Beth Moore - This Jesus - Part 1
I'm going to be reading Acts 1 through 14 in a moment and then on through parts of Acts chapter 2, but I want to just go to the very first verse to begin with, and then I want to compare it back to Luke. So, Acts chapter 1, verse 1 says, this is Luke writing, "I wrote the first narrative, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up, after he had given instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After he suffered, he also presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God".
So, already, in the opening verse of the book of Acts, he refers to a prior book that he has written, a prior narrative that he has written, and he is talking about what we know of as the Gospel of Luke. So, holding something right here, go with me to Luke chapter 1, and let's hear the very beginning of it. "Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us". I love that phraseology, "servants of the word," those who were serving to fulfill what God had already promised, "servants of the word". Verse 3, "It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed".
I want to remind you of something, as we get in the Scriptures, tonight. We are called to walk by faith and not by sight. But let there be no mistake, that our faith is based on fact. Does anybody know what I'm talking about to them, tonight? He said, "You can know, Theophilus, the certainty of the things you have been taught". So, when we open up to Acts, he's referring back to what we know of as the Gospel of Luke. And he says, "Now, in my former book, I wrote about all Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven". After giving the instructions, through the Holy Spirit, to the apostles he had chosen, after his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He spoke to them over a period of 40 days and talked about the kingdom of God.
Now go on with me, verse 4. "While he has with them, he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father's promise, 'When,' he said, 'you have heard me speak about; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days.' So, they they had come together, they asked him, 'Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?' And he said to them, 'It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'"
And I realize that for many of us who've been in the faith a long time, many of us who have heard the stories of Scripture, heard sermon after sermon, this may not seem like a really big deal or anything particularly off center of what we would normally picture, but I want you to just try to take hold of this again with me with some kind of freshness of spirit, when he says, and as he said this, what had he just said? "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you're going to be my witnesses here, here, here, and then to the ends of the earth". And it says, "As he was saying this, he was taken up as they were watching, and a cloud took him out of their sight".
I want you to understand with me, they had seen him do a lot of things, but lift off a mountain had not happened yet. I mean, just literally they're watching the soles of his feet lift up off what we will know, because of the verse that follows this segment of Scriptures is the Mount of Olives, and they're standing on it just watching him go and be enveloped a cloud. And it says that "While he was going," in verse 10, "they were gazing into heaven, and suddenly two men in white clothes stood by them. And they said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen him going into heaven.'"
This cloud enveloping him is not just hiding him from their sight, so that he is just like taken up, and they can go on about their business. There is glory happening here. Everything about this scene and the scenes to come in the book of Acts are drawing back to what God had been doing throughout the course of time to reveal himself to man, this theophany, this vision of this cloud coming and enveloping him, this was back to Mount Sinai, when God came in his glory, wrapped with a cloud, because no eye could look upon him, and thunderings, and lightnings were coming out of that cloud, and it settled on the top of Mount Sinai, and he called Moses up, and he said, "Don't let anybody else come up, only you; because if anybody sees me, they will not live through it".
So, understand with me, when he is being overtaken by this cloud, the same he was on the Mount of Transfiguration, this is speaking glory. This is speaking majesty. This is Christology at its best, because it's showing this one is God. This one who has been raised from the dead and is ascending before our eyes, wrapped in a cloudy pillar of glory, this is God. I want you to read with me now, to go with me to Acts 2. Now, it's gonna take me a while. This is where I need you to really bear with me, because I'm gonna read 24 verses to you. That's a long set of passages to read, to just really hold attention, but I want you to do it with me, because I want you to picture with me, I'll narrate a little bit as we go, but Acts 2, verse 1:
"When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. And they saw tongues like flames of fire that separated and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit had enabled them. Now there were Jews staying in Jerusalem, devout people from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, a crowd came together and was confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. And they were astounded and amazed, saying, 'Look, aren't all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it that each one of us can hear them in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites; those who live in Mesopotamia, in Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt and parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts), Cretans and Arabs, we hear them declaring magnificent acts of God in our own tongues.' And they were astonished and perplexed, and saying to one another, 'What does this mean?' But some sneered and said, 'They're drunk on new wine.'"
And I think maybe there was some new wine flowing, but not the kind that they thought and not the kind that would make you drunk, but the kind that would give you a clarity that you had never had in all your life. "And Peter stood up with the Eleven, and raised his voice, and proclaimed to them, 'Fellow Jews and all of you residents of Jerusalem, let me explain this to you, and pay attention to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it's only nine in the morning.'"
