The Miracles and Parables of Jesus, 2019

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Miracles and Parables of Jesus 2019’      

© May 19, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 19, 2019

Based on a Message Shared with BLCF on October 15, 2017

BLCF Bulletin October 15, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                   

Opening Hymn #182: Marvelous Message We Bring; Choruses

Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings     

Responsive Reading #624: The Great Commission (Matthew 28, Luke 24, Acts 1, Mark 16)               

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Miracles and Parables of Jesus

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF and our Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service, and our lesson today is entitled: ‘The Miracles and Parables of Jesus’.

 The disciples recorded that throughout his ministry the Lord frequently performed miracles and made use of the parable. In our lesson today we will examine why Jesus used the miracle and the parable. While a miracle is doing something that is beyond the laws of nature, a parable is a metaphor used to teach a spiritual lesson.

An example of a metaphor would be: suppose I ask sisters Jillian and Olivia to come forward and stand by the pillar to my right. If I refer to my two sisters in Christ as being “pillars of the Church” – we know that I do not mean that they are the same as the alabaster pillar beside them which is holding up the roof, which the literal meaning of the description. The expression is a metaphorical statement that these ladies are key members of our congregation, which is part of the greater bodies of believers who are Christ’s Church.

But for today’s lesson, let us begin by looking first at the miracles that Jesus performed. The Bible records over forty miracles attributed to Jesus, during his ministry:

The Miracles of Jesus

  1. Miracles of Jesus: Born of a virgin (Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:26-38)
  2. Miracles of Jesus: Changing water into wine (John 2:1-11)
  3. Healing of the royal official’s son (John 4:46-54)
  4. Healing of a man possessed by a demon in Capernaum (Mark 1:21-28, Luke 4:33-37)
  5. Healing of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14-15, Mark 1:29-31, Luke 4:38-39)
  6. Healing the sick during the evening (Matt 8:16, Mark 1:32, Luke 4:40)
  7. Catching a large number of fish (Luke 5:3-10)
  8. Healing a leper (Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-15)
  9. Healing a centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10)
  10. Healing a paralyzed man (Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12, Luke 5:18-26)
  11. Healing a withered hand (Matthew 12:9-14, Mark 3:1-6, Luke 6:6-10)
  12. Raising a widow’s son (Luke 7:11-17)
  13. Calming the stormy sea (Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41, Luke 8:22-25)
  14. Healing the Gerasene demon-possessed man (Matthew 8:28-32, Mark 5:1-13, Luke 8:26-33)
  15. Healing a woman with internal bleeding (Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34, Luke 8:43-48)
  16. Raising Jairus’ daughter (Matthew 9:18-19, 23-25; Mark 5:22-24, 35-43; Luke 8:41-42, 49-56)
  17. Healing two blind men (Matthew 9:27-31)
  18. Healing a mute man possessed by a demon (Matthew 9:32-33)
  19. Healing a man who was crippled for 38 years (John 5:1-17)
  20. Feeding 5000 men and their families (Matthew 14:16-21, Mark 6:35-44, Luke 9:12-17, John 6:5-14)
  21. Jesus walks on water (Matthew 14:22-33, Mark 6:45-52, John 6:16-21)
  22. Healing of many in Gennesaret (Matthew 14:34-36; Mark 6:53-56)
  23. Healing a demon-possessed girl (Matthew 15:21-28, Mark 7:24-30)
  24. Healing a deaf man with a speech impediment (Mark 7:31-37)
  25. Feeding the 4000 men and their families (Matthew 15:29-39, Mark 8:1-10)
  26. Healing a blind man in Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26)
  27. Healing a man born blind (John 9:1-41)
  28. Healing a boy possessed by a demon (Matthew 17:14-20, Mark 9:17-29, Luke 9:37-43)
  29. Catching a fish with a coin in its mouth (Matthew 17:24-27)
  30. Healing a blind and mute man who was possessed by a demon (Matthew 12:22-23, Luke 11:14)
  31. Healing a woman with an 18 year infirmity (Luke 13:10-13)
  32. Healing a man with dropsy (Luke 14:1-6)
  33. Healing 10 men suffering from leprosy (Luke 17:11-19)
  34. Bringing Lazarus back to life (John 11:1-44)
  35. Healing Bartimaeus of blindness (Matthew 20:29-34, Mark 10:46-52, Luke 18:35-43)
  36. The withering fig tree that produced no fruit (Matthew 21:18-22; Mark 11:12-14, 20-25)
  37. Restoring a severed ear (Luke 22:45-54)
  38. The resurrection of Jesus Christ ( 1 Corinthians 15, Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20 )
  39. Catching of the 153 fish (John 21:4-11)
  40. The ascension of Jesus Christ ( Acts 1:1-11 )

https://www.quora.com/How-many-miracles-did-Jesus-perform-in-his-lifetime-What-are-the-Bible-verses-in-the-Gospel-of-John

Scholars have attributed a wide assortment of often conflicting reasons for these miracles. These reasons range from the miracle being just an illustrative talking point in the teachings of Jesus to the miracle itself being dismissed as a parable of something more mundane.

