Between Jesus and me

Some people from our church are on a road trip through the Bible – we are praying and reading through the Bible all year – and I’ve joined them. We’re in Deuteronomy and Luke this week and the contrast in relationships is striking. The people of Israel were invited to the mountain to hear from God and get close to Him personally, and they chose a “go-between” to do the risky business of faith: Moses.

The disciples were invited to the dinner table to listen to Jesus and fall in love with Him, and they said yes: they “went there” in faith, believing God is both good and just. Faith was still risky; in fact, each Jesus-followers at the table except John died a violent death representing the Good News of the Kingdom (excluding Judas, but that’s for another post.)

But here is the interesting response from the Lord toward the Old Testament people of God: “I heard what they said and that shows they revere me, and have a holy fear and respect for their Lord and will obey me.” In the next breath, the Lord invited them to fall in love with Him with all they have and are!

Jesus changed things. We don’t need a “go-between” to be in His presence and fall in love with him. But love alongside a deep fear and respect for how awesome He is can go together. The weaving together of love and fear of the Lord God keep the wonder fresh: what will following Jesus look like today?

Between Jesus and me there is no longer a priest or a go-between; a growing love for His Presence and a wonderful respect to listen and follow are there instead.

Happy Palm Sunday, Everyone! Hosannah to King Jesus!

Greater the darkness; more visible the victory.

I know people who have gone through great tragedy and experienced dark days. Businesses fail. Homes are taken. Children (or spouses) stray. Partners betray. What felt secure evaporates in a brief moment. And dark times and deep questions often follow.

And you might ask, Why bring this up? Because we all face those dark nights of the soul.

How you and I as Christ-followers respond in the darkness, and especially how we take one step at a time toward God’s grace and purposes in that darkness, has a great impact on people. We give hope to others when we pursue King Jesus and keep loving and serving others when our days are dark.

When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, he announced it as the hour “when the power of darkness reigns.” (Luke 22:53). And for the next three days, the darkness crescendoed around the city of Jerusalem and across the heavenlies.

And heaven’s greatest coup came in the deepest darkness. What was usurped for millennia by the Conniver in the Garden of Eden was reclaimed for good in the dark hours in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus is acquainted with the darkness; He does His best work when people need hope and salvation. And that’s when He does His best work in and through you and me.

This week, Renovation Vineyard Church begin our journey through the dark days of Jesus’ Passion as we move through the hours just before Easter Sunday and His unmatched triumph over the enemy and the grave.

Trusting His Victory in the Darkness – Pastor Rick

Pastor Rick’s Study Notes: Matthew 5:17-20

Pastor Rick’s Study Notes:

PRT Matthew 5:17-20

v. 17 Don’t even consider that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets; I came not to overthrow and dismiss them but to satisfy and fulfill them.

v. 18 For I tell you this very truth: until heaven and earth come to an end, neither the smallest letter nor the tiniest accent point will disappear until all these things will happen.

v. 19 for this reason, anyone breaks even the smallest of these commandments or teaches others to do the same, will be the smallest in the Kingdom of Heaven. But here’s the one who will be great in the Kingdom of Heaven: everyone who does what it says and teaches others to do the same.

v. 20 For I tell you that, unless your right actions and right relationship with God extends beyond the standards of the legal experts and Pharisees, you won’t even enter the doors of heaven.

Study Notes:

v. 17 Don’t even consider that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets; I came not to overthrow and dismiss them but to satisfy and fulfill them.

Jesus is answering an unspoken question here (or perhaps he heard the rumblings of this statement about tearing down the law and prophets – it later became one of the big accusations. He didn’t destroy (he wrote them!) The word is to break down, dissolve, dismiss, abolish. He came to fulfill the prophets and satisfy the law.

This word destroy is a word picture of someone taking down a tabernacle or tent into pieces. He came to fulfill, that is fill to the fullest, the Law and Prophets.

Light plays a huge role in demonstrating the effect of the Kingdom on people, churches, cultures, generations, etc. We are brought into the light, become the light of the world, and are indwelt by the Spirit of Jesus, the Light of the world.

Ephesians 4 “we were in darkness and now we walk as children of light.”

Philippians 2:15 “you shine as lights to the world.”