Now, I think at this point, he's probably smiling from ear to ear, because it's meant to be funny to them. Oh, I know what you're thinking. I can see it. But it's just 9 in the morning. He said, "Let me tell you what's happened here". Verse 16, "On the contrary, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: And it will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out my Spirit on all people; and then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. And I will even pour out my Spirit on my servants in those days, both men and women and they will prophesy. And I will display wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below: blood and fire and a cloud of smoke. And the sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved". Somebody say amen.
"Fellow Israelites, listen to these words: This Jesus of Nazareth was a man attested to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through him, just as you yourselves know". I don't know if this sounds weird to someone. Well, I'm sure that it does, but some of these passages we're going to read together, I know they're so familiar to many of us, but somehow with just a fresh work of the Holy Spirit in my heart, I literally was sitting on the airplane, I'd already been looking at them all week long, and I just was really groaning. It's like, what in the world? Just try to wrap your mind around what he's about to say. Verse 23, "Though he was delivered up according to God's determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail him to a cross and kill him".
Lawless people. What he's referring to there is not just that they were rebellious people. He's talking about the Romans, that they were people that would not have been under the Jewish law. So, he's saying, "You used lawless people, because you knew you couldn't get away with it if you did it yourself, especially on Passover weekend. So, you used lawless people to do what you wanted to get done, to nail him to a cross and to kill him". Verse 24, this is what I was just moaning about. "God raised him up, ending the pains of death". Some of your translations say, "pangs," P-A-N-G-S, and the word that is in the Greek that's translated pains or pangs does mean it's like birth pangs, birth pangs. It says, "God raised him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by death".
It was not possible. There was no way he wasn't getting up, because it was impossible for death to hold him. Is anybody stepping in that with me? Impossible, because you can't keep dead he who is life. You cannot murder the eternal plan of salvation. It is impossible that when he said, "It is finished," and he committed his Spirit to the Father, and he breathed his last breath, he could not have stayed dead, no matter what. When it came time for him to get up out of that tomb, let me tell you something, that stone had the weight of a fleck of dust, because nothing was going to hold him in, absolutely nothing, because this is the one who himself is life. It was impossible for him to be held by death.
What I do in my own personal devotional time, all of us have our different habits of how we, if you've got a kind of discipline that you go by in your own walk with Jesus, you may do it this way or that way, and I'm always interested to hear different people's approaches, but what I do is take one book of the Bible at a time, and I just go back and forth, very often; like the beginning of this year, I began in Genesis, and then I read Matthew, and then I read Exodus, and then I read Mark, and I just went back and forth, and that's what I've been doing through the year. So, it wasn't very long ago that I read through Acts, just one to two chapters every day. And because I had read chapters 1 and 2 on the same day, I began to notice something that started to take my breath away, and I want to show it to you. It says in verse 10, "While he was going," so he was ascending, "they were gazing into heaven, and suddenly two men in white clothes stood by them. They said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven?'"
So, every one of your versions say something very close to this. It may be there are two words or these three words. It says, "Why do you stand looking up into heaven? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen him going into heaven. This same Jesus". Now would you look with me at verse 22, please? Verse 22 of Acts 2, "Fellow Israelites, listen to these words: This Jesus of Nazareth was a man attested to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through him, just as you yourselves know". Would you look now at verse 32 of the same chapter? Acts 2:32, we'll see it a little more in its context later in our messages. "God has raised this Jesus; and we are all witnesses of this. And therefore, since he has been exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, he has poured out what you both see and hear".
Let me say that again. God has raised this Jesus. Now, would you look in verse 36 of the same chapter? "Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah". This Jesus, no other Jesus, this very Jesus, this Jesus, this Jesus, this Jesus, this Jesus. Over and over, Luke is saying, "Let there be no mistaking that the Jesus we're talking about is this same Jesus". And you and I are in search of this Jesus, no other Jesus, no other refashioning of a Jesus. You and I are here to search for the Jesus, the exact same Jesus of Scripture. What you and I have gotta figure out, and we've got a place to do it right on the pages of Scripture. Is it this Jesus or is it that Jesus? Because I need to know which one my Jesus is.