It seems that many of these authors seem to have neglected one of the most compelling and authoritative sources in researching their writings on the miracles of Christ, the Bible.

Let us see what the Scriptures say about the subject. I would like to direct you to the account of the disciple Thomas, who was absent from the Upper Room when, Jesus first appeared to the other disciples as the Resurrected Christ, John 20:24-31 (ESV):

Jesus and Thomas

 

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin,[a] was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The Purpose of This Book

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Footnotes: a. John 20:24 Greek Didymus

We see that when the Lord returns to the Upper Room, eight days after his first appearance so that Thomas would believe in the miracle of the resurrection.

However, it is the next two verses of John’s Gospel that signify the intent of purpose to the inclusion of the signs of miracles of Jesus in his gospel, as well as the other inspired Scriptures of the New Testament:

The Purpose of This Book

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John acknowledges that there were many other signs or miracles not included in his gospel, but those that he did include, we do so that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and by believing this, we too may have life in his name.

In the times of Jesus and the disciples, the Scriptures give us many accounts of false prophets of God, who used so-called magic sleight of hand to either challenge His authority or as a demonstration that they have been called as a disciple of God. Both are false.

God performed miracles to change the heart of Pharaoh so that the ruler would release His people from their captivity, as we read in Exodus 7:8-12 (ESV):

Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’” 10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11 Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. 12 For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.

We also have in Acts 8:9-24, the account of Simon the Magician, who failed when he sought to purchase the power of the Holy Spirit from the disciples as we read specifically in verses 18-22:

18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 

Simon the Magician did not have an understanding receiving the power of God’s Holy Spirit is the reward to faith in Him, that the God’s Holy Spirit cannot be purchased nor subject commands of any person, and most importantly the Spirit is intended to facilitate God’s plan for humanity, not vice-versa.

Today, we see many false prophets who desire to elevate themselves not to praise God. Like Simon the Magician, they may have been baptized, they know all the right phrases used by believers, they seek only to elevate themselves above God and above others. It is the sin of the Garden of Eden all over again.

God used miracles to change the heart of Pharaoh and Simon the Magician could not receive the power of the Holy Spirit because his heart was not right with the Lord when he sought to buy the Spirit from the disciples.

But like Pharaoh and Simon the Magician, people whose hearts are not right with God still seek a miracle, not out of their own faith, but from twisted desire to prove their own authority over the one true God, as we see in Matthew 16:1-12 (ESV):

The Pharisees and Sadducees Demand Signs

16 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them,[a] “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.”So he left them and departed.

The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Footnotes: a, Matthew 16:2 Some manuscripts omit the following words to the end of verse 3

The other key part of the ministry of Jesus was the use of the parable, to help bring an understanding of God’s purpose to both his disciples and others]

An explanation of this method of teaching is found in Matthew 13:10-16 (ESV):

The Purpose of the Parables

10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.

Sadly, there are those who will never believe the truth found in the miracles and parables of the Lord, as their lack of faith is a stumbling block to understanding the wisdom and power of God in Christ Jesus, 1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV) :

Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Many Christians struggle with the symbolism Jesus used in his teachings, and we find on the back of today’s bulletin a good method of how to differentiate passages of Scriptures intended to be taken literally from those intended to teach us symbolically, as we see in this answer from the Web Page, gotquestions.com:                                                                                                       

Question: “How can I recognize and understand biblical symbolism?”

Answer: The language of the Bible is rich with metaphor. The biblical writers used familiar, everyday objects to symbolize spiritual truth. Symbols are quite common in the poetic and prophetic portions of the Bible. By its very nature, poetry relies heavily on figurative language; when Solomon calls his bride “a lily among thorns” (Song of Solomon 2:2), he is using symbols to declare the desirability and uniqueness of the Shulamite. Prophecy, too, contains much figurative imagery. Isaiah often used trees and forests as symbols of strength (e.g., Isaiah 10:18-1932:19). Daniel saw “a goat with a prominent horn between his eyes” who “came from the west . . . without touching the ground” (Daniel 8:5), and we interpret this as a kingdom (Greece) and its king (Alexander the Great) who speedily conquered the world.

Jesus’ teaching was full of symbolism. He presented Himself as a Shepherd, a Sower, a Bridegroom, a Door, a Cornerstone, a Vine, Light, Bread, and Water. He likened the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast, a seed, a tree, a field, a net, a pearl, and yeast. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of other symbols in the Bible.

