Sermon title:

How Jesus Changed the World

Immanuel Baptist Church – August 9, 2020

 

 

 

Our Lord Jesus encountered many people

during his 3-1/2 year ministry on earth.

 

And those who encountered him were never the same.

 

He changed people’s lives then,

and he changes people’s lives today.

 

But he also changed the world.

 

He changed the world so drastically

that mankind measures history

in years marked B.C.—before Christ—

and in years marked A.D.—the abbreviation

for Anno Domini or Year of our Lord.

 

And it’s not just the calendar that changed.

 

The whole world changed with the coming of Christ.

 

Before Christ there was a tiny Jewish nation

that worshiped the God of the Bible.

 

The whole human race was descended

from the family of Noah that repopulated the earth

after the global flood.

 

But they had long since forgotten the true God.

 

People all over the earth

worshiped statues of wood, stone and metal.

 

People of all nations worshiped idols, human leaders,

or worshiped their ancestors.

 

They worshiped rocks and trees and animals.

 

And they practiced human sacrifice

and all sorts of disgusting sex rituals

as part of their false worship.

 

But then people all over the world heard about Jesus,

the Gospel message touched their hearts,

and they gave up those false religions

to worship the Creator.

 

And today 4 billion people, all over the world,

profess to worship the God of Abraham.

 

Four billion people believe that Jesus was sent by God.

 

Yes, even Muslims believe Jesus was sent by God,

but, like Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses,

Muslims have been taught false doctrines

that say Jesus is not the Almighty Son of God.

 

So, the majority of people, all over the world,

profess belief in Jesus—in one way or another.

 

How did it happen that the name of Jesus

is named all over the world?

 

How did it happen that one man could change the world?

 

It all came down to one meeting,

where one command was given.

 

And we’re going to look at that command this morning.

 

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We’ve spent 2-1/2 years going through

the Gospel accounts

of our Lord Jesus’ life and ministry.

 

And we’ve now come to the end of the Gospels.

 

We’ve come to the point

where Christ is saying goodbye to his Apostles.

He’s gone to the cross,

he rose from the grave on the third day,

he showed himself alive to his disciples,

and now he is about to ascend to heaven.

 

But, first, he meets with them for one last time,

and gives them instructions

as to what to do next.

 

We read about this final meeting with the Apostles

in the last chapter of Matthew’s Gospel

at Matthew 28:16.

16 But the eleven disciples went into Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had sent them. 17 When they saw him, they bowed down to him, but some doubted. 18 Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.

 

That was a big change

in how the disciples were to view Jesus.

 

They met him 3 years earlier as a street preacher

who called them to leave their jobs

as fishermen, tax collectors, and so on, to follow him.

 

They saw him perform miracles over 3 years.

 

And then they gradually realized he was much more

than just a miracle-working rabbi.

 

They came to realize that their teacher was the Messiah,

the leader promised in their Hebrew Scriptures,

the leader the Jewish people had been waiting for

for many centuries.

 

But then he was arrested, put on trial by his enemies,

executed, and buried in a tomb.

 

Their hopes were dashed.

 

But now he has risen from the dead,

and tells them that he has all authority, all power,

in heaven and earth.

 

Can they even grasp what that means?

 

Not at first.

In fact, the scripture tells us that, at this final meeting,

When they saw him,

they bowed down to him, but some doubted.

 

Their late teacher who they saw die on the cross,

now being risen from the dead,

and telling them he now has

all power in heaven and earth—

all of that took some getting used to.

 

No wonder that some of them doubted,

and that they were all slow to grasp

the power and authority of the risen Christ.

 

But Jesus goes on, anyway, to give them a command,

a new assignment—the work

that he wants them to do

that will change the world.

 

He tells them at Matthew 28:19,

 

19 Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

 

It would take the disciples some time

to really grasp what this command meant.

 

As Jews, they were accustomed to keeping separate

from people of other nations—

“Gentiles” as they called them.

 

But now Jesus was telling them

to go preaching and teaching throughout the world,

baptizing Gentiles,

and teaching them how to follow Jesus.

 

And, further, he was assuring them

that, in some miraculous way,

he would continue to be with them,

as they did this world-wide disciple-making work.

