Session 16: The Ascension

Standing and Staring:  The Ascension

Main Passage: Acts 1:3-11 (NLT)
3 During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive.
4 Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. 5 John baptized with[b] water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”
7 He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”

Supportive Passage: Ephesians 4:8-10  (NLT)
8 That is why the Scriptures say,“When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.”[Psalm 68:18]
9 Notice that it says “he ascended.” This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world. 10 And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself.

Additional Ascension Passages:

Mark 16:19-20 (NLT)
19 When the Lord Jesus had finished talking with them, he was taken up into heaven and sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand.20 And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs.

Luke 24:50-53 (NLT)
50 Then Jesus led them to Bethany, and lifting his hands to heaven, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. 52 So they worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. 53 And they spent all of their time in the Temple, praising God.


Leader Prep: Here is an article on 4 Reasons the Ascension Matters: https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2013/august/why-ascension-matters.html

Opening Activity: Staring Contests

Use this WikiHow website to help your group understand the rules and strategies for a staring contest: https://www.wikihow.com/Win-a-Staring-Contest

  • Variation: A popular variation of the game exists in which the participants not only attempts to maintain eye contact, but also must resist the urge to blink
  • Variation: Have members your group stare at a fixed spot on the ceiling, and see if others will begin to stare along with you. 
  • Variation: As the leader, when you are about to start your lesson, begin to stare off at a set spot.  See how long it takes for people to join in. 

Saying Goodbye Video ideas:

Choose one or two of these videos and discuss the difficulties of saying goodbye.

Beatles: Hello/Goodbye (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rblYSKz_VnI)

Listen to the song and have the group try and count how many times the song says “hello” vs “goodbye.”

Ask: Is it easier to say hello or goodbye? Why?
Why do people have hard times saying goodbye.

 

Muppets Take Manhattan: Saying Goodbye (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNfHU748SYQ)

Ask: Have you ever had too say goodbye to a good friend? (who?)
Why are goodbyes so sad?
Is it more difficult saying goodbye when you do not know when you didn’t know when you would see them again? Why?

 

The Office Rent Parody (Contains bleeped expletive at the very end): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ALsR-oWKAk

Ask: Have you ever had a good friend or mentor move away?
What was it like saying goodbye?
What was it like going back to life with -out them in it?
Why is it hard to say goodbye to someone you care about?


Icebreaker Questions:

  • Who was the last time you dropped someone off at the airport? How long did you wait before leaving?
  • When you drop someone off at the airport (train station, etc), how long is the appropriate amount of time to wait before leaving?
  • Share about a time you waited a long time to see someone off? Why did you wait so long?  Did it help you with the goodbye process?

BIBLE STUDY

Review: The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20)

Say: Last week we talked about the Great Commission, the mission plan that Jesus gave his disciples before he headed back to heaven.

Ask:

  • What is the Great Commission? (see if anyone can state it with out looking at their bibles)
  • What are the
  • Why does Jesus give his disciples that mission plan after his death, and not before?

Introduce the Ascension:

  • Say: After the resurrection Jesus spent only a short while on earth before retuning to heaven.
  • Read Acts 1:3 (NLT) During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive.
  • Ask: How long did Jesus stay on earth?
    Why do you think it was so short?
    How might he have proved that he was actually alive?
    Why is it important that Jesus prove he as alive?
    Why do you think Jesus needed to return to heaven, and not stay on earth with his disciples?

Ascension & Descension:

  • Read: Ephesians 4:8-10  (NLT) 8 That is why the Scriptures say, “When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.”[Psalm 68:18] 9 Notice that it says “he ascended.” This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world. 10 And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself.
  • Ask: What do these verses say about Jesus ascension?
    What do they say about his descension?
    Why are these events important to our faith?
    How do they support each other?

Jesus Final Word:

  • Say: Before Jesus leaves he gives them even more specific advice than he did in the Great Commission. He is preparing them for the next part of God’s plan to redeem humanity, though the Church.
  • Read Acts 1:4-8
  • Ask: What are some of the commands that Jesus gives them in verses 4-5 & 7-8?
    How is Jesus commands here similar and different to the Great Commission?
    Who/What are they told to wait for?  (The Holy Spirit)
    Why are they to wait for the Holy Spirit?
    What question do the disciples ask Jesus? (has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?) How might this show that they still don’t get it? (Jesus plan was not to simply free Israel, but to provide spiritual freedom to all people)
    In a few weeks Calvin will be preaching on the story of Pentecost, why do you think there is a gap of time between these two events?
    Why might it be better for the disciples (then and now) to have the Holy Spirit versus Jesus on earth?

Standing and Staring:

  • Say: After telling them about the coming Holy Spirit and giving them their mission, Jesus ascends into heaven.
  • Read Acts 9:11
  • Ask: Why do you think the Disciples were just staring in the sky?
    Do you think this is an appropriate response to what just happened? Why or why not?
    What message do the angels deliver to the disciples?

Make it personal:

  • What is the mission that Jesus has given you?
  • Where is your area of influence? (Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth)
  • How has he helped equip you to carry out that mission?
  • What are some ways you can staring up into heaven, and not doing what you are suppose to here on earth?
  • How often do you expect Jesus to do something, while not taking any initiative?
  • How often do you expect other Christians to do something, while not taking any initiative?
  • What are some ways remembering the ascension can shape your life?

Prayer: 

  • Invite your group to pray silently, as you lead them through the following ACTS propts
    • A: Adoration (praising God) – Praise God for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
      C: Confession – Confess the times you stand and stare, and not take an active role in your faith
      T: Thanksgiving – Thank God for sending you the Holy Spirit to guide you.
      S: Supplication (bringing requests to God) – Ask God that he would give you the strength and courage to be his witness in your world (Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth).
  • Wrap up the silent prayer with a final prayer.