June 2017 - The Ascension of Jesus
"[W]hat is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he 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 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. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all."Ephesians 1:20-23
On May 25, 2017 the church celebrated the day that Christ ascended into heaven. We confess this important teaching when we say The Apostles Creed,
"He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty."
We confess this with the same excitement and fervor as we do the Christmas line in the Creed, "Born of the Virgin Mary,".
The Ascension of Christ into heaven is when he visually departed from his disciples and this teaching is a very good thing for us.
It is the beginning of summer and that means traveling and seeing people we maybe haven't seen in a long time. This also means we must again eventually say good bye to those we love.
I remember as a boy whenever we would spend time with my cousins over the summer when it was time to leave (we lived 3 hrs away from each other) we would always try to hide in the other family's car. One time my brother managed to hide in the back seat of my uncle's van for a good 30 minutes! We were all very excited at his victorious stow away but our parents were not impressed.
We do not like to leave our friends when it becomes time to part. Jesus warned the disciples that he would leave them a little while and the disciples would be sad. But Jesus said, "But I will return to you in a short while." (John 16:16) This was Jesus speaking on Maundy Thursday night to his disciples speaking about his death and resurrection. The disciples were very sad that Jesus had to leave their presence. But Jesus' departure, his Exodus, was necessary to take away our sins so that we could be with him forever in eternal life. The disciples did not like the idea of Jesus leaving.
When Jesus was raised from the dead it seems Mary grasped at Jesus because she was overcome with joy to see her Lord. (John 20:17) She did not want to let Jesus go. She did not want to depart from his presence.
On the road to Emmaus Jesus appeared to the disciples and it looked as if he were to keep going but they wanted him to stay with them. "Stay with us for the evening is at hand and the day is far past." (Luke 24:29) After Jesus broke bread with them their eyes were opened and then Jesus left them.
Jesus' presence is a calming presence (Matthew 8:27). Jesus' presence is a wonderful thought, but he couldn't be in all places at one time. He is after all true man and man has a local presence. You can't be with your family in San Antonio and your family in Dallas at the same time. However the Ascension of Jesus teaches us something that baffles our minds. Since Jesus has ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God he can be wherever he wants whenever he wants. Since Jesus was raised from the dead in the flesh he can now be present everywhere with us.
It is curious to note how the disciples who never wanted Jesus to leave them, when Jesus did finally ascend into heaven the disciples were not sad! They rejoiced that Jesus had ascended. Luke 24:50-53 50 Then 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.
Because Jesus' ascension meant that he is no longer limited by space and time. Jesus' flesh and blood body is not limited to a local presence like we are. Jesus' human body is now fully using his divinity. Jesus can now be on our altar, flesh and blood, and every altar who celebrates the Lord's Supper. Jesus is now closer to us than he ever was when he was not fully exalted. Imagine that! In defeating death and sin Jesus is victorious over all things, even physics!
The Ascension of Christ is an article of the Christian faith. It is something that we believe because it does not make sense to our logic and science. C.F. W. Walther says this,
"We must note, first of all, that we are much too weak to grasp and fathom the real nature of ascension. We do not even have an idea of what the Scriptures call heaven, for it says that heaven has no time or space. Yet our mind has absolutely no conception of something not bounded by time and space. The Holy Scriptures do not once say that Christ only ascended into heaven; it rather speaks this way, “He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.” (Ephesians 4:10). Now who can begin to grasp this mystery, to say nothing about describing it. Bear in mind, that the ascension of Christ is like the sun. The more clearly one wishes to look into it, the more it blinds our eyes, so that finally we see nothing.This work belongs to those which we are not to fathom but in childlike faith simply to believe what the Scriptures say of it. The more simply we hold to what the Scriptures say of it, the more faith-strengthening this mysterious article becomes."
Jesus now promises us, "I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20) This is a true promise for you whose sins would separate us from God for eternity but because God loves the world he sent Jesus to be crucified, dead and buried. He was raised for us and ascended into heaven to guaranty us he will never leave us.
See you on Sunday!