They were a who’s who of discipleship. The real followers of Jesus. 11 men who had followed him everywhere for the past 3 years. They had left their families, their jobs, their identities…They had left their lives in order to follow Jesus.
Now it felt like it was about time.
After all the travelling, all of the missing home, all of the time away from kids, all of the sleeping under random bushes, all of the wondering where their next meal would be from, all of the time being basically “homeless”, all of the holding back crowds who desperately wanted to see Jesus, all of the confusing teachings, all of the nerve wracking speeches, all the angry glares from the religious leaders, all of the hiding, all of the terror, all of the horror in seeing their leader dead, and all of the glory in seeing him back to life…now it seemed like it was time. Time for them to get their reward.
“Lord are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?”
Because surely, if now was the time to set up an earthly kingdom with Jesus at the head, they would be high up there too. Then, it would all have been worth it. They could trade in their dirty travel garments for the purple robes of a king. They could trade in scaling fish for scaling the statue of them that would go in their own hometowns. They would be princes in God’s kingdom – each of them would be assigned a personal Pharisees who would feed them grapes and wave palm branches to cool the hot Middle Eastern air – as they lounged on their limited edition, gold studded, discipleship lawn chairs while sampling an endless supply of 2 Loaf bread direct from Jesus’ power.
Jesus began to answer them. He gave another speech about how that’s not really his reason in coming to earth – but I imagine the disciples missed it. They were too busy dreaming about how they would GQ their outfits to process what he was saying.
Then, something happened that they couldn’t miss.
Jesus feet moved. Not forward. Not backwards. But upwards. They kept moving upwards.
The disciples looked around expecting to see Peter behind Jesus lifting Jesus up in a big bear hug –but he too was staring in amazement with them. There was no strings, no jetpack, no helicopter. They weren’t in Kitty Hawk and Jesus wasn’t testing out Wilbur and Orville’s flying machine thousands of years before they were even born.
This was a miracle. Jesus was levitating off the ground.
And he kept going up! He went past the tree lines. He went past the birds. He went past the mountain peaks. He went past up until the clouds hid him from their sight.
The disciples? Well, they did about the only thing that they could at that moment. They opened their mouths and stared.
They, literally, had an out of this world leader.
Today we are starting a new sermon series. It’s called CounterCulture. It will explore how Jesus and his teachings are completely CounterCulture to Modern Society. Can’t think of any other way to start than by learning the very truth about Jesus that the disciples were reminded of on Ascension: Jesus Himself is Counter Culture.
1. CounterCultural Power
Again. Jesus lifted himself off the ground, into the sky, and into heaven without the help of any magician’s assistants or a really big fishing pole hooked up to his tunic. He did it with his power.
I haven’t seen President Obama do that recently. Nor did I see President Bush do it. Nor do I suggest that you should base who you are going to vote for in the next election on which one of them can jump to the top of the White House in a single bound.
Earthy leaders have skills. Skills get them to be the head of their field. The incredible quarterback has a rocket for an arm. The gifted musician can play a tune by memory. The C.E.O. highlighted in Forbes has vision and a keen sense for business.
Jesus had skills too. He healed the sick faster than any other doctor and with less medicine – he just used his words. He walked on water with more grace and stability than an Olympian water skiing – only he did it without skiis and only his two feet. He did a better job making sure the weather was good for you to head out on a church picnic than a weatherman – predicting, hoping. He said “Stop raining.” And it did. He was the top of his field in winemaking without any grapes, curing paralysis without therapy, removing blindness with saliva, defeating deafness with his Word, glowing his face brighter than the sun, feed tens of thousands with a picnic basket of food, and restoring lives without a defibrillator days before a defibrillator was invented.
Then, when he died, Jesus showcased a skill that no one else in the history of the world has ever had before nor will they have again: He brought himself back to life.
Do you see how Jesus’ power is CounterCultural? It is out of this world. Where we are weak, he is strong. Where we are powerless, He is powerful. Where we can do nothing, He says, “Watch this.”
But Jesus didn’t use his power for power’s sake. He wasn’t trying to get on the front of the Wheaties box and he wasn’t trying to win the World’s Strongest Man Competition.
Jesus’ power helped him accomplish his goal!
2. CounterCultural Goals
What was Jesus’ goal? It was more than what he disciples thought. He wasn’t gathering a secret army to go and ransack the Roman palace in hopes of setting up a political power on earth.
In Mark 10:45, Jesus says this, “The Son of Man came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
To serve and to save. A goal that would result in his untimely death!?!
Anyone here watch SharkTank? It’s a show in which these world renowned entrepreneurs listen to the plans of young innovator’s and then decide whether or not they should invest in their business. My guess? Mr. Wonderful, Kevin O’Leary would have hated Jesus’ business plan.
“So…You have all the power in the world. You have a cure for blindness. You have a cure for paralysis. You have a cure for deafness. And…you’re not charging any money? You aren’t planning on building a supply warehouse. In fact, you’re planning to die – leaving your business worthlessly bankrupt?” Not even Mark Cuban would have invested in Jesus’ business plan.
Jesus’ goal was not money. It was not power. It was not fame. It was not prestige.
His goal was greater. It was your salvation.