1 Peter 2 “we are called out of darkness and into His wonderful light.”

Read this in context with v. 15-16 – what we do is in the light, not to show us to the world, but to show Jesus to the world. Matthew says the light is on the stand where everyone in the house can see the light. Luke says the light is on the stand so that everyone who enters into the house can see. He satisfies the reason people grasp for religion and rules. Jesus completes the prophetic.

v. 18 For I tell you this very truth: until heaven and earth come to an end, neither the smallest letter nor the tiniest accent point will disappear until all these things will happen.

The smallest letter of the Hebrew language is the “yod” – no bigger than an apostrophe. The accent point in Greek is the little marking that might distinguish letter and pronunciations. These accents were not widely used in the marketplace since most wrote in Uncial; and after all, it was their language.

Here, the word is not everlasting but sufficient until heaven and earth disappear. At that point, we will as Paul says, “know in full.” Until God brings it all to the culmination, not even an accent point will be canceled.

v. 19 for this reason, anyone breaks even the smallest of these commandments or teaches others to do the same, will be the smallest in the Kingdom of Heaven. But here’s the one who will be great in the Kingdom of Heaven: everyone who does what it says and teaches others to do the same.

Remember that the legal experts and teachers had set the laws in major and minor categories – greater laws and lesser laws with corresponding ramifications. Some says 613, but these are what Moses said to do or not do. The “for all time” laws are the big ten.

The “least” in the kingdom is a word that can mean littlest or smallest; the person who chooses to live contrary to God’s parameters and/or takes others in the same direction chooses a “small” life here, and the “smallest” life in eternity.

It’s choosing to live in the light. Luke adds some insight here; our acts give light to the world and cause the lost to bring glory to God. Our eyes are our light in Jesus’ parables; and we let light in by what we choose to give witness to; or we let “dark” into our eyes by what we feed on.

The big question on everyone’s mind, then, if the Pharisees and the teachers of the law aren’t in, who will be? Nobody wants to be small; so who will be great? Jesus answers: you who do and teach (demonstration, proclamation.) the Pharisees (Matthew 23:3) taught but clearly didn’t do. That’s why he said the next sentence.

v. 20 For I tell you that, unless your right actions and right relationship with God extends beyond the standards of the legal experts and Pharisees, you won’t even enter the doors of heaven.

These are the comments that endeared Jesus to the people and drew the ire of the temple leaders. This would also fly in the face of “common wisdom” that the Pharisees and legal experts were the examples to follow; Jesus says it’s the exact opposite. It’s like the lovers of the law were approaching heaven, but couldn’t see what stopped them (unforgiven sin – they needed a Savior.)

  1. Have you ever been in a place that was completely, utterly, dark? How did it make you feel?
  2. Do you have a favorite Bible verse? What is it? Why is it so meaningful to you?
  3. How do you “let light in” to your life through using the Bible? What practices do you do now? What do you need to begin practicing?
  4. What can you do the avoid places that make your life smaller and darker?
  5. What kinds of “beautiful deeds” do you like doing for others to help them experience the love of the Savior?
  6. How can others help you through prayer and encouragement?

Pastor Rick’s Study Notes: Matthew 5:13-16 The Salt and Light Life

(PRT) Matthew 5:13-16

v. 13 You are the salt of the earth! If, however, it becomes stale and unsavory how can it become useful salt again; its salty strength is gone, only useful to be dumped out along the pathway for people to trample on.

v. 14 You are the light of the world! It’s not possible to hide a city built on a hilltop;

v. 15 Neither do people kindle a lamp and set it aside under a bowl or hidden behind a basket. Instead, they set it on the lamp pedestal, so it shines out for everyone who is in the house.

v. 16 In the same way, let your light shine out where people are so that they might see your beautiful deeds and they will give praise to your Father in heaven.

Pastor Rick’s Notes:

v. 13 You are the salt of the earth! If, however, it becomes stale and unsavory how can it become useful salt again; its salty strength is gone, only useful to be dumped out along the pathway for people to trample on.

You singular as in each of you, listen, you and you and you are the salt, are the light. This is throughout these verses. Jesus is speaking to each person in an intimate way, calling out their potential found in following Him.

This is an either/or illustration. Jesus doesn’t hold out the option to be a dim flicker or a barely salty salt. We are the light; we are the salt. The world counts on it and the Kingdom sends us to it.

Salt typically is very stable and doesn’t break down; but it can deteriorate in its usefulness if around water, or other elements. He is talking about the taste, but much more. Salt is a preservative. Stops decay. A healing agent. Brings taste to life. But if it becomes stale, it becomes the waste thrown into the pathway.

