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The Feast of the Ascension of our Lord

1In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3To them he presented himself alive after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

      4And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

      6So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11and 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.” (Acts 1:1-11)

 

On the day of His ascension, Jesus, the Lord of lords and King of kings, ascended on high.  Of this day, St. Paul says in today’s epistle, That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory…seated Christ at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:20-23).

This means that the name of the Lord is above every name, even yours and even mine.  Jesus Christ is not just one Name among many.  His Name is above all.  Nor is He Savior to one, but not to another.  He is the Savior of the entire world.

All of us are sinners.  But God, who is rich in mercy, gave His Son for all people, in order that they believe and so be saved (Ephesians 2:4).  This is the glorious truth that Jesus Himself declared.  He says, He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me.  And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me.  I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.  And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.  He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.  For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.  And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak (John 12:44-50).

Christ’s ascension means that Christ is head over all things and over His holy church, His church sanctified and cleansed with the washing of His Word, glorious and not having spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish because of Him who gave Himself for her (Ephesians 5).

Christ over all things means that He sees all and knows all.  Nothing passes by His watchful eye.  He knows your weaknesses and your sins, but He also knows how to save and to deliver.  He knows your needs before you even ask Him.  He gives everlasting hope where you see none.  He gives this promise, that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose  (Romans 8:28).  This does not mean that we always know how ‘all things’ work together for good.  But it does mean that all things do, even if you don’t see how it is to be so.

God’s Word is your trust.  His promises – your confidence.  But God’s way is to work through what is foolish and weak in the eyes of the world…

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” 20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God — and righteousness and sanctification and redemption — 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

Christ’s cross and the preaching of it is utter foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).  The preached Word might seem empty and powerless, but the Lord Christ says that His Words are Spirit and they are life (John 6:63).

The Sacraments instituted by Christ might seem like they are only works of men, but the Lord Jesus says that they give what He offers, even forgiveness of sins and eternal life.  These are works that only God can do.

God works when and how He wills to work (John 3:8).  His way will remain hidden to those who seek Him outside of His Word, but to them who seek Him according to it, He will reveal Himself.

Of that Word, our Lord says, You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me (John 5:39).  Of Baptism, the Lord says, in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and wherever His Name is, there is He (Matthew 28:19; Numbers 6:27).  Of the Lord’s Supper, Christ says, My body and my blood (Matthew 26:26-28).

Christ is truly in the heavens, but you do not go to the heavens to find Him.  Christ, as God, is everywhere.  He is omnipresent.  There is no place one can go that He is not.  But everywhere is not where you go to find God’ Son, your Savior, speaking life and salvation.  Everywhere and anywhere are not where you go to find God FOR YOU.

It is as St. Paul says, The righteousness of faith speaks in this way, ‘Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ’ (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, ‘ ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).  But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart‘ (that is, the word of faith which we preach) (Romans 10:6-7).

You find the Lord Jesus to be your Savior in His Word, in His Word preached and in His Word attached to elements of water and bread and wine. And in this Christ Jesus, your risen and ascended Lord who comes to you by means of Word and Sacrament, you have peace with God.  Having ascended into heaven, Jesus sits at God’s right hand, not for Himself, but for you.  He intercedes for you on your behalf (Romans 8:34).

Because Jesus “continues forever,” He Has an unchangeable priesthood.  Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:24-25).

Jesus is your hope before God and your certainty of life everlasting.  Because of His death, you too have died to sin.  Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law, but under His grace (Romans 6:14).  Because of Christ’s resurrection, you too will rise from the dead.  Because of the Lord’s ascension, you know that you have a God who is favorable toward you, because Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand for you.

As Priest, Christ intercedes for you.  Once He shed His blood.  In Him, you are forgiven.

As Prophet, He continues preaching His Word into your ears that you believe and so be saved.

As King, He rules over land and sea and ushers in His heavenly kingdom, which is Not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17), whose kingdom you also are members through faith in Him who came into the world, ascended on high.  Amen.

 

Notes

“Ascension Day is the coronation celebration of our Lord as He is proclaimed to be King of the universe.  Jesus’ ascension to the Father is His entrance to the greater existence beyond the confines of time and space, being no longer bound by the limitations of His state of humiliation.  Jesus now sits at the right hand of God, which (Luther correctly taught) is everywhere, having again taken up the power and authority that were His since before time.  Yet our Lord is present with us who remain bound by time and space.  He is with us as true god and true man, exercising His rulership in the Church through the means of grace which He established: His Word and His Sacraments.  We mortals in those means of grace can grasp the King of the universe and receive a foretaste of the feast to come.” [Scott Kinnaman, gen. ed., Treasury of Daily Prayer (St. Louis: CPH, 2008), 302]

  • Where is Christ?  He is in the heaven, but also with us—in a very tangible way! (See Romans 10 above)

John 14:18-19 18 “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. 19 ” A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.

Matthew 28:18-20 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the 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 have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

  • Sitting at the right hand of God the Father: “With this expression Scripture teaches that Christ, as true man, is not only present everywhere, but also now fully exercises His divine power over the whole universe.” (SC, 141)

Ephesians 1:20-23 20 [God] worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

  • Prophet: Christ sends people to proclaim the saving Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit

Ephesians 4:10-12 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) 11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for a work of service, for the edifying of the body of Christ,

Luke 10:16 “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.”

  • Priest: Christ pleads and prays for us before the Father

Romans 8:31-34 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

1 Timothy 2:5-6 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time

  • King: Christ rules and protects His church and governs over all the world especially for the benefit of His church.

Christ governs the world by means of the ruling authorities (Kingdom of the left)

Christ govern His church by means of His Word (Kingdom of the Right)

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