“The Son of Man came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Here’s the God’s honest truth about our condition. We are sinful. We have been trapped in the world by our sinful vices – selfishness, envy, greed, lust, sloth, hatred. These themselves are such a common part of our sinful world that they grab onto us and lodge themselves into our souls and take us captive promising to lead to a wonderful life and brothers and sisters, they fail so miserably.
But Jesus has in mind to take us out of this world. He has in mind to take us with him where all that sin is gone.
But here’s the problem. Have any of you been in an airport recently? Maybe you had to lift your hands above your head, place your feet a foot apart, and wait as that big whirly machine scans your entire body for weapons. If they find something out of place, a weapon or a misplaced bobby pin, then you can’t go through.
Heaven is the same way. Except God doesn’t scan for sharp metal. He scans for sin. And God’s sin scanner has come back and it’s so dark with sin that you’d think the machine was broken.
God says this, “All have sinned, they have together become worthless, there is no one who does good; not even One.”
And today’s leaders. Today’s earthly leaders don’t care. Selfishness would kick in, “Good luck with that. I’ll take my money, I”ll take my jet, I’ll take my HD Google watch over here and pretend that I didn’t see you.”
Not Jesus. Jesus came to rid you of that awful condition. He came to free you from the sin that had taken hold of your soul. Even when the only way sin would release you would be through His death – Jesus willingly, freely, and swiftly offered his body for you.
“Christ redeemed you from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us.”
You know how we know that this all worked? This is the guy who floated up to heaven. It’s the guy who came back to life. It’s the guy who did all powerful, impossible things, one after another.
Can he really remove your sin one time for all time? Absolutely. Whoever believes in Jesus will not perish, but have eternal life.
3. CounterCultural Instructions
Look at what Jesus told his disciples: Be witness of all this to the ends of the earth. He didn’t want them to set up a statue in his arm. He didn’t ask them to build and make a foundation named after him. He didn’t tell them to invest his money in upcoming stocks. He didn’t ask for them to start a brand new political party.
He simply told them to spread his message.
These are the same instructions he has given us. As a family of believers at Gethsemane & Precious Lambs – this is our goal. Not to make money. Not to keep our furnishings updated, not to impress others with ‘how godly we are’, not to ‘fill the pews’, not to ‘make sure kids know their ABCs, 123s, and the difference between an Alligator & a Crocodile.”
Our mission is to tell people about Jesus. Our mission is to tell North Raleigh about Jesus. Our missions is to tell our kids Jesus.
You are a part of this mission!
But Pastor. I'm not professional. I don't have a Masters of Divinity. I'm not that good at talking to others.
That's the way of our world isn't it? Hire the people from Yale and Harvard. Make sure they've won some awards. The more fancy diplomas on the wall, the more likely one is to be hired.
Jesus? He called some fisherman to work for him. An accountant. A political activist. Jesus called regular people to share his out of this world message with regular people.
It's the same today.
Are you a mechanic? Share Jesus.
Do you work at Whole Foods? Share Jesus.
Are you a teacher? Share Jesus.
Are you in 4th grade? Share Jesus.
4. CounterCultural Timeline
Deadlines run our world. Yet what’s pretty nice about a deadline, is that it kind of gives you ability to slack off. If you’ve got until next week, why not schedule a golf outing on Monday? If you’ve got to the end of the day, why not see what goofy things Uncle Carl has been up to on Facebook? If you’ve got a sermon that isn’t preached until Sunday, why not get distracted by binge watching Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D? – you might get some inspiration.
God’s timeline? Well, He doesn’t tell. Jesus said to his disciples, “It is not for you to know the times and dates set by my Father.”
Which means it could be anytime.
Which means it could be now.
Which means there is no time like now – for you to believe -- for you to share God’s Message.
This past Friday I flew through Bible study at the retirement home I visit. I made sure to start on time and tried to finish a bit early because it was a busy morning. Bible study at 9:30am. And a meeting at 10:30am. Then, because Precious Lambs was having early release, I had to get back and get Chapel ready. I was under the gun.
I was literally out the door and ready to walk back to Gethsemane when she stopped me. I had seen her before. She had been coming to my Bible studies for awhile, but hadn’t said much. I wasn’t even sure that what I was saying was tracking.
She looked at me with tearful eyes. “Are you a pastor?”
“I have a problem. I just moved here. I left my family in Jersey. I am all alone. I have made a mistake. I have sinned. Will God ever forgive me? Will God ever love me?”
I didn’t even look at my watch.
Some things are so much more important than the busy things. Nothing is more important than THE Eternal thing.
Put eternal things first. Because the Eternal One put you first.
5. CounterCultural Promise
Steve Jobs was an incredible leader. His company, Apple, changed the world. It skyrocketed up the Stock Market. It is an incredible company. I'm using an iPhone to keep Bible passages up during this sermon writing!
Steve Jobs was a great leader.
Steve Jobs is dead.
Jesus is not.
And though he ascended to heaven, Jesus has not left us. He said, "Surely I am with you always to the very end of the age."
How can that be Jesus? We can't see you.
"Remember how I ascended to heaven? That was impossible too huh, yet I did it. So am I with you."
It's quite a bumpy ride following Jesus. It's tough living counter to culture (as the coming weeks will show us), but Jesus is an out of this world leader. He won't leave you. He won't leave me.
Won't you follow him?