Some salts can lose effectiveness and savor; this would be spilled out on the walkways when it rained to keep people from slipping.

v. 14 You are the light of the world! It’s not possible to hide a city built on a hilltop;

Jesus is using hyperbole here. How ludicrous that someone would imagine making invisible the city that is built on top of a hill?

Likewise, can you imagine someone full of His light who, when out with people, doesn’t shine?

Philippians 2:15 – we are luminaries lighting the way to the Savior for a world to follow.

v. 15 Neither do people kindle a lamp and set it aside under a bowl or hidden behind a basket. Instead, they set it on the lamp pedestal, so it shines out for everyone who is in the house.

If they light the wick and the oil starts to burn from the lamp, it’s a waste to hide it behind stuff or place a bowl over it. Logically, we light our lamps and place them so all can see.

Interesting parallel: In Matthew, the Gospel to the Jews, he says the light is for every “in the house;” Luke says “for those who are entering in” meaning the nations, true to his Gospel’s purpose and audience to make the Gospel plain to the Gentiles.

For wealthy residences, there may be a lampstand that can be moved around. Jesus had been to wealthy homes before. For most homes, especially in the countryside, there would be a pedestal stone built to stick out where the clay lamp could be placed after lighting so all could see each other. Finding that “pedestal” or “lamp placement” is the sweet spot for the Christian. Where best to place a light than in the middle of a dark place?

v. 16 In the same way, let your light shine out where people are so that they might see your beautiful deeds and they will give praise to your Father in heaven.

Some may have a problem reconciling this with a later passage when Jesus says to do what you do and give and pray without others seeing you. In this passage, we do our “beautiful deeds” for people, and those around see God at work – we point praise where it’s due.

Small Group Study Questions:

  1. Where have you been when it was the most dark? What was it like?
  2. If salt draws attention to where it is scattered, what do we draw attention to when we are scattered as “the salt of the earth?”
  3. If light shines on what needs to be seen, what does the beautiful deed we do today shine on?
  4. As the light of the world, where is the best place for you to make an impact on dark places?
  5. Who in your life is hurting today and you need us to be salt to help with healing?

Pastor Rick’s Study Notes:

Pastor Rick’s Study Notes: Haggai Overview and the Key Passage of the Prophecy.

Haggai Chapter 1

  • This prophet speaks into the early leaders who returned from captivity with the People of God, Zerubbabel and Joshua. These two leaders came to Israel with 40K refugees to rebuilt the Temple and begin to restore Israel.
  • And Haggai preached to them and encouraged them to follow God, trust in His care and power, and continue the work. He may have preached all the way into the days of Ezra when he returned to Israel – at least Ezra recorded the impact Haggai had on the rebuilding of the Temple.

The Big Issue: The work on the house of worship stalled for more than a decade, but the people of God were convicted and drawn back to His purposes through Haggai. V.12-15 is the turnaround passage.

  • Haggai is a book of questions? Do you build your house before you build your God a place of worship? Why the drought? Who can compare the former house to the latter one? Is there anything left in the barn?

Haggai Chapter 2

This prophet saw the big picture.

  • The People of God were returning to Israel to rebuild the Temple, restore the city and nation, all to accomplish the mission – to be a light to the nations and a place of worship for all people (2:5)
  • All that God wants from the nations will come to Jerusalem and it will be a place filled with His glory and a house of peace.

(PRT) Haggai 1:12-15

v. 12 They all obeyed the voice of the Lord their God: Shealtiel’s son Zerubbabel, Jehozadak’s son Joshua the High Priest, along with all the remnant, and they heeded the words of the prophet Haggai that the Lord their God had sent.  And the people honored and reverenced the Lord.

v. 13 Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord spoke the Good News of the Lord, and said to the people: “I am with you,” says the Lord.

v. 14 And the Lord awakened the spirit of Shealtiel’s son, Zerubbabel, Judah’s governor and the spirit of Jehozadak’s son, Joshua the high priest and collectively the spirit of the remnant of the people. Then they came together to accomplish the work on the house of their God, the Lord of hosts.

v. 15 On the 24th day of the sixth month of the second year of Darius’ reign.