Note that a literal interpretation of the Bible allows for figurative language. Here’s a simple rule: if the literal meaning of a passage of Scripture leads to obvious absurdity, but a figurative meaning yields clarity, then the passage is probably using symbols. For example, in Exodus 19:4, God tells Israel, “I carried you on eagles’ wings.” A literal reading of this statement would lead to absurdity—God did not use real eagles to airlift His people out of Egypt. The statement is obviously symbolic; God is emphasizing the speed and strength with which He delivered Israel. This leads to another rule of biblical interpretation: a symbol will have a non-symbolic meaning. In other words, there is something real (a real person, a real historical event, a real trait) behind every figure of speech.

https://www.gotquestions.org/biblical-symbolism.html

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #158: I Serve a Risen Savior

Benediction – (Philippians 4:7):

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

God’s Power and Comfort through the Holy Spirit

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘God’s Power and Comfort through the Holy Spirit

February 18, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin February 18, 2018 

Based on a Message shared with BLCF on April 14, 2013

BLCF Bulletin April 14, 2013

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                             

Opening Hymn #158: I Serve a Risen Savior; Choruses                                             

Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                                                     

Responsive Reading #624 of Prayer: (The Great Commission – from Matthew 28, Luke 24, Acts 1, and Mark 16)                                                                                                        

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘God’s Power and Comfort through the Holy Spirit’

Let us pray…

Last Wednesday, called by some Christian churches as Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of Lent, which is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. It interesting that the first day of Lent for 2018 happens to also fall on Saint Valentine’s Day, which occurred last in 1945,  Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.

For our lesson today, let us look at the significance to what happened during Lent and the days following.

Much of today’s lesson is taken from the Book of Acts of the Apostles. We embark on a new chapter of the God’s Plan, where our Lord makes available a part of God or the Holy Trinity, which is the Holy Spirit, to all of humanity who call upon the name of the Lord; confess their sins; and decide to follow the Way of the Lord, being baptised in Holy Spirit.

The sequence of Events that occurred in the Holy Week is the basis of our faith and a proof of the Power of God, as we read in 1 Corinthians 15:13-19 (ESV):

13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope[a] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.                                                                                     

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 15:19 Or we have hoped

This passage points out that not only is the Resurrection of the Lord important critical proof that Jesus is Lord and the truth of the Gospel and allows us to be confident in God’s promises to forgive our sins, trust in the promise of the our own resurrection from death as well judgement and validates the truth of our sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as a foundation of our faith and trust in the Lord.

God’s Plan for our Salvation is through Jesus Christ. Those elements being how Jesus rode a young donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday; Jesus’ washing of the feet of the 12 Disciples; the Last Supper of the Lord on the Passover; the Lord’s Crucifixion on Good Friday; the Resurrection on Easter Sunday; The Lord’s Ascension into Heaven  and the Gift of the Spirit at Pentecost. Each element of Holy Week was foretold by God to the prophets and recorded in Scripture and is a necessary step in a ladder of events to fulfill God’s Salvation Plan.  We even talked about the two prophets on the Emmaus Road, who encountered the resurrected Christ and brought the good news back to the remaining 11 disciples in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. What was this Upper Room referred to in the Scriptures?

The Last Room

It is funny how we will often refer to the name of a place, not knowing where it is located or what its purpose was. I recall when I first dated Sophie and visited her house, which was often filled with the extended family: brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and of course the notorious “last room.” If a visitor came and was offered a ginger ale or coke, the duty of retrieving the pop usually fell upon a young niece or nephew. Pop was usually kept in a place referred to as “The Last Room.” If something was needed or missing, such as an umbrella, a slipper, a shoe, a hat, a coat or a broom, the searcher would usually be directed to look in “The Last Room.” It was only after a month or so that I figured out that this “Last Room” was an enclosed porch at the back, north side of the house. The Last Room served as a combination cold room, cloak room, and broom closet. This porch was not insulated and had windows which opened to allow access to a clothesline which ran from the back wall of thr house to an ancient large pear tree in the backyard. If someone in the household was looking for a lost or missing item, the first and last place to look for it was usually the “Last Room”. Sadly, an addition to the house of a family room and washroom eliminated the notorious “last room” from the floor plan of the house, relegating the location to just a fond memory of the past.

The Last Room

This photo is a stock photo intended to represent the enclosed back porch at my mother-in-law’s house, which the family would refer to as “The Last Room.”

This brings today’s lesson to a place of similar notoriety in the Scriptures, which is called the “Upper Room.”

Most Bible scholars seem to agree that this Upper Room was the place where Jesus washed the feet of the 12 Disciples; where the Last Supper of Passover served by Jesus took place; where, later, the remaining 11 Disciples received the good news that the Lord had arose from the grave; where Thomas examined Jesus’ wounds from the crucifixion; where the Holy Spirit came upon the 120 believers, after Jesus ascended; and where Christ’s Church began..

But where and what was this place called the Upper Room or sometimes called the Upper Chamber? The Cenacle (from Latin cenaculum), also known as the Upper Room, is the site of The Last Supper. The word is a derivative of the Latin word cena, which means dinner. In Christian tradition, based on Acts 1:13,the “Upper Room” was not only the site of the Last Supper (i.e. the Cenacle), but the usual place where the Apostles stayed in Jerusalem, and following the arrival of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and the arrival of”the first Christian Church”.

Catholic Encyclopedia: Jerusalem (A.D. 71–1099): “During the first Christian centuries the church at this place was the centre of Christianity in Jerusalem, “Holy and glorious Sion, mother of all churches” (Intercession in “St. James’ Liturgy”, ed. Brightman, p. 54). Certainly no spot in Christendom can be more venerable than the place of the Last Supper, which became the first Christian church.”

