Acts 1:1-11 (The Ascension of Our Lord)

St. John, Galveston 5/29/22

Rev. Alan Taylor

 

+ In Nomine Jesu +

 

Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

This morning we are observing the occasion of the Ascension of Our Lord, as recorded for us by St. Luke in the Book of Acts. “As (the disciples) were looking on, (Jesus) 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.”

 

It was forty days from the day of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Throughout those forty days, Jesus had appeared to His disciples and to many others. As Paul says elsewhere, “he appeared to Cephas (that is, to Peter), then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all (says St. Paul), as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”

 

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is believed and confessed, not as a hopeful dream of those who belabor and abhor the prospect of death, but as a fact of the life and ministry of Jesus, attested to by numerous eyewitnesses over a 40 day period. Likewise, His Ascension to the right hand of the Father is attested to by eyewitness accounts. 

 

It has been said that the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus are two sides of the same coin. In other words, they are inseparably linked together, such that neither can stand alone. Thus, the Scriptures say, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” And so, Jesus’ crucifixion presupposes His resurrection from the dead and His resurrection from the dead presupposes His crucifixion. As such, these two are cornerstones of our Christian faith. And so, we confess in the Creed that, “(Jesus) was crucified, died and was buried. And, on the third day, He rose again from the dead.”

 

Of course, our confession of what we believe regarding continues, “He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From whence He will come to just the living and the dead.” Though we confess Jesus’ Ascension with all certainty and boldness, by my estimation and by that of many others as well, it is one of the most misunderstood and underemphasized events in Jesus’ life and ministry. What does Jesus’ Ascension mean to you and me and how is it, like His crucifixion and resurrection, such an integral part of God’s overall rescue of the world from sin and death? 

 

Well, there are three parts, or aspects, if you will, of Jesus’ Ascension that I would like to emphasize this morning. First is the royal or the kingly nature of it. Jesus’ Ascension to the right hand of the Father is a coronation, the coronation of the King. At His crucifixion, Pontius Pilate put a sign above His head written in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, that said, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”  His royal headdress was a crown of thorns that had been shoved down to His brow. The King suffered humbly in order to redeem the world from sin and death.

 

But now, now He reigns in glory and in power. He is the King of all, believer and unbeliever alike, for He rules the heavens and the earth, and all things hold together because of Him. Indeed,

 

“Crown Him the Lord of heaven,

Enthroned in worlds above,

Crown Him the king in whom is given

The wondrous name of Love.

Crown Him with many crowns

As thrones before Him fall;

Crown Him, ye kings, with many crowns,

For His is King of all.”

 

The second aspect of Jesus’ Ascension is the intercessory nature of it. This God / Man, Jesus, God in human flesh, now mediates on your behalf before the Father in heaven. As the Scriptures say elsewhere, “God our Savior, desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” 

 

And so, you turn to God in that moment of contrition and confession and you ask Him to forgive your sins, to take them from you as far as the East is from the West. You even freely admit that you deserve temporal and eternal punishment for what you have done. And yet, in all confidence, you invoke the name of Jesus. “For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. Forgive, renew and strengthen me with your word and Spirit, that I may delight in Your will and walk in your ways to the glory of Your holy name.” And God, having received the sacrifice of His Son, declares to you, to me, what none of us could ever fathom outside of His grace and mercy. “I, in the stead and by the command of Christ, forgive you all of your sins.”    

 

And so, at His Ascension, Jesus was enthroned as King, where He now rules the heavens and the earth and where He intercedes for you before the Father in heaven. And finally, there is a solemn promise made to you in Jesus’ Ascension. As Luke says, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

          

We are all saddened and fatigued and burdened by the events of this past week in Uvalde. There are times when evil seems to win the war over anything good and right. In the back our minds are haunting inquiries about God’s place in all of this. How can such wicked things happen to little children? 

 

If Jesus had Ascended into heaven without the promise of His return, it would be as if He left us to fight out this seemingly endless war against evil on our own. The Church though has always held onto and found hope in the promise of Jesus’ return. And so, “the Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.”

 

And Jesus, hearing the cries of His people, will indeed come. And evil will be no more. And, on that day, “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” 

“The dwelling place of God (will be) with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

 

“Christ Jesus, be our present joy,

Our future great reward;

Our only glory, may it be

To glory in the Lord.”

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

 

+ Soli Deo Gloria +