44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.
52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
And, today, let’s add to our alleluias.
Alleluia! Christ is ascended!
He is ascended indeed! Alleluia!
This past Thursday marked forty days after Easter and one of the most important days for the Christian Church – the Ascension of Christ. The Ascension means that Jesus – the One who has redeemed you, shed His blood and died for you, and who is risen for you – this Jesus now sits on the throne and rules the entire universe. The Ascension proves that Jesus has won the victory over sin, death, and the devil.
In the Ascension, Jesus stopped being in only one place at a time. Remember in the Gospels how Jesus would appear even after He was raised? He appeared to Mary Madeline near the tomb. He appeared to the disciples minus Thomas in the upper room Easter evening, and again to all the disciples together a week later. Jesus appeared while disciples were fishing at the Sea of Galilee. And in 1 Corinthians 15, we read that Jesus appeared to 500 witnesses all at one time. In each of those appearances, Jesus was there in that one particular place.
Now, because of the Ascension, Jesus is everywhere all the time in all the world even though we don’t see Him. Remember, that Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. And behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:18, 20).
As the Introit – Psalm 110:1, the third most quoted Old Testament verse in the New Testament – said about the Ascension, Jesus our Lord is seated at God’s right hand with His enemies as His footstool. And maybe, you’re objecting because the verse reads, “The Lord says to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.’” Don’t forget what our Epistle text (Eph. 1:15-23) also said. Christ was raised from the dead and seated at God’s right hand in the heavenly places above all rule, authority, dominion, and above every name that is named not only in this age but in the one to come and, “[God] put all things under [Christ’s] feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church.”
In His human flesh, Jesus, your Savior ascended to God. Now, His nail-scarred but resurrected feet press down upon every enemy of God and every enemy of yours. The Ascension is something to celebrate because the sin-forgiving, death-destroying body of Jesus now covers every corner of the earth. Jesus is with you always protecting you from all harm and giving you every blessing.
But the devil does not want you to rejoice and delight in this, and so Satan attacks you, believer.
The devil attacks all the things that Jesus has done, but he attacks unbelievers and believers in different ways. With unbelievers, the devil attacks Christ’s birth – Christmas. He assaults Christ’s death and resurrection – Good Friday and Easter. The devil does not want people to believe that God became man, that Jesus died, and that He rose again because to believe those things is to be saved.
But once you are a Christian, the devil does not stop his attacks. But with believers, the devil does not come straight at Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection. Instead, the devil chips away at the joy and hope that you have because of Jesus’ Ascension.
From time to time there are videos online of people watching an iceberg break apart. You hear creaking and cracking. Smaller chunks of ice, the size of a car, fall into the ocean. Every now and then, bigger chunks the size of a house fall off. But then, suddenly, half of the iceberg, maybe the size of the new Vikings’ stadium, slips away into the water.
The Ascension of Jesus is like all those smaller chunks that the devil tries to chip away from us so that our whole faith is ripped away from us.
So the devil tries to deceive us into thinking that Jesus has up and abandoned us. Satan tries to turn up the volume on all the evil and wickedness going on in the world to drown out Jesus’ statement that He has all authority in heaven and on earth, that Christ is far above all rule, authority, power, and dominion.
So, Satan points us to the terrorist attacks. He shows us how ISIS blows up a concert in Manchester England, killing twenty-two people, and a couple days later, they shoot up a bus of Christians in Egypt killing twenty-nine of our brothers and sisters in Christ (ten of those were children). The devil tries to focus our attention on the mess of our national politics and economy. The devil points us to how small and insignificant the church appears to be in this world and how many are leaving the church and abandoning the faith.
And the devil puts all the chaos, all the wickedness, all the pain and suffering before us and shouts as loud as he can, “Did Jesus really say that He has all authority in heaven and on earth? If Christ’s enemies are His footstool, how can I do all these horrible things? You must be some fool to believe what Jesus says!”
And too often, we listen. We do not believe that Jesus even now rules and reigns to all eternity. We are robbed of our joy, the world sees us running around worried and panicked, and the devil laughs.
The Ascension doesn’t promise us that you will always see Jesus crushing His enemies with our eyes. But the Ascension does promise that His victory is real. The Ascension means that no matter what you see with your eyes, what God says is stronger and more real than what you see.
Look at the end of this text and see how Jesus ascended. “Lifting up His hands He blessed [the disciples], and while He blessed them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.”
Jesus’ hands were lifted up in blessing, and Scripture never says that Jesus’ hands are lowered. Jesus doesn’t stop blessing you. Your God, your Savior, Jesus is at God’s right hand blessing you in His ascended victory, now and forever.
Alleluia! Christ is risen and ascended!
He is risen and ascended indeed! Alleluia! Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.