The early history of the Cenacle site is uncertain; scholars have made attempts at establishing a chronology based on archaeological evidence and historical sources.

Biblical archaeologist Bargil Pixner offers these significant dates and events in the building’s history:

The original building was a synagogue later probably used by Jewish Christians. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the building was spared during the destruction of Jerusalem under Titus (AD 70), though Pixner thinks it was likely rebuilt right after the war, and claims three walls of that structure are still extant: the North, East and South walls of the present King David’s Tomb. Roman emperor Theodosius I built an octagonal church (the “Theodosian Church” or “Holy Zion Church”) aside the synagogue (that was named “Church of the Apostles”). The Theodosian Church, probably started on 382 AD, was consecrated by John II, Bishop of Jerusalem on 394 AD. Some years later, c. 415 AD, Bishop John II enlarged the Holy Zion Church transforming it in a large rectangular basilica with five naves, always aside the Church of the Apostles. This building was later destroyed by Persian invaders in 614 AD and shortly after partially rebuilt by patriarch Modestus. In 1009 AD the church was razed to the ground by the Muslim caliph Al-Hakim and shortly after replaced by the Crusaders with a five aisled basilica named for “Saint Mary”, today the site of Dormition Abbey. It is thought that the Cenacle occupied a portion of two aisles on the right side of the altar.

While the church was destroyed sometime after 1219, the Cenacle was spared. In the 1340s, it passed into the custody of the Franciscan Order of Friars, who maintained the structure until 1552, when the Ottoman Empire took possession of it. After the Franciscan friars’ eviction, this room was transformed into a mosque, as evidenced by the mihrab in the direction of Mecca and an Arabic inscription prohibiting public prayer at the site. Christians were not officially allowed to return until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

When they returned to the Upper Room after Christ’s Ascension, the disciples numbered some 120, did not sit idly by, but began selected a replacement for Judas and continued in fervent prayer to prepare for the arrival of God’s gift, Acts 1:1-11 (ESV):

The Promise of the Holy Spirit

1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

4 And while staying[a] with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

The Ascension

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Jesus instructed the disciples to wait upon the Lord, as we read in Acts 1:4 (ESV):

And while staying[a] with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; Footnotes: a. Acts 1:4 Or eating

Note in verse 11 that Jesus was described as being taken up to heaven. Five times New Testament writers employ the Greek term analambano (to take up) of the Lord’s ascension (Mark 16:19; Acts 1:2,11,22; 1 Timothy 3:16). Each time the verb is in the passive voice, he “was taken up.” The passive voice represents the subject of the verb as being acted upon, thus, in this instance, indicating that the “taking up” was empowered from above, namely by God.

This is almost comical as the disciples were asked, “Hey why are you looking up to heaven? Did Jesus not just tell you he would return in the same manner that he just left? Perhaps, it was the vision of our Lord’s ascension that had them transfixed. But remember that two had witnessed Jesus ascend on the day of the transfiguration. But that is another topic for another message.

But it is important to note in verse 8, that teacher now passes upon the student, the disciples, the torch of teaching God’s Grace, with the power and help of the Holy Spirit.

Before ascending to heaven, Jesus gave his blessing, Luke 24:51 (ESV):

51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.

The blessing that Jesus gave, Luke 24:51, is often interpreted as a priestly act where Jesus leaves his disciples in the care of God the Father. The return to Jerusalem after the Ascension ends the Gospel of Luke where it began, in Jerusalem. And where in Jerusalem did the disciples go? The Upper Room! The meeting is described in Acts 1:12-26 (ESV):

Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. [c]

15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong[d] he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,

“‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’; and “‘Let another take his office.’

21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.                                                                                                                          

Footnotes: 1. Acts 1:4 Or eating 2. Acts 1:5 Or in 3. Acts 1:14 Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church; also verse 15 4. Acts 1:18 Or swelling up

And in this Upper Room, the promised gift from God, the Holy Spirit was given to those who had gathered and prayed, Acts 2:1-4 (ESV):

1And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

We have a good idea what the Upper Room was and the significance of events that occurred there. But what about the Pentecost event that took place in the Upper Room?

Pentecost means Fifty. The Fiftieth is a prominent feast in the calendar of Ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai, which coincides in the Christian liturgical year as the date commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the remaining eleven Apostles of Christ (Judas had hung himself), and over 100 others, a total of 120 Disciples in the Upper Room, after the Resurrection of Jesus. Thus, the day of Pentecost occurred some 50 days after Jesus was crucified and 10 days after our Lord’s Ascension into Heaven.

So let us back up a bit to Christ’s Ascension, an event most scholars believe took place above the Mount of Olives, near Bethany. Beth anya which translates as “house of misery/Poor house?” Bethany is recorded in the New Testament as the home of the siblings Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, as well as that of Simon the Leper. Jesus is reported to have lodged there after his entry into Jerusalem, and it could be from Bethany that he parted from his disciples at the Ascension.

