Jesus The Savior Reigns
It was a very good week at Fellowship Community Church. The week featured Vacation Bible School with the theme Miraculous Mission - Jesus Saves the World.
VBS began last Sunday evening when a skit, music, lessons, crafts, recreation, and treats all centered attention on the creation of the universe. Including the earth. Including the first two people - Adam and Eve. Including the Garden of Eden - a wonderful, beautiful, peaceful place for Adam and Eve.
Last Sunday morning, we discussed the fact that sins committed by Adam and Eve caused them to be banished from the Garden of Eden. That banishment caused a separation from God, which lasted well beyond Adam and Eve. It lasted until something happened that God promised, which was the Savior. The one who would die as the sacrifice for sins. The one who, for people who accepted or will accept Him as the Savior, would make things right with God.
The wonderful event of the birth of the Savior, who we know is Jesus, was featured during Monday evening’s VBS. Tuesday evening the celebration was about what Jesus did to accomplish becoming the Savior. Jesus died as the perfect sacrifice.
However, on the third day after that, Jesus rose from the dead. He rose from the tomb. Today, VBS comes to a close as we consider the resurrection of Jesus and that it was not and is not the end. Today’s topic is Jesus the Savior reigns.
Because of His rise and reign, there are some things Jesus expects His people to do. Since He does reign, we need to be obedient. In this message, two reports on the fact He reigns and what we are to do. The first is the opening 11 verses of the New Testament Book of Acts.
Acts 1 begins with a summary of what happened in the few weeks following Jesus’ resurrection. What happened is this. Jesus showed Himself alive to His followers.
That actually began the day of resurrection, which was Easter.
Jesus first appeared to Mary on Easter morning. Mary had gone to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. She was distressed when she discovered the tomb was empty. Jesus took care of her distress when He appeared to her and called her by name. He then redirected her attention by giving her a task. She was instructed to go to where the disciples were and tell them He was once again alive.
Easter afternoon, Jesus appeared to two men who were on their way from Jerusalem, in and near where the suffering, death, and burial of Jesus had occurred, to the nearby town of Emmaus.
Those two men were walking by themselves when suddenly they were joined by another walker. There is no indication He walked up t0 them, as in Him starting out behind them but Him walking faster than they were walking. He just suddenly appeared with the two men.
Jesus started a conversation with the men who, at that time, did not recognize Jesus. The men were clearly sad. When Jesus asked why, they explained that Jesus, the one they had hoped was the Savior, had died and been buried. The men added that earlier that day, a report had begun to circulate that Jesus’ tomb was empty. That it was empty because Jesus had come back to life. Something claimed by a woman named Mary, who, it was reported, had seen Him. But it all sounded beyond belief. So, it seemed to the men, hope was gone.
Jesus, in His part of the conversation, reviewed for the men all the Old Testament predictions about the Savior, pointing out that Jesus had fulfilled each of the predictions. Including the prediction that on the third day after His death, He would indeed come back to life.
It was an interesting conversation for the two men. It was not until later - after the men invited their walking companion to spend the night with them and as they were eating a meal together - that suddenly the men’s eyes were opened. It was then they recognized their companion was Jesus.
At that very moment, Jesus disappeared. He did not walk out through the door of the house or jump out a window. He simply vanished from their sight. But the men were so excited, they immediately hit the road again, retracing their steps back to Jerusalem, where they excitedly told the disciples that Jesus was alive. That they had seen Him.
Then Easter evening, Jesus appeared to His disciples. All the disciples except Thomas, who was not with the others at the time. That appearance is interesting in that the disciples were hidden away behind a closed and locked door. It was to be expected the disciples would be fearful since the one they were known to have followed had just died a very cruel death. There had to have been the fear any or all of them might be next to suffer.
So the disciples were hidden behind a closed and locked door. Suddenly, there was Jesus in the midst of them. There had been no knock on the door. The door had not been unlocked or opened, yet there was Jesus, once again proving He was alive. Not walking this time, as He had done with the two men from Emmaus, but, as He stood with them, showing them the marks on His hands and feet where the nails had been. Inviting them to touch His wounds. And then eating. Jesus asked for food. The disciples gave Him a piece of fish. He ate it in front of them, again proving He was alive.
What a marvelous day Easter was. At first sad because of the death of Jesus and what appeared to be the end of hope, but then proof that, as it had been predicted the Savior would do, He had risen from the dead. A rising proved by His physical appearance to Mary, to two men from Emmaus, then to all but one of His disciples.
But that was not all. According to Acts 1:3, Jesus continued to present Himself alive, doing so with many proofs. The proofs would have included walking and talking with them, eating and drinking with His followers, and teaching them with the same points and skill He had made and used before His crucifixion.
The proofs and the teaching lasted 40 days. Just short of six weeks. Certainly long enough for the disciples - all the disciples, including Thomas who later saw Jesus alive - to get into their minds the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. He was not a ghost. He was not the product of an hallucination. He really and truly was once again alive, just as it was predicted the Savior would be, which was proof Jesus was and is the Savior.
However, at the end of 40 days, it was time for Jesus to do what He had earlier told His disciples He was going to do, which was return to Heaven, from where He had come 33 years earlier.
He was not planning to abandon the disciples. He had earlier promised He would ask God to send the Holy Spirit to them do a number of things - to remind them of the teachings of Jesus, to encourage them to live by and tell others about those teachings, to comfort them when they were sad or stressed in their ministries. But 40 days after Jesus’ resurrection, it was time for Him to return to Heaven. There He would sit at the right hand of God, from where He would continue to rule the earth, determined to help those who had or would accept Him, which means He would and still does reign.
Because of the importance of that fact, we need to obey Jesus, which brings up some very important instructions for us. Instructions found in verse 8 of Acts 1.