Study Notes:

v. 12 They all obeyed the voice of the Lord their God: Shealtiel’s son Zerubbabel, Jehozadak’s son Joshua the High Priest, along with all the remnant, and they heeded the words of the prophet Haggai that the Lord their God had sent.  And the people honored and reverenced the Lord.

The opposition they faced was discouragement, change, want, and the enemy.

  • And because of this discouragement, the people had simply become indifferent, ambivalent to the things of God.
  • They went through the motions because they had built the altar and the priests could make their sacrifices; but the fire of that altar hadn’t consumed them to the point that all they were and all they desired were the Lord’s.
    • What do you do when discouragement threatens your faith in action?
    • What do you do when defeat seems to characterize your life more than victory?
    • What do you do when disappointments overshadow and rob you of the joy you’ve known in the Lord?

v. 13 Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord spoke the Good News of the Lord, and said to the people: “I am with you,” says the Lord.

  • This is the only time the word the New Testament translated as The Message, The Good News, or sometimes, The Messenger, is used in the OT.
  • It is Good News that God is with us.
  • In fact, The first part is the Lord’s Name – the great “I AM.” And the second part echoes Isaiah’s prophecy concerning Jesus – “His name shall be called Immanuel, God with us.”

v. 14 And the Lord awakened the spirit of Shealtiel’s son, Zerubbabel, Judah’s governor and the spirit of Jehozadak’s son, Joshua the high priest and collectively the spirit of the remnant of the people. Then they came together to accomplish the work on the house of their God, the Lord of hosts.

And the fire was reignited, first one person (the Governor), then another (the Priest) – then he awakened the whole remnant and their culture was changed.

v. 15 On the 24th day of the sixth month of the second year of Darius’ reign.

And all this happened in three months. Haggai hung around and taught and shows up in Ezra. But his faithfulness to speak to the authority and encourage the people changed their direction.

Pastor Rick’s Study Notes: Nehemiah 8:1-12

Chapter 1

After at least three starts on the wall under Zerubbabel and Ezra, Nehemiah gets permission to take the immigrants and travel to Jerusalem.

Chapter 2

Prayer for grace in the moment- Nehemiah breathed a powerful prayer:

Chapter 3

When the building began, it was an all-hands operation. Each section was built by a different group and it is a great example of how diverse the work of the Kingdom can be: 1) religious leaders and their people, 2) families and extended families, 3) a group of sons, 4) a group of daughters, 5) different trade groups like perfume-makers, goldsmiths, 6) groups of neighbors, 7) politicians, 8) worshipers, 9) merchants and marketers.

Chapter 4 & 5

Don’t fear; keep building. To the vigilant, to the multi-tasker is the victory.

Chapter 6 and 7

Discourage their hearts, confuse their minds, weaken their hands.

52 Day project to complete the wall.

Chapter 8

Ezra read and the people were enthralled.

What happened at the first Water Gate.

Men and women, later sons and daughters – all who could get it, got it.

Mic drop in Jerusalem.

Revival in the city.

v. 11 Key verse.

(PRT – Nehemiah 8:1-12)

7:73 And so the priests, Levites, doorkeepers, singers, and a remnant of the people, the temple servants, and all Israel lived in their cities. And on the first day of the seventh month (around October) the children of Israel lived were living in their hometowns.

8:1 And the people came together in unity with a purpose in the streets in front of the Water Gate and the pleaded with Ezra the scribe to bring out Moses’ Book of the Law that the Lord has commissioned and given to Israel.

Ezra was part historian and annalist, part accountant, part teacher, and part priest. The word scribe has a complicated meaning. He kept up with the people, the story God was working out in them, and how His Word related to their story.

He had been in Jerusalem since the beginning of the return from captivity. He’d weathered the accusers, deceivers, and obstructors from the outside; and he’d encouraged the complacent, greedy, and selfish from the inside.

  • Nehemiah 1 God breaks his heart for his city and God’s people, they are just a remnant.
  • In Nehemiah 7 Only a few but God brings them together.
  • In Nehemiah 8 all who could came together. But God was still not done with gathering His people.

8:2 Then Ezra brought the law out on the first day of the seventh month (around October) to the gathering of men, women, and all who could grasp its meaning.

This day is the beginning of the celebration of Tabernacles and the Day of Atonement. The wall is finished; the people takes a few weeks to resettle; and they return to worship.

God’s Word is for all; God’s Spirit comes on all; even the children and anyone who could comprehend.