 

All of this would take a while to sink in.

 

In fact, it would be

too much for them to accomplish,

if they had to do it all by themselves.

 

True, Jesus assured them,

I am with you always,

even to the end of the age.”

 

But, what did that mean?

 

How would Jesus go to heaven,

yet continue to be with the disciples

“to the end of the age”?

 

The Gospel writer Luke gives us more details.

 

Matthew ends his Gospel with

this final command and promise Jesus gave

before going to heaven.

 

But Luke gives more detail at the end of his Gospel,

and Luke goes on to write the Book of Acts

that tells us what happened

in the days, weeks and years that followed.

 

First, here is how Luke describes in his Gospel account

Christ’s final meeting with the disciples,

beginning at Luke 24:45.

 

45 Then he opened their minds, that they might understand the Scriptures. 46 He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

 

The New Testament had not yet been written,

so, when the risen Christ

opened their minds,

that they might understand the Scriptures”

that meant the Old Testament.

 

The Old Testament is full of prophecies that Jesus fulfilled

—prophecies that the Christ would “suffer,”

and would

rise from the dead the third day.

 

The Jewish theologians had missed all these prophecies,

so all the years Jesus’ Jewish disciples had gone

to their weekly synagogue services,

they had never learned

that these passages in the Old Testament

foretold things about the Messiah.

 

But now Jesus “opened their minds,

that they might understand

these Old Testament prophecies,

and he reminded them that they were

witnesses of these things.

 

They were eyewitnesses

to the fulfillment of these prophecies by Jesus.

 

But the Messianic prophecies also foretold

that repentance and remission of sins

should be preached in his name

to all the nations.

 

The Jewish theologians had missed that, too.

 

But now Jesus was giving the disciples an assignment—

to fulfill the rest of those prophecies

by calling people of all nations worldwide

to repent of their sins

and receive “remission” or forgiveness

by turning to Christ as their Savior.

 

What prophecies would the disciples fulfill

by taking the Gospel message worldwide?

 

The prophecy of Psalm 22:27

 

"All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee." (Psalm 22:27)

 

The prophecy of Psalm 66:4

"All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name." (Psalm 66:4)

 

The prophecy of Psalm 67:2

"That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations." (Psalm 67:2)

 

The prophecy of Psalm 67:7

"God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him." (Psalm 67:7)

The prophecy of Psalm 86:9

"All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name." (Psalm 86:9)

 

The prophecy of Jeremiah 16:19

"O LORD ...the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit. Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods." (Jeremiah 16:19-20)

 

All these prophecies about the Gentile nations

turning to the God of Israel

were written hundreds of years before Christ—

most of them 1000 years before Christ.

 

And all through those thousand years

there was no indication that the Gentile nations

would ever leave the idols they worshiped

and turn to the God of Israel.

 

But that was about to change,

when Jesus sent out his disciples

with the Great Commission

to preach the Gospel to all the nations.

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How could this band of fishermen

possibly accomplish this?

 

Jesus went on to tell them that he would

clothe them with supernatural power:

 

49 Behold, I send out the promise of my Father on you. But wait in the city of Jerusalem until you are clothed with power from on high.”

 

They were to wait in Jerusalem

until the Jewish holiday of Pentecost,

and then Jesus would empower them

with the Holy Spirit from heaven.

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Our Lord gave them these commands and this promise,

and then he prepared to leave them,

and ascend to the Father in heaven.

 

Luke continues in Verse 50,

 

50 He led them out as far as Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he withdrew from them, and was carried up into heaven. 52 They worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.

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And that’s how Luke ends his Gospel account.

 

But Luke didn’t stop writing then.

 

He wrote a second Bible book—the Book of Acts.

 

And, in the first chapter of the Book of Acts,

Luke gives more detail

about how Jesus left the disciples

and ascended to heaven.

 

Beginning at Acts 1:1, we read

 

1 The first book I wrote, Theophilus, concerned all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, 2 until the day in which he was received up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 To these he also showed himself alive after he suffered, by many proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking about God’s Kingdom. 4 Being assembled together with them, he commanded them, “Don’t depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which you heard from me. 5 For John indeed baptized in water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

 

So, Luke starts out his Book of Acts

by summarizing what he had written in his Gospel

about Jesus’ death and resurrection, and

about Christ’s final meeting with the disciples.