In Luke, Jesus leads the eleven disciples to Bethany, not far from Jerusalem and Luke describes the Ascension in Luke 24:50-53 (ESV):

The Ascension

50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

We know that the Holy Spirit had been at work previously. We see him working through different people throughout the Old Testament. We see Jesus’ close connection with the Spirit in the Gospels. Now, though, something different was happening.

According to what Jesus had told his disciples in Luke 24:49 (ESV), And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” and what Peter said later in Acts 2:38 (ESV), “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit was working in a new manner, that is, in a way that he had not worked previously but in a way that had been promised or prophesied.

A thousand years before the Savior’s birth, David prophesied the ascension of Jesus when he announced the Lord’s enthronement at the Father’s right hand in Psalm 110:1 (ESV):

Sit at My Right Hand A Psalm of David:

110 The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”

No other psalm is so frequently quoted in the New Testament, which acts as a good indicator of the importance of the event. And because the disciples had struggled with the concept of Jesus’ death, he told them plainly that he was going back to the Father, John 14:12 (ESV):  

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

And, while on trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin, Jesus told high priest that soon he would be “seated at the right hand of Power”, see Matthew 26:64 (ESV):

64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

So we conclude today’s lesson with a better understanding as the significance of the upper room as the location for the events of the teaching by our Lord by washing of the disciple’s feet, Jesus’ instruction to the disciples with regard to the elements of the Last Supper, the appearance of the Lord after the resurrection, the disciples’ selection of Matthias to replace the deceased Judas, the place where God’s gift of the Holy Spirit comes upon the men and women believers who prayed and waited there, and the location where Peter, having received the Spirit delivers the first sermon, and the place where 3,000 hear the Spirit-filled receive Christ as Lord and Saviour and are baptised in the Spirit. And with the Ascension of Jesus, we see the passing of the ministry of the Gospel of Christ to the body of believers, baptized with God’s power and comfort through the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

 

Closing Hymn #204: There’s a Quiet Understanding

Benediction (2 Corinthians 13:14): The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Following the Lord and Keeping His Grace by Love and Faith

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Following the Lord and Keeping His Grace by Love and Faith’

© November 5, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin November 5, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                            

Opening Hymn #288: Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me                                                   

Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings               

Responsive Reading #624: The Great Commission                                                                                                   (-from Matthew 28, Luke 24, Acts 1, and Mark 16)                 

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                                               ‘Following the Lord and Keeping His Grace by Love and Faith’

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday morning Praise and Worship Service in the heart of Toronto, at BLCF. This Saturday is Remembrance Day, where at the 11th hour of the 11th day of 11th month we will take a moment of silence and reflection to honor the sacrifice of those men and women who fought to give us the gifts of democracy and freedom in Canada.

While the sacrifice of brave soldiers gave us a period of peace and freedom, the ‘war to end all wars’ has been followed by other wars and conflicts, demonstrating that the rewards of these battles are fleeting at best. While a war may end a conflict, the sinful nature of humanity is such we have but a brief reprieve from the next conflict we find ourselves involved in. Unfortunately, it seems that eventually in time another conflict comes along, and we are called again to defend the freedom and principles that we hold so dearly.

Our lesson today, entitled ‘Following the Lord and Keeping His Grace by Love and Faith’,  we will look at a different type of sacrifice made on our behalf, by Christ Jesus, to rid ourselves permanently of the death penalty, which is humanity’s judgment for sin. We will examine an example how the account of Peter’s denial of the Lord demonstrates the Lord’s promise that he will never leave or forsake us, sometimes in spite of ourselves.

Let us look at how fear and the instinct for self-preservation can cause us to act quite contrary to the way we think we would, under certain circumstances where our own health and safety are threatened, as was the case with the disciple, Peter, in Matthew 26:31-35 (ESV):

31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

Though Peter is quite adamant about his loyalty to the Lord, fear can displace the courage of his convictions, Matthew 26:69-75 (ESV):

Peter Denies Jesus

 69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.”71 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”72 And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

It is interesting that Jesus knew that Peter, the disciple who Jesus had described as the rock upon which he would build his church, would deny Christ three times. The denials would occur immediately after Jesus had instructed the disciples in the practice of communion, an observance that was to be maintained after his crucifixion, until the day he returned from heaven. Though Peter’s denials threatened the establishment of the church with the cloud of sin, it appeared that Jesus would give the disciple an opportunity to atone and reconcile with the Lord,  at a future time.

Fortunately, the Lord knows the true nature of our hearts, and Jesus’ capacity to grant us unconditional love and forgiveness, when he died for our sins on the cross. God has a plan for us, and He will not allow our fears and doubts to dissuade us from achieving His intended goal. Though the disciples’ fear had caused them to lock themselves in the Upper Room, Jesus returned to bring them the Peace of the Spirit and hope, so that they may have the courage to undertake the Great Commission of bringing the truth of the Gospel of Christ to the world, as we see in John 20:19-29 (ESV):

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

 19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,[a] Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Jesus and Thomas

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin,[b] was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Footnotes: a. John 20:19 Greek Ioudaioi probably refers here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, in that time b. John 20:24 Greek Didymus

It should be noted that while Peter displays fear by his denial of any knowledge of Christ, all of the disciples show a similar fear by locking themselves in the Upper Room.

