Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1;1-11
The Ascension of our Lord
✠ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ✠
This is a joyful week for our church. After a long period of quarantining and lockdown for the sake of the health of our community, and making big changes to our service schedule, we are beginning to take our first careful steps back to a more normal way of doing things. What a strange thing it is to think that a gathering of 30 people in church is a big group! We certainly still need to be cautious, we certainly need to continue to pray for the health and well-being of our neighbors, but it is a joyous thing to begin having services with more of us able to gather together and to be able to see some of our fellow members that perhaps we haven’t seen for a while.
And Ascension week is a very fitting time for this to happen. For this festival is truly a joyous event for all Christians. We heard in today’s Gospel how when Jesus ascended, the disciples were not sad, as you might expect, but they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. Today, I would like to have us focus on 5 reasons for joy that the Ascension gives us.
First of all, Jesus’ ascension means that He is King over all that is. It is written in Ephesians, “(God the Father) raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places... And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things for the Church.” That’s very good news for you. Your Lord, Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth to carry out the Father’s good and gracious will for you. Everything has been put under His feet, including even death and the devil himself. And so we rejoice, because our man won, our Redeemer triumphed. Jesus’ victory is our victory. The crucified and risen One in whom we believe is in charge; He is Lord of lords, forever.
Very often when we’re not experiencing that joy, it’s because we have forgotten that truth. We act as if Jesus isn’t in charge, as if things are just random and out of control, and we’ve got to put things right ourselves. Especially when life is going crazy, and the things we counted on don’t seem so stable anymore, we can begin to doubt whether or not Jesus really is Lord; we can begin to wonder whether or not this Christianity thing is really all it’s cracked up to be. And then we can begin to try to take control ourselves with our worry and anxiety, and with our attempts to manipulate people and circumstances. That takes its toll on us.
But the Ascension teaches us that Jesus is, in fact, in control. Even when chaos seems to be the rule, the Ascension is a reminder that He is still directing all things toward your ultimate well-being. It is written in Romans, “God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are the called according to His purpose.” You have been called according to His purpose in Holy Baptism. Therefore you can be confident that whether times are good or bad, the Lord will never forsake you. The Ascension of Jesus to the right hand of the Father is a call for you to believe that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords for the Church, for you.
The second joyous thing Jesus’ ascension means is that your salvation is complete and secure in Him. It is written in Hebrews, “After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” You could not purify yourself of your sins. No one amount of “clean” living could truly accomplish that in the sight of a holy God. But Jesus provided purification for you on the cross. As it is written, “The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purifies us from all sins.”
And Jesus’ resurrection and ascension show that the Father has accepted Jesus’ sacrifice. His being seated at the Father’s right hand demonstrates that Jesus accomplished the mission He was given. God the Father has embraced and honored His Son’s redeeming work and has received Him to His side. Your human nature has been fully restored and exalted in the ascended Christ. Because Jesus has been received into heaven, so will you also who believe in Him. Jesus’ ascension has paved and opened the way for you to receive everlasting life. Colossians 3 puts it this way: “Your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Your eternal well-being is kept secure in the ascended Jesus.
So don’t give the devil any room with your doubts about whether or not you’re going to heaven. When you begin to waver in your Christian hope, when you aren’t sure whether or not you’re saved, just remember Jesus’ Ascension; just remember that you are a member of His body by your baptismal faith and cling to that truth. You’ve already gone to heaven, for Jesus is at the right hand of God as the Mighty Conqueror. The Lord, who has begun His good work in you, will bring it to completion in the Day of His return. Your salvation is complete and safe in Him who is seated at the right hand of the Father.
The third joyous thing that Jesus’ ascension means is that He is interceding for you with the heavenly Father. It is written, “Christ Jesus, who died, more than that, who was raised to life, is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” God the Father’s “right hand man” receives your prayers and petitions, and brings them to the Father, interceding on your behalf. And because of His Son’s righteousness, God the Father hears and acts upon your prayers according to His wisdom and mercy. It is written in I John, “If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.”
The fourth joyous thing that Jesus’ ascension means is that He is still present among us to bless us, as He said, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus is not absent from us. He is simply hidden from our sight. For it is written in Ephesians, Jesus “ascended far above all the heavens that He might fill all things” in heaven and on earth. Jesus is not confined to some physical spot somewhere. Rather, the ascension means that He who from the beginning filled all things as true God now also fills all things also as true man. Remember what Jesus did as He ascended. “He lifted up His hands and blessed them.” That is the last thing the disciples saw, and that is what you are to see continually by faith. Jesus is still lifting up His hands to bless you. Especially when you come to this altar to receive the life-giving body and blood of Jesus, look and see that which only believers can see.
And finally, the fifth joyous thing Jesus’ ascension means is that He will come again. The two angels said, “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come again in the same way you saw Him go into heaven.” Jesus ascended and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And Jesus said of His return, “You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
As you await and look forward to that final Day, take comfort in the fact that even now your place is being made ready in heaven. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” Your hope is centered not in this world but in the one to come. Your life is in Christ. Therefore, the Scriptures exhort you, “Seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. . . When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
So remember these five reasons for joy that the Ascension gives you. It teaches that Jesus is King over all things for the Church, that your salvation is complete and secure in Him, that Christ is interceding for you before the throne of the Father, that Jesus is present here to bless you with His words and His Supper. And it teaches that Jesus will come again to bring you to Himself and the place He has prepared for you. Brothers and sisters in Christ, especially in these times, let us be like the disciples and rejoice in the Ascension of our Lord.
✠ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ✠