Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘God’s Power and Comfort through the Holy Spirit
February 18, 2018, by Steve Mickelson
Based on a Message shared with BLCF on 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 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 is 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 represent 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 of 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 baptized 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 our own resurrection from death as well judgment 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 are 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, cloakroom, and broom closet. This porch was not insulated and had windows that opened to allow access to a clothesline that ran from the back wall of the 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.
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 selecting 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.”
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):
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 of 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 with 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):
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 the 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 of 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 baptized 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.