8:3 And he read from the book right there on the street before the Water Gate to the men, women, and all the people from daybreak to noon and those who could grasp its meaning were focused on the Book of the Law.

The word for “all” is used ten times in these 12 verses. The gathering has gone from a remnant of faithful, a few who would not give up, to all who lived there. But God was not done; the gathering of His people continued as more and more returned to Jerusalem. The same today: God’s people are still being gathered.

8:4 And Ezra stood on the wooden stage they had made for this very purpose. Standing to his right were: Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Urijah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah. And standing to his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchiah, Hashum, Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam.

These were the qualified leaders and teachers from among the Levites. The significance of six on one side and seven on the other is likely scribal – someone got moved or left out.

8:5 They stood above the people so all could see them, and when Ezra opened the Book from the stage, they all stood up.

The people prepared for God’s servants to be heard. They built a stage. At dawn at the Water Gate, the sun would be streaming down on the faces of the listeners. The sight for those on the platform must have been awe-inspiring.

8:6 And Ezra kneeled and worshiped before the Lord, the Great God; and the people responded “Amen! Amen!” They lifted their hands and they bowed down with faces to the ground all while they worshiped the Lord.

And his response at the sight was humility. He was down on his face worshiping. The people did likewise, not because they wanted to do what Ezra did, but because they were overcome by God’s presence. They heard truth, they worshiped, they lifted hands, they shouted, and they fell down before God’s presence.

8:7-8 Also, Jeshuah, Bani, Sheribiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Henan, Pelaiah, and all the Levites helped the people understand the meaning of the Law. And the people stood still as they read from the Book of God’s Law; and they gave clear insight to help the people comprehend what they were reading.

“Clear insight” could also mean that they “translated” to those who had been in foreign lands.

8:9 Then Nehemiah the governor and Ezra the priest and scribe made sure that the Levites taught the all the people: “This day is holy. This is from the Lord your God so do not grieve or cry, for all the people wept as they listened to the Words of the Law.”

The people were so loudly grieving and overcome by tears that the leaders were concerned the would miss the most important element of worship: joy.

8:10 And he said to them: “Go, eat and drink richly, and share your abundance with those who are without. For this day is holy to our Lord; don’t be sorrowful, because the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Our joy is our strong place of refuge. When we are tempted, run to the refuge. When we are accused, run to the refuge. When we face dark times, run to the refuge and rejoice that Jesus is near and loves us.

8:11 So the Levites soothed all the people: “Be at peace and don’t be sorrowful, for this day is holy.

When God’s Spirit falls in awakening power, convicting and persuading His people to know and seek Him above all, it changes His people forever. Nothing like it; no experience compares.

8:12 And all the people left there to eat and drink, and to share from their abundance, and to celebrate gladly, for they understood the words that were taught to them.

This was the day before Tabernacles begins and celebration is in order. And celebrate, they did! It was an eight day worship service.

Pastor Rick’s Study Notes: Mark 16:9-20

Pastor Rick’s Study Notes:

(PRT)

v. 9 Now, when Jesus was raised early on the first day of the week, he appeared first of all to Mary Magdalene, from who he had thrown out seven demons. vv. 10-11 She left there and told those who had been with Jesus and were now grieving and weeping; and they couldn’t believe that he was alive, even after hearing the news that she had seen him. vv. 12-13 And even after all this, two of them showed up and reported to the other disciples that while they were just now walking through the countryside, Jesus appeared to them in a different outward appearance; and they still didn’t believe it. v. 14 But not long afterwards, while the eleven were eating dinner, he showed up and then scolded them for their disbelief and hard-heartedness since they had not trusted those who had seen him risen from the dead. v. 15 Then he said to them: “As you journey into all the world, tell the whole creation the Good News. V 16 The ones who believe and are baptized will be saved; but the ones who remain unbelieving will be condemned.” vv. 17-18 Additionally, miraculous signs will show up around the ones who believe: in my name, they will throw out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will remove serpents with their hands; they will not be harmed even if they drink something deadly; and they will place their hands on the sick and they will be restored.” v. 19 Then, with all assurance, after speaking to them, Jesus was taken up into the heavens and then sat down at God’s right hand. v. 20 And they left there, declaring the Lord everywhere. The Lord was working through them and validating the word through accompanying miraculous signs. Amen.

Study Notes:

v. 9 Now, when Jesus was raised early on the first day of the week, he appeared first of all to Mary Magdalene, from who he had thrown out seven demons.