 

In the Gospel account, he told how Jesus

instructed the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until

they were “clothed with power from on high.”

 

Now in Acts he adds to that by explaining

that Jesus said the disciples would be

“baptized in the Holy Spirit.”

 

And Luke later details that event

in the 2nd Chapter of Acts,

where he tells what happened on Pentecost.

 

But, first, Luke goes on here at Acts 1:6 to give us

more details of Jesus’ final meeting

with the disciples.

 

Luke says,

 

6 Therefore when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, are you now restoring the kingdom to Israel?”

 

We’re all slow to learn,

and the disciples were much like us.

 

So, God is patient with us, revealing things to us

a little bit at a time—just the amounts

that we’re able to grasp and deal with.

 

The disciples weren’t yet ready to hear

that Christ would rule the Church from heaven

for 2,000 years, before returning in power.

 

They weren’t yet able to grasp that their assignment

was to start building that worldwide Church

by taking the Gospel to the Gentile nations.

 

But the Holy Spirit would start revealing that to them

in the months and years to come.

 

So, at this point, we read in Verse 7,

 

7 He said to them, “It isn’t for you to know times or seasons which the Father has set within his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. You will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.”

9 When he had said these things, as they were looking, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight.

 

Jesus gave them that assignment to be witnesses of him

to the most distant parts of the earth,

but it would take some time for them

to grasp what this actually meant—

that these fishermen from Galilee

would become travelling preachers,

journeying to Africa, Asiaand Europe

preaching the Gospel.

 

Right now, though,

they must have been awestruck, as they watched Jesus

ascend bodily into the air, up into the sky,

until he was out of sight in the clouds.

 

They kept looking upward

until they were interrupted by angels.

 

Verse 10 says,

10 While they were looking steadfastly into the sky as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white clothing, 11 who also said, “You men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who was received up from you into the sky will come back in the same way as you saw him going into the sky.”

 

From then onward, Christians would pray

for Christ’s return—

for Jesus to “come back in the same way”

as the disciples saw him going into the sky.

 

But, our Lord gave them work to do,

besides watching and praying.

 

He gave them that assignment to share the Gospel

from Jerusalem to the most distant parts of the earth.

 

And, on the day of Pentecost he empowered the Church

with the supernatural power

that we would need to accomplish that.

 

I said “we because we still have that assignment,

and he still gives us supernatural power to do it.

 

That work of sharing the Gospel

has been going on for 2,000 years now.

 

Luke’s Book of Acts goes on to tell how Paul

took the Gospel across Asia Minor, into Europe,

as far as Rome

and perhaps even Spain and Portugal.

 

And Acts tells how the Gospel made its way to Ethiopia

in North Africa.

 

Church tradition tells of how the Apostles took

the message of Christ to many other countries.

 

It took 1500 years for the Gospel to reach

North and South America,

and it is only in modern times

that some remote Brazilian tribes were reached.

 

The Iron Curtain kept the Gospel message out of China

until recent decades, but communist China

now has around 67 million who profess Christ.

 

For many decades a communist regime in Russia

suppressed the Gospel message

and persecuted Christians.

 

But now Russia’s President Putin

wears a cross around his neck and denounces

what he calls “godless America”

where sexual immorality is openly approved—

not that this makes him a real Christian,

but it is an indication of how

the Iron Curtain’s barrier to the Gospel has fallen.

 

Even in strict Muslim lands today,

where preaching the Gospel of Christ

carries the death penalty,

many Muslims secretly use satellite TV dishes

to watch Christian programming.

 

The Gospel has indeed gone out from Jerusalem

to the nations in the uttermost parts of the earth.

 

But there are still people who need to hear it.

Some of them may be among our workmates

or among the neighbors on our street,

or our contacts on the internet.

 

As Jesus promised, he is still with us today,

even to the end of the age,

and the Holy Spirit still empowers believers.

 

So, we still have the privilege of carrying out

that Great Commission to share the Gospel of Christ

and make disciples.

 

May the Lord help each of us to do so,

until he comes again!