While the disciples are visited by their Lord, now resurrected, and have received the Holy Spirit from Jesus, Thomas, who was absent from the Upper Room when Jesus first visited, refuses to believe the testimony of his fellow disciples. Eight days later, the Lord returns to restore Thomas with the same peace and belief in seeing his Jesus resurrected, bearing the marks of his crucifixion.

Jesus revealed that he knew of his impending death and predicted that Peter would three times deny knowing the Lord would fulfill the prophecy found in Zechariah 13:7 (ESV):

The Shepherd Struck

“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,
    against the man who stands next to me,”
declares the Lord of hosts.

“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered;
    I will turn my hand against the little ones.

Jesus spoke to Peter, (in Matthew 26:31-35), of his pending betrayal, death, and resurrection, Peter wept bitterly, no doubt guilty and ashamed at his inability to stand at the side of his Lord on the evening of his arrest. By using  some table fellowship, Jesus wanted to give Peter the opportunity to confess and be forgiven of his denial of  having known Jesus, as described in John 21:4-19 (ESV):

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards[a] off.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Jesus and Peter

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Footnotes: a. John 21:8 Greek two hundred cubits; a cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters

When Peter heard that Jesus had arrived to visit the disciples for a third time since his resurrection, the disciple threw himself into the sea, an indication of the disciple’s guilt and shame.

The Lord  demonstrates his love for Peter, by asking the disciple three times whether or not he has love for Jesus, one for each of the three times Peter had denied Christ. Peter responds three times to Jesus by confessing his love for the Lord. It is after hearing the third acknowledgement from Peter, that Jesus indicates all is forgiven, by telling Peter the nature of the disciple’s death, which would be to the glory of God. The Lord then instructs the disciple to follow him. Peter is now ready to resume the role of being the rock of Christ’s Church, which will come on the Day of Pentecost, along with the arrival of God’s Holy Spirit to the faithful assembled in the Upper Room.

Jesus who is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, knew Peter would deny him, but the Lord gave the disciple the prediction immediately after instructing the disciples on the significance of the observance of Communion. Not only did the Lord know Peter, who was to be the foundation rock of the Church, Jesus knew the disciple would show contrition by acknowledging his love for Jesus three times.

We see that at Jesus’ third appearance to the disciples, Jesus asks Peter three times “Do you love me”, once for each time Peter had denied the Lord, to which the disciple replied, “Yes”. And after the affirmations Jesus spoke, “Feed my lambs” after the first; “tend my sheep” after the second; and “feed my sheep” after my sheep” after the third, indicating that Peter was forgiven and reinstated to assume the responsibilities of rock of Christ’s church, who Jesus describes as lambs or sheep. Peter is to tend or take care of and feed with The Word, the body of believers, whereby the Lord concludes by instructing the disciple to “follow me’”

After his Resurrection, Jesus appeared three times to the disciples, each for a specific reason. The first was a proof of his resurrection and to restore peace to the ten disciples locked in the Upper Room. The second was to revisit the locked Upper Room in order to restore faith of Thomas. And the third visit was to bring forgiveness and reconciliation to Peter. Truly, Jesus will never leave of forsake us!

Let us pray…

Communion – Matthew 26:30-35 (-see Lord’s Supper, below)

Matthew 26:26-35 (ESV) Institution of the Lord’s Supper

26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Closing Hymn #180: Jesus Is Coming to Earth Again

Benediction – (Ephesians 6:23-24):

Peace be to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

God’s Power and Comfort through the Holy Spirit

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘God’s Power and Comfort through the Holy Spirit’

© April 14, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin: April 14, 2013 

– BLCF Church Message for Sunday: ‘God’s Power and Comfort through the Holy Spirit’

God’s Power and Comfort through the Holy Spirit

Let us pray…

Much of today’s Message is taken from the Book of Acts of the Apostles. We embark on a new chapter of the God’s Plan, where our Lord makes available a part of God, the Holy Spirit to all of humanity who call upon the name of the Lord; confess their sins; and decide to follow the Way of the Lord, being baptised in Holy Spirit.

The sequence of Events that occurred in the Holy Week is the basis of our faith and a proof of the power of God, as we read in 1 Corinthians 15:13-19 (ESV):

13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope[a] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 15:19 Or we have hoped

This passage points out that not only is the Resurrection of the Lord important critical proof that Jesus is Lord and the truth of the Gospel and allows us to be confident in God’s promises to forgive our sins, trust in the promise of the our own resurrection from death as well judgement and validates the truth of our giving witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as a foundation of our faith and trust in the Lord.

