Candid Jesus: “Something Hopeful"

Sunday

Jesus’ final “candid conversation” with his followers while here on earth was a hopeful one, and it’s the essence of the Good News we proclaim. But it was a bit confusing to his disciples; Jesus was leaving them, but his Ascension into heaven was not the end – it was just the beginning. With his words, he gave them (and us) an ultimate purpose for now, as well as an ultimate hope for the future. 

1. You Have Something to Say and Do (Acts 1:4-8) 

- Even after all of his teaching, the disciples (apostles) still didn’t fully understand what Jesus’ new Kingdom was about – they were still thinking it would be a kingdom of military power that would throw off Rome’s rule over Israel. But Jesus sets them straight once again: they aren’t to worry about earthly kingdoms, but they do have a mission – to tell the world about King Jesus as his “witnesses.” 

- Jesus uses language we’re not entirely familiar with – the language of the arrival of a king. As his “witnesses,” Jesus wants the apostles to announce to the world that a new King has come – Jesus – and that he will lead “the Kingdom of Heaven.” As Jesus’ followers today, we share that mission, but we don’t have to do it on our own – Jesus promises that when we choose to trust that he is the risen King, we receive the power of the Holy Spirit to do our jobs as his “witnesses.” 


2. There’s Something You Should Know: Heaven is Now, but Not Yet (Acts 1:9-11; 2 Corinthians 4:18) 

- Right after Jesus gives the apostles (and us) their marching orders, he ascended “into a cloud” (i.e., into heaven). In doing so, Jesus sent the message that he is a King beyond any that the world had known – the real and authentic ruler of the world. “Take note: this is my kingdom, and I am the King.” 

- The apostles were no doubt confused; Jesus had told them about how they would be given power to proclaim that he was now the King of the world, and then he disappeared into heaven. Which is it? Is Jesus the King now, or is he coming back later to take over his kingdom? As the two angels at the Ascension made clear, both things are true. 

- Jesus will one day return to earth as its all-powerful and rightful King, bringing justice and setting all things to right. But his kingdom is also here now, and his power among us is real. Heaven – the kingdom of God’s eternal rule – is now, but it’s also not yet. 

- This dichotomy has often caused the Christian church to focus on the wrong thing – a partial gospel. We can get so wrapped up with the “not yet” that Christianity becomes all about “getting people into heaven” when they die. But Jesus told us that the Kingdom of Heaven is now, and the power to spread that kingdom is already available to us. One day it will be completely fulfilled and visible, but it’s also here now – and our mission is to live like that’s true, using that power to live lives that show and tell people about King Jesus and his love for them. 


ADDITIONAL SCRIPTURE 

These passages may provide additional insights related to the subject of this week’s message. All verses are NLT unless otherwise noted. 

Psalms 73:24-26; Matthew 6:31-33; Luke 17:20-21; Philippians 3:20; Philippians 4:10-13; Revelation 21:1-4 

Video of the Week: Heaven and Earth by the Bible Project 

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION 

1. As you’ve thought about the Christian faith, do you see it more as a faith that’s about “getting people into heaven” or about a kingdom that’s already here on earth now? Explain your answer. 


2. As we work to grow the Christian church, which of those things would you say is most important for us to emphasize? Explain your answer. 


3. Read Acts 1:6-8 again. Jesus tells the apostles that their (and our) new job was to be his “witnesses” throughout the world. What do you think he had in mind when he used the word “witness” for what he wanted to do? What comes to your mind when you hear that word today? 


4. The Greek word used in Acts for “witnesses” is the same word from which we get the English word “martyrs.” Knowing that, do you think Jesus intended that we somehow be “martyrs” as we show and tell people about him as his “witnesses”? Explain your answer. 


5. The power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised can be seen to be three-fold: first, the power he gave the apostles to do supernatural acts; second, the power he gives us to understand the Word of God; and third, the power he gives us to “stand” – to endure trials, difficulties and suffering as his witnesses. Why is that third power so important as we attempt to live lives that show and tell people about Jesus? 


6. Most people – even those with no religious faith – can understand the idea of going to “heaven” (i.e., a place of perfection) after we die. How would you explain to someone with no knowledge of Christianity what it means that Jesus has established his kingdom (“the Kingdom of Heaven”) here and now? What’s the proof of that? 

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