Passage: Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 1:1-11
Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection
After Jesus rose from the dead, he did something surprising—he left. Why did he do this, and what does this mean for us today?
First, Jesus’ ascension was more than simply his leaving the earth—rather, it marked his taking up the throne at his Father’s right hand, being crowned the king of heaven and earth. And from this throne he reigns with “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). His coronation as King marked the culmination of centuries of Old Testament prophecy and longing, and also perfectly fulfills the desires of every human heart—for peace and security, for wisdom and direction, for love and permanence, etc.
While this should be cause for celebration, we are naturally suspicious of authority, however, because we are familiar with its misuses. But Jesus uses his authority totally differently—always for our good, and with our best interests in mind. And he proved this abundantly by going to the cross for us.
In his first authoritative act as king, then, Jesus commissioned his disciples to live lives on mission, calling them to “go and make disciples of all nations”, acting as his “witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8)—before leaving them to return to his Father. We are sent, then, with the authority and the resources of a king! So what is the nature of this Great Commission to “make disciples”, why did it work, and why is it so worth giving our lives to?
A disciple is someone whose life has been transformed by the gospel of Jesus, who, out of that transformation learns to follow him as Lord in every area of life, and who then leads others into that same transformation. So the commission to “make disciples” is a call to give our lives towards making people like that—investing in them, and teaching them to invest in others, in total reliance on God. Ultimately, it is only Holy Spirit who changes people—but he uses us.
Though Jesus left behind eleven anxious disciples, somehow these men sparked a movement that is still expanding throughout the world today! It worked, and is working, because we have “received power from the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), and because Jesus’ authority on our behalf means that he is always actively at work ahead of us, and in the people, we engage with.
It is truly worth giving our lives to this mission. There is no more dignifying purpose than being sent out by as king, no more comforting resource than the empowerment of his Holy Spirit, and no fuller life than a life poured out in service of Christ. Do you have a godly ambition? Venture out and trust the ascended Lord Jesus with it!
- Jesus’ Ascension Means He is Crowned King of Heaven & Earth
- Jesus is the King Who Commissions Us with His Authority
Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide:
Re-read the passage(s): Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 1:1-11
Jesus’ Ascension Means He is Crowned King of Heaven & Earth
1) INTRO: Before this sermon, had you thought much about Jesus’ ascension, or its significance? In your church experience, how often was the ascension taught on?
2) Read Acts 1:1-11 and meditate on these verses together. Consider:
- Why do you think Luke describes “the first book” (the gospel of Luke) as dealing with “all that Jesus began to do and teach?”
- What were the disciples expecting Jesus to do? How did he reframe their expectations?
- What information did Jesus’ withhold from his disciples? What did he give them? Why?
- What is the significance of the angels questioning the men: “Why do you stand looking into heaven?”
3) Jesus’ ascension meant he was ascending to the throne, next to his Father, and that he now reigns with all authority. In the sermon, Richard gave some examples of how having a good king fulfills our deepest longings. Can you think of some examples today of how having a good ruler fulfills your own deeper desires, or the desires of friends you know?
4) In the sermon, Richard mentioned that it can be hard to accept someone having complete authority over us, because we’ve experienced its abuses. When have you, or someone you love, experienced abuses of authority? Has it affected the way you or they relate to Jesus and his own authority? How is Jesus’ authority different?
Jesus is the King Who Commissions Us with His Authority
5) In the sermon, Richard mentioned the role of a “commissioner”—someone who grants authority to perform a task and gives the resources to do it. How might thinking of Jesus as a “commissioner” give you confidence in serving him on mission?
6) Re-read Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8. Consider together:
- What does it truly mean to “make disciples”? How did Jesus model this?
- How does Jesus assure us of his help and power in the process of making disciples?
- What does it mean to be a “witness” to Jesus? What does this imply about our role and calling? Our responsibilities?
7) What is one practical step you can take towards making a disciple? What barriers, if any, do you feel you’re facing?
8) Acts 1:8 mentions being Jesus’ witnesses to “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth”. While we are all called to be witnesses in our own “backyard”, is there one of these areas (or more) where sense a particular calling to witness to Jesus in? How would, or how do you express this?
- Jerusalem – our own town/city
- Judea – our surrounding region (North Shore)
- Samaria – our surrounding region, particular among people who are different than us (culturally different, socioeconomically different, racially different, etc)
- Ends of the earth – every nation on earth, particularly among those who have never heard the gospel
9) In the sermon, Richard said “the Great Commission is not the great guilt trip”. Have you ever experienced God’s call to mission in this way—that is, in a way that makes you feel guilty for what you’re not yet doing, rather than as a dignifying invitation to serve a powerful and loving king? If so, why do you think that is? How might you embrace a healthier, freer understanding of God’s mission?
Additional Application Questions
Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?
Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and outside of the church?
Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.