I'm gonna tell you something. I want to speak in very general terms here. So, I don't want you to get offended, unless you need to be offended. Sometimes I need to be offended. Anybody else? So, let me just speak in general terms here of what it would look like to the public and look like in general. We have lost our way in our prophetic Christian witness in this nation. We have lost our way. We have either stripped Jesus of virtually all meaning and power and particularity, or we have monetized and politicized Jesus. And what I want to present to you is that we do not recognize our own Savior; and because we don't, our Savior is unrecognizable in us.
I want to suggest to you that we need a colossal return to the Jesus of Scripture, that maybe there is nothing more significant than for us to catch hold of this pair of words that Luke is pushing over and over again, and that is that there is a "that Jesus" that is somehow out there recognizable in our witness, and then there is this Jesus right here, and somehow we have lost touch with this Jesus. Jesus could not have been a more common masculine name in the day in which he lived.
In Hebrew, it was simply Joshua. Can you imagine how many little boys were named Joshua? The one who headed the conquest, the warrior servant, I want to suggest to you, in this nation, there is no more familiar masculine name than Jesus. It would be a name that people would use and drop every other moment, whether they believed in him or not, because it can just be used as profanity. But everybody knows the name of Jesus in this nation. There is no more familiar name out there than the name of Jesus. But what we're trying to figure out, what Jesus are we talking about exactly? That Jesus or this Jesus? Because what we have on display in the public eye is an absolute free-for-all of exploitation of Jesus, a co-opting of Jesus Christ.
Exploitation is a word that means to use someone or something for personal advantage, profit, or power. And our era is marked by it, and we would not be alone. There would be eras that have been before us, where the same thing has been true, but it is up to us to recognize it; and if we're willing, to let God diagnose it and let us be changed and transformed. Listen, nothing is more natural to our fleshly nature than reshaping Christ into someone who agrees with us. That would be the most natural inclination on earth is that we just like reshape him. Nothing is more natural, sisters, than having open eyes to what we already agree with, and then just closing our eyes to what we don't. That's a completely natural occurrence. The thing is, we're not a natural people. We're the people of God. And if the Spirit of God is on us, we are called to a supernatural kind of life, an aspect in living. Nothing is more fundamental to our natural humanity than wanting to create God in our own image.
So, you and I are gonna go back and forth this weekend on this Jesus and that Jesus. But then I want to tell you a little bit about that Jesus. He usually has some very common characteristics among us, this one we reshape. That Jesus pretty much sees eye to eye with us. Have you ever noticed that, that what we reshape... Listen, me and Jesus, we are like this. That Jesus is offended by the same things that offend us. Anybody getting this with me? That Jesus, oh, this is a big one, he is repelled by, coincidentally, the exact same people that repel us. That Jesus evolves. Like, I mean, yes, he was that way in the gospels; but, you know, it's been years since then, and he has evolved since then.
Jesus has grown up since those days. He's cooled off since those days. He's evolved with us. We want him to take our side, and he wants to take us over. He said, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people". And instead, we're saying to him, "No, you follow me, and I'll make you fishy to people". His holiness is his otherness. We cannot make him a religious conservative or liberal, or a political conservative or liberal. Jesus is not a Republican or a Democrat. No, he is not. We can't even make him a Presbyterian, for crying out loud. We can't make him a Pentecostal. Yes, he was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief, but he is also a man that, by his own self-description, had joy that was full and complete and said, "I want my joy to be in you and your joy to be complete".
This Jesus is not just the one who is with us, but the one who resides within us by his Spirit, if we're in him. But he's not just in us. He is also with us. This Jesus, who is the same one that was from the beginning, that always has been throughout eternity, and always will be, the same Jesus who if it had been our day, instead of theirs, would have still made us mad enough to cry out, "Crucify him," or would've baffled us enough to just scatter like mice, this same Jesus, the eternal Son of God. "Before Abraham was," he said, "I am, the same yesterday, today, and forever".
Psalm 115:8 says something very, very provocative. It's talking in that chapter about idols and about making manmade gods, and it has a statement that says this in verse 8: "Those who make them become like them," that whatever we idolize, now listen, worship is essentially focus, what we attend to, what we set our hearts on. So, it could even be social media. It could be the desire for fame. It could be a thing. It could be food. It could be entertainment. It could be all sorts of things. But what the psalmist would say, whether it's something we built with our hands or something already built that we set our attention on, that whatever we idolize we start becoming like it. We don't even have to set out to do it; we just do it. What we shape and put our minds on, that's what we will become like, and I believe this is true in the way we fashion Jesus.