Last Sunday’s service, we reviewed the events of Holy Week and how each event was a significant element of God’s Plan for our Salvation through Jesus Christ. Those elements being how Jesus rode a young donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday; Jesus’ washing of the feet of the 12 Disciples; the Last Supper of the Lord on the Passover; the Lord’s Crucifixion on Good Friday; the Resurrection on Easter Sunday; The Lord’s Ascension into Heaven  and the Gift of the Spirit at Pentecost. Each element of Holy Week was foretold by God to the prophets and recorded in Scripture and is a necessary step in a ladder of events to fulfill God’s Salvation Plan.  We even talked about the two prophets on the Emmaus Road, who encountered the resurrected Christ and brought the good news back to the remaining 11 disciples in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. What was this Upper Room referred to in the Scriptures?

The Last Room

It is funny how we will often refer to a place and not really know where it is located or what its purpose was. I recall when I first dated Sophie and visited her house, which was often filled with the extended family, brothers and sisters in law, nieces, and nephews. If a visitor came and was offered a ginger ale or coke, the duty of retrieving the pop usually fell upon a young niece or nephew. Pop was usually kept in a place referred to as “The Last Room.” If something was needed, such as a slipper, shoe, coat or a broom, the searcher would usually be directed to look in the “Last Room.” It was only after a month or so that I figured out that this “Last Room” was an enclosed back porch, on the north side of the house, which served as cold room, cloak room, and broom closet. This porch was not insulated and had windows which opened to allow access to a clothesline which ran from the house to an old large pear tree. If someone in the household was looking for a lost or missing item, the first and last place to look for it was usually the “Last Room”. Sadly, an addition to the house of a family room and washroom eliminated the notorious “last room” from the floor plan of the house, relegating the location to a fond memory of the past. This brings our message to a place of similar notoriety in the Scriptures, which is called the “Upper Room.”

Most Bible scholars seem to agree that this Upper Room was the place where Jesus washed the feet of the 12 Disciples; where the Last Supper of Passover served by Jesus took place; where, later, the remaining 11 Disciples received the good news that the Lord had arose from the grave; where Thomas examined Jesus’ wounds from the crucifixion; and where the Holy Spirit came upon the 120 believers, after Jesus ascended.

But where and what was this place called the “Upper Room” or sometimes called the Upper Chamber? The Cenacle (from Latin cenaculum), also known as the “Upper Room”, is the site of The Last Supper. The word is a derivative of the Latin word cena, which means dinner. In Christian tradition, based on Acts 1:13,[1] the “Upper Room” was not only the site of the Last Supper (i.e. the Cenacle), but the usual place where the Apostles stayed in Jerusalem, and according to the Catholic Encyclopedia[2] “the first Christian church”.

Catholic Encyclopedia: Jerusalem (A.D. 71–1099): “During the first Christian centuries the church at this place was the centre of Christianity in Jerusalem, “Holy and glorious Sion, mother of all churches” (Intercession in “St. James’ Liturgy”, ed. Brightman, p. 54). Certainly no spot in Christendom can be more venerable than the place of the Last Supper, which became the first Christian church.”

The early history of the Cenacle site is uncertain; scholars have made attempts at establishing a chronology based on archaeological evidence and historical sources. Biblical archaeologist Bargil Pixner offers these significant dates and events in the building’s history.

The original building was a synagogue later probably used by Jewish Christians. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the building was spared during the destruction of Jerusalem under Titus (AD 70), though Pixner thinks it was likely rebuilt right after the war, and claims three walls of that structure are still extant: the North, East and South walls of the present King David’s Tomb. Roman emperor Theodosius I built an octagonal church (the “Theodosian Church” or “Holy Zion Church”) aside the synagogue (that was named “Church of the Apostles”). The Theodosian Church, probably started on 382 AD, was consecrated by John II, Bishop of Jerusalem on 394 AD. Some years later, c. 415 AD, Bishop John II enlarged the Holy Zion Church transforming it in a large rectangular basilica with five naves, always aside the Church of the Apostles. This building was later destroyed by Persian invaders in 614 AD and shortly after partially rebuilt by patriarch Modestus. In 1009 AD the church was razed to the ground by the Muslim caliph Al-Hakim and shortly after replaced by the Crusaders with a five aisled basilica named for “Saint Mary”, today the site of Dormition Abbey. It is thought that the Cenacle occupied a portion of two aisles on the right side of the altar.

While the church was destroyed sometime after 1219, the Cenacle was spared. In the 1340s, it passed into the custody of the Franciscan Order of Friars, who maintained the structure until 1552, when the Ottoman Empire took possession of it. After the Franciscan friars’ eviction, this room was transformed into a mosque, as evidenced by the mihrab in the direction of Mecca and an Arabic inscription prohibiting public prayer at the site. Christians were not officially allowed to return until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

So Jesus instructed the disciples to wait upon the Lord, as we read in Acts 1:4.

Acts 1:4 – On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but (WAIT) for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.

When they returned to the Upper Room after Christ’s Ascension, the disciples numbered some 120, did not sit idly by, but began selected a replacement for Judas and continued in fervent prayer to prepare themselves for God’s gift.

