savior! Our risen Savior Jesus Christ gives us living hope for each day—even as we live in a dying world. His kingdom has come to us—a kingdom of grace. By his grace we have heard his word of love, we believe it, and we strive to live it. By his grace, he has called us to be his messengers of grace.
First Reading (Sermon text) Acts 1:1–11
1In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4On 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. 5For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8But 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.”
9After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10They 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.”