Ascension of our Lord – May 29th, 2014
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53
Have you ever wondered what it was like to see Jesus’ ascension? Was it like Buzz Light Year – to infinity and beyond – or was Jesus like Superman, leaping tall clouds with a single bound? Or was Jesus’s ascension like a royal coronation in a movie – maybe Lord of the Rings or Narnia, something truly fantastic to behold? Now that’s a bit closer to the truth of the matter.
I think St. Luke must have had the same questions about Jesus’ ascension that we do. He includes it at the end of his gospel and its sequel, right at the beginning of Acts. Of course this wasn’t just to satisfy Luke’s own curiosity; He wanted to report the eyewitness accounts and events as they happened. So, this is what he reports in Acts:
…As they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 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.”
That’s it. Pretty simple really. No rocket-man-Jesus burning out his fumes in the stratosphere or riding the magic carpet off into the clouds. Remember the angel’s words: “This Jesus…will come in the same way...” Jesus is the Word made flesh. He is bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh – in his life and suffering, in his death and resurrection, and in his ascension and reign in heaven. Jesus keeps his humanity and exalts it to the throne of God. Yet, Luke keeps the dramatics on low.
Because Luke wants us to know more than just the manner in which Jesus ascended. He doesn’t want us to miss out on the reason why Jesus ascended. And part of the answer to that question can be found in the short writings of one pastor who wondered what Jesus’ ascension was like from God’s perspective. Here’s what he wrote:
“Now he was going home….In seven words the years of labor and sorrow end: “While they beheld, He was taken up.” …There were no bells and banners on earth, but surely all the trumpets on the other side sounded as they had never sounded before…
Surely the chiming golden bells of heaven sang their welcome, and angel choirs intoned the song of the throne: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength.”…On the anvils of God the nails had been forged into the scepter of a king…. “He was taken up.” The angel hosts sweep to either side, leaving the way clear to the Eternal Light that no longer blinds the eyes of us who stand gazing after Him….He leads a procession from the ends of time and space, all the harvest of all the white fields the world has ever known, the pilgrims of the night who come at last to the dawn of an everlasting day…. “He was taken up.” The child of the manger, the praying heart on the starlit lanes of Galilee, the hunger in the wilderness, the weariness of the Sychar Well, the tears of the Garden and the Hill, the thirst of the Cross – all over now….The robes of; the Transfiguration once momentary, now clothe Him forever, and angels and archangels sound the great doxology of His waiting Church: “Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.” …
The Ascension did not take Jesus away….It brought heaven near….His homecoming has made heaven a home for us who still walk far from home” (O.P. Kretzmann, Homecoming in The Pilgrim, Concordia Publishing House, 1944: p. 14-15)
Sometimes we’re tempted to think of Jesus’ ascension like his going away party. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Jesus’ ascension isn’t Jesus leaving his church. Jesus isn’t gone. Jesus ascends to the right hand of God. A position of power and authority. It’s a grand homecoming. A victorious, joyful day.
Christ’s saving work is completed. He sits down because he’s finished his course. Ran the race. Won the battle. Charged into the jaws of our sin and death and come out alive on the other side of the grave. And he did it all for you.
Yes, Ascension is Jesus’ homecoming, but it’s also yours. Jesus doesn’t ascend alone. Miraculously and remarkably, in Jesus’ exaltation, our humanity is exalted along with him. Jesus doesn’t shed his humanity like a snake skin, but he rules and reigns in heaven as the God-Man; the Word remains flesh.
“Because He has taken all you are into all He is, and made it everlastingly His own, you ascend with Him. God “raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus,” (Eph 2:6). God’s throne is not unmanned; it is occupied by the man who contains all men within himself. The divine throne is crowded with humanity. One small sitting down for Jesus, one giant uplifting for mankind” (Chad Bird).
As the famous Christian apologist and writer (G.K. Chesterton) once said, Christ is the Everlasting Man. And so in Christ each one of us is an everlasting man. In Baptism you die and rise with Christ. And in Jesus’ ascension you ascend too.
Jesus Ascension is good news for you, for the church, and for the world.
Jesus isn’t gone. He’s ascended. He rules and reigns in heaven for you, as your brother in your humanity. As your savior in his death and resurrection. As your advocate before the Father. As your mediator and great high priest.
Jesus’ ascension means that He is at the right hand of God. That means The Gospel is Good News. That Jesus has taken away your sins by His death on the cross and that He has conquered sin, death, devil and hell by his death and resurrection. That in our Lord's Ascension you are safe and secure.
For Jesus has taken to the Father all of our righteousness and salvation and the Devil can't take it away from Him. It's like the big kid who holds the ball up in the air so that the little kid can't jump up and get it away from him. Just so, the Devil would love to snatch us and our righteousness away from Jesus, but he can't do it. He's powerless now that Jesus has ascended and been crowned with glory. Now that’s Good News – the best news! Your sins are forgiven. Jesus paid their price. Nothing stands between you and God anymore. And if the Devil wants to get to you, he's got the ascended and glorified Son of God Himself to deal with!
This is what Jesus’ Ascension is all about. When Jesus ascends to the right hand of the Father, what He's really doing is now going all over the earth through the preaching of the Gospel. Though hidden to our eyes, He is everywhere the Gospel is preached to the ends of the earth, to all creatures.
Do you see the blessed irony there: when Jesus seems to be going away, He's actually going away in order to go everywhere. When it seems as if Jesus is leaving us behind, He's preparing to go around the world wherever repentance and forgiveness are preached in His name. Jesus’ Ascension is your guarantee that where Christ's Word is preached and His sacraments given, there He Himself is forgiving and saving sinners.
So today we join the disciples in the new temple, the Lord’s house, the body of Christ - the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. And we join in rejoicing in the
immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.