Acts 1:1-26 English Standard Version (ESV) The Promise of the Holy Spirit

1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

4 And while staying[a] with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

The Ascension

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Note in verse 11 that Jesus was described as being taken up to heaven. Five times New Testament writers employ the Greek term analambano (to take up) of the Lord’s ascension (Mark 16:19; Acts 1:2,11,22; 1 Timothy 3:16). Each time the verb is in the passive voice, he “was taken up.” The passive voice represents the subject of the verb as being acted upon, thus, in this instance, indicating that the “taking up” was empowered from above, namely by God.

This is almost comical as the disciples were asked, “Hey why are you looking up to heaven? Did Jesus not just tell you he would return in the same manner that he just left? Perhaps, it was the vision of our Lord’s ascension that had them transfixed. But remember that two had witnessed Jesus ascend on the day of the transfiguration. But that is another topic for another message.

But it is important to note in verse 8, that teacher now passes upon the student, the disciples, the torch of teaching God’s Grace, with the power and help of the Holy Spirit.

Before ascending to heaven, Jesus gave his blessing, Luke 24:51 (ESV):

51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.

The blessing that Jesus gave, Luke 24:51, is often interpreted as a priestly act where Jesus leaves his disciples in the care of God the Father. The return to Jerusalem after the Ascension ends the Gospel of Luke where it began, in Jerusalem. And where in Jerusalem did the disciples go? The Upper Room!

Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. [c]

15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong[d] he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,

“‘May his camp become desolate,  and let there be no one to dwell in it’; and “‘Let another take his office.’

21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Footnotes: 1. Acts 1:4 Or eating 2. Acts 1:5 Or in 3. Acts 1:14 Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church; also verse 15 4. Acts 1:18 Or swelling up

And in this Upper Room, the promised gift from God, the Holy Spirit was given to those who had gathered and prayed.

Acts 2:1-4 – And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Day of Pentecost

Day of Pentecost

Now we have a good idea what the Upper Room was and the significance of events that occurred there. But what about the Pentecost event that took place in the Upper Room?

Pentecost means Fifty. The Fiftieth is a prominent feast in the calendar of Ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai, which coincides in the Christian liturgical year as the date commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the remaining eleven Apostles of Christ (Judas had hung himself), and over 100 others, a total of 120 Disciples in the Upper Room, after the Resurrection of Jesus. Thus, the day of Pentecost occurred some 50 days after Jesus was crucified and 10 days after our Lord’s ascension into Heaven.

So let us back up a bit to Christ’s Ascension, an event most scholars believe took place above the Mount of Olives, near Bethany. Beth anya, “house of misery/Poor house?”) is recorded in the New Testament as the home of the siblings Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, as well as that of Simon the Leper. Jesus is reported to have lodged there after his entry into Jerusalem, and it could be from Bethany that he parted from his disciples at the Ascension.

In Luke, Jesus leads the eleven disciples to Bethany, not far from Jerusalem and Luke describes the Ascension as follows:

Luke 24:36-53 (ESV) Jesus Appears to His Disciples

36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

The Ascension

50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

Footnotes: a. Luke 24:42 Some manuscripts add and some honeycomb b. Luke 24:47 Some manuscripts for

We know that the Holy Spirit had been at work previously. We see him working through different people throughout the Old Testament. We see Jesus’ close connection with the Spirit in the Gospels. Now, though, something different was happening.

According to what Jesus had told his disciples (Luke 24:49, And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high”) and what Peter said later (Acts 2:38 “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.), the Spirit was working in a new manner, that is, in a way that he had not worked previously but in a way that had been promised or prophesied.

A thousand years before the Savior’s birth, David prophesied the ascension of Jesus when he announced the Lord’s enthronement at the Father’s right hand in Psalm 110:1 (ESV):

Sit at My Right Hand A Psalm of David

110 The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”

No other psalm is so frequently quoted in the New Testament, which acts as a good indicator of the importance of the event. And because the disciples had struggled with the concept of Jesus’ death, he told them plainly that he was going back to the Father.

 John 14:12 (ESV):

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

 And, while on trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin, Jesus told high priest that soon he would be “seated at the right hand of Power”

 Matthew 26:64 (ESV):

64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

We conclude today’s message with a better understanding as the significance of the upper room as the location for the events of the teaching by our Lord by washing of the disciple’s feet, Jesus’ instruction to the disciples with regard to the elements of the Last Supper, the appearance of the Lord after the resurrection, the disciples’ selection of Matthias to replace the deceased Judas, the place where the God’s gift of the Holy Spirit comes upon the men and women believers who prayed and waited there, and the location where Peter, having received the Spirit delivers the first sermon, and the place where 3,000 hear the Spirit-filled receive Christ as Lord and Saviour and are baptised in the Spirit. And with the Ascension of Jesus, we see the passing not only the ministry to the body of believers, baptised with God’s power and comfort through the Holy Spirit.

– BLCF Church Message for Sunday: ‘God’s Power and Comfort through the Holy Spirit’

Let us pray…

Benediction (2 Corinthians 13:14) 14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all