First, the disciples - this still applies today - were and are to do nothing under their own power. Before representing Jesus in the world, they were and we are to be empowered by the Holy Spirit. As mentioned a moment ago, by the reminder, the encourager, the comforter promised by Jesus.
But when empowered, the disciples then and now are to boldly go to four specific places.
Jerusalem. That was at that time the home city of the original disciples, which, by the way, made this part of Jesus’ instructions very scary for the original disciples. Remember, this was just a few days more than six weeks beyond the crucifixion of Jesus. The disciples had to have still been at least a bit concerned that they, His known followers, might still be targeted for mistreatment. But yes, Jesus said, “You shall be My witnesses [you shall carry on My ministry] in Jerusalem.”
Remember the promise of the Holy Spirit. Remember the teaching that the disciples were not to begin their ministry in Jerusalem until they were empowered by the Holy Spirit. That is the only way they could have the courage to represent Jesus in their hometown.
For us, Jerusalem represents our hometowns. We, Jesus’ disciples today, are to be His witnesses here in our hometowns. That is what He, the Savior who reigns, tells us and expects us to do.
Beyond that, Jesus instructed His disciples to be His witnesses in all Judea. Not just the city of Jerusalem, but the entire province or state that city is in, which was Judea. For us, that would be Nebraska. Throughout our state we are to look for and take advantage of opportunities to tell others about Jesus.
In some ways, Judea might be easier than Jerusalem because Judea - and Nebraska -would include people the disciples did not and do not live near. It might be less risky to expand ministry there.
But then Jesus added Samaria, which was the neighboring province north of Judea. That is an interesting part of the instructions because in Samaria lived people totally rejected by pure Jews.
The reason was historical in nature. It seems that when, over the centuries, many Jews had been taken from the Jewish homeland as slaves, some Jews were allowed to stay. Most of them were in Samaria. It seems that as most Jewish exiles worked at not having anything to do with their foreign masters, the Jews remaining in Samaria at least eventually began to associate with the foreigners sent to Israel to rule over the Jews there. The association included intermarrying.
When the exiles returned, there was great disgust toward the Jews in Samaria. At the time of Jesus, which was many centuries later, the disgust continued. It had expanded to the point that a pure Jew would try to avoid even setting foot on Samaritan soil.
Jesus said to the disciples, “You shall be My witnesses in Samaria.” For us, that represents those today who are outcasts. I think that might represent different groups for each of us. Any groups we have difficulty tolerating. But wow. We are to be Jesus’ witnesses even to them. Talk about getting out of our comfort zones.
Remember we are not to be His witnesses to anyone anywhere until we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. But what an intriguing instruction from Jesus, the Savior who reigns.
Then Jesus added, “You shall be My witnesses to the end of the earth.”
Many of the original disciples did that, going to places like Asia and Europe. We do that as well. Some of us have been on missions trips, mainly to Costa Rica. We are witnesses to the world monetarily through our Faith Promise program, which helps children and missionaries.
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As celebrated during Vacation Bible School, God created the universe. When the sins of Adam and Eve interfered with the beauty of creation, God promised a Savior who would come to offer restoration of a good relationship with God. The Savior - Jesus - was born. Thirty-three years later He died as the sacrifice for sins. He became the Savior when He rose from death.
Today we celebrate that Jesus now reigns in Heaven, where He returned a bit more than six weeks after His resurrection. But may we remember that before He returned, He gave specific instructions. Instructions we need to know and obey because He does reign.
The instructions? As we have discussed, be His witnesses to everyone everywhere, doing so, not on their own power concerning the original disciples and not on our own power, but when empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Right after those instructions, Jesus - Acts 1:9 - returned to Heaven. According to what is recorded in the last verse of Luke, which is Luke 24:52, after seeing Jesus ascend, the disciples returned to Jerusalem. No longer scared. Not even overwhelmed by the enormity of what Jesus had given them to do. They returned with great joy. In their joy, they continually blessed God, doing that until, in chapter 2 of Acts, the Holy Spirit did come upon them, which began their ministries in earnest. Their ministries of being Jesus’ witnesses to everyone everywhere.
Jesus still reigns. His instructions for us are the same as they were for the original disciples. We, too, are to have the Holy Spirit’s empowerment as we are the Lord’s witnesses.
With that last comment in mind, I feel led to pray for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. I hope we already have been empowered, individually and as a congregation, but it occurs to me that any of us, and even as a congregation, could have a tendency to lose the strength provided by the Holy Spirit. To at least let it wane.
Let’s pray for the Spirit’s continued empowerment so we will be able to fully and effectively obey the instructions of our Savior who reigns.
Let’s pray. Lord, we who are Christians have received wonderful blessings - the forgiveness of past sins and being washed clean so we can stay away from current and future sins.
Before You died as our perfect sacrifice, You promised that when Your physical time on earth was done, You would have the Heavenly Father send the Holy Spirit to us. You further promised us, Your people, the Spirit’s empowerment so we can live holy lives, complete with obedience to You who are now in Heaven.
Lord, fill us with the Holy Spirit. Please do that, or continue to do so. Spirit, please be part of each of us - body, soul, and spirit. May the same be true of this congregation.
We want this so we can be on and stay on Your perfect path now and all the way to Heaven. We want this so we can obey You in everything, including being Your witnesses to everyone everywhere.
Thank You, Jesus. Thank You, God. Thank You, Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Lord, it is a pleasure to celebrate You. Including Your marvelous creation, the joy of knowing You as Savior, knowing You were born to be with us physically until You became the Savior, and now to know You do indeed reign. Help us to show our celebration by allowing ourselves to be filled with the Holy Spirit so we can obey in all ways, including being Your witnesses to everyone everywhere. Lord, thank You for the privilege of being part of Your miraculous mission of saving the world. Amen.