The rock removed wasn’t for Jesus to escape. The power to keep Jesus from corruption and decay and raise him from the dead wasn’t so weak that a rock would stop it. The rock was removed by the angel afterwards, so the women would see and have faith.

Jesus’ resurrection in v. 8 is framed by his crucifixion. His sacrificed life is integral to the new life we are given in Him.

There were two choices for Jesus being “not there:” His body was taken, or He rose from the dead. No other options are there.

In this summary verses of the telling of the story, Mary Magdalene returned to the sepulcher to try to make sense of all she’d discovered.  And Jesus appeared to her. (Confirmed by John 20.)

vv. 10-11 She left there and told those who had been with Jesus and were now grieving and weeping; and they couldn’t believe that he was alive, even after hearing the news that she had seen him.

This is confirmed in the other Gospels that they couldn’t wrap their minds around this story either. They were slow in coming to believe that Jesus was alive.

vv. 12-13 And even after all this, two of them showed up and reported to the other disciples that while they were just now walking through the countryside, Jesus appeared to them in a different outward appearance; and they still didn’t believe it.

These would be the two walking toward Emmaus to whom Jesus appeared. They rushed back to tell the disciples they had seen Jesus. In sync with the two witnesses, word comes back from others that Peter has seen Jesus, too. (Luke 24)

In his resurrected body, Jesus is the same, yet not the same. He is not subject to the rules we are. He appears as and when and through whatever closed door He wishes. And He does so in the next verse.

That Jesus appeared to a woman and to two who were not of the inner circle shows that status isn’t the qualifier. Each of us has this revealing of the truth and presence of Jesus in our salvation.

v. 14 But not long afterwards, while the eleven were eating dinner, he showed up and then scolded them for their disbelief and hard-heartedness since they had not trusted those who had seen him risen from the dead.

Mark names the new set of apostles minus Judas, The Eleven. They were known here in the context of the one absent but also by the rest remaining faithful and together.

Jesus shows up at dinner, calms their fears, shows them his wounds, has a bite. and calls them out for not believing Mary or the two from Emmaus (or even what has been prophesied – Luke 24).

v. 15 Then he said to them: “As you journey into all the world, tell the whole creation the Good News.

Even the ending of Mark 16:8 fulfills the three prophecies Jesus gave: 8:31, 9:31, 10:32-34. He will complete the work and hand off the work to tell everyone to us. Good News experienced and share in discipleship.

The whole creation contrasts with what Jesus sent them to do earlier as they went out in twos to the Jewish people. Now, all creation, Jews, Samaritans, and the nations.

V 16 The ones who believe and are baptized will be saved; but the ones who remain unbelieving will be condemned.”

This passage is interesting in including baptism in the numbers of the ones who are saved. This isn’t adding the act of baptism to make salvation happen. It is saying, “you believe and of course baptism what you do to show it” but if you don’t believe, of course you wouldn’t be baptized. If you believe, you are also baptized, and in community. The NT concept doesn’t entertain the loner Christian. Other Christians are our community; the ones we rely on, relate to.

vv. 17-18 Additionally, miraculous signs will show up around the ones who believe: in my name, they will throw out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will remove serpents with their hands; they will not be harmed even if they drink something deadly; and they will place their hands on the sick and they will be restored.”

All of this is witnessed in Acts but one: Philip, Paul, others threw demons out of people; Pentecost and the house of Cornelius prayed in new tongues; Paul shook the snake into the fire on the trip to Rome; numerous people were healed from the hands of the early church. Early church fathers tell us that John was poisoned as a way to dispatch him; but he lived.

v. 19 Then, with all assurance, after speaking to them, Jesus was taken up into the heavens and then sat down at God’s right hand.

This is the position of both authority and serving. The timing for His return is known only in the heavenlies. I remember the movies always had trouble making this real; how does one imagine what this was like? I will get to ask the disciples who were on the hillside watching this.

v. 20 And they left there, declaring the Lord everywhere. The Lord was working through them and validating the word through accompanying miraculous signs. Amen.

The main character in this passage is neither the angel resting with confidence on the bench to the right of where dead people lay, nor the women who come to anoint the body, nor the disciples, nor Peter. It is the culmination of the Good News of the Kingdom. It’s about Jesus just like it started with verse one: The Good News starts with Jesus; Our Hope begins here.