Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Ascension of Our Lord

The Eve of the Ascension of Our Lord

May 28, 2014
Text: Acts 1:1-11; Eph. 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53

            We confess in the Creed that our Lord Jesus, the only-begotten Son of the Father from all eternity, was in time conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.  What we mean is that the very Son of God clothed Himself with our flesh in Mary’s womb.  He took upon Himself all that is ours, became one with us, was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).  Yet He took our sin into Himself.  God made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).  He bore our sin, all of it, to the cross, to pay sin’s wages (Rom. 6:23) in His suffering and death in our place.  The sinless Son of God suffered under Pontius Pilate, shed His holy, precious blood, was crucified, dead and buried, for us.  And so, having become all that we are, He has redeemed all that we are.  He has ripped us from the bitter fangs of the serpent and the yawning jaws of hell, purified us as His own holy Bride, and made us, by His self-sacrifice, to be ourselves a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.
            And the Father is well-pleased.  The sacrifice accepted, God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.  We feasted a mere 40 days ago (or almost 40 in our case) in the Easter celebration of our Lord’s bodily Resurrection, a celebration we also commemorate every Lord’s Day, every Sunday, which is a little Easter.  The Third Day He rose again from the dead, we confess, and so we are justified, declared righteous by God on account of Christ, receiving new and eternal life from our crucified and risen Lord, looking forward with eager anticipation to our own bodily resurrection from the dead on the Last Day and the life of the world to come.
            For forty days our Lord Jesus appeared to the Apostles and to many other eye witnesses after His Resurrection.  He wanted to leave them with no doubt that He is indeed risen from the dead.  He appeared suddenly here and there among them.  He spoke to them.  He breathed on them.  He ate with them.  They touched Him.  And they knew it was the Lord.  Then one day He led them out as far as Bethany.  He lifted up His hands, the imprint of the crucifixion nails still visible for all to see.  And He blessed them (Luke 24:50).  One wonders what He said.  The Holy Spirit has not seen fit to tell us in Scripture, though I have always wondered if Jesus, our High Priest, was pronouncing upon them the Aaronic Benediction and the thrice-Holy Name of our God: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Num. 6:24-26; ESV).  So the priest was to put the Name of the LORD upon the people of Israel.  So the Lord puts His Name on you in benediction, in these same words every Divine Service, calling you back to your Baptism in His thrice-Holy Name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  And so it would certainly be appropriate if these are the words our Lord spoke on this occasion, for as He was ascending into the air, He never put His hands down.  In other words, beloved, He’s still blessing His disciples.  He’s still blessing you.  Those nail pierced hands are still raised in benediction over you, and you live and move and have your being under the blessing of those mighty hands.
            While He was blessing His Church, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven (Luke 24:51).  In the Book of Acts, St. Luke tells us “a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9).  Now, this is very important.  Jesus parted from their sight, but He did not go away.  He did not leave them in such a way that they were to stand there gazing up into heaven, wondering how many miles into outer space our Lord had to travel.  The angels remind them how silly they look (v. 11).  You’ll see Him again, the angels tell them.  He’ll come back the same way you saw Him go, on a cloud, visibly, to judge the living and the dead.  In the meantime, don’t forget the promises He spoke to you: “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matt. 18:20).  “In my Name,” by the way, means those who bear my Name, so wherever two or three Baptized are gathered, there the Lord Jesus is with them.  And then there is the marvelous Promise made to the disciples shortly before the Ascension: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).  He’s not just with us as God, but as Man.  In His Body.  He’s not just with us in spirit.  As I’ve told you many times, when I tell you I’m with you in spirit, I’m telling you I’m not really with you at all.  I just wish I was.  That’s not a real presence by any standard.  Jesus is with us.  He promised.  Really and truly with us, in His body.  Just hidden from our sight ever since the Ascension. 
            But doesn’t the Scripture say He ascended into heaven?  Right.  And where is heaven?  Heaven is where God is.  Jesus ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father.  And where is the right hand of the Father?  Everywhere.  And that’s the point.  That is what St. Paul writes in our Epistle this evening.  The Father has seated Jesus “at his right hand in the heavenly places,” (Eph. 1:20), and so our Lord, God and Man, the Person, Jesus Christ, now “fills all in all” (v. 23).  Jesus fills all things.  He is everywhere.  Which means He is with you.  In His Body, crucified and risen, for you.  He ascended into heaven that He might fill all things and be with you wherever you go, with me, with us all.  
            That is why after the Lord was carried into heaven, the disciples “worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God” (Luke 24:52-53).  You can’t worship a God who isn’t present to receive it.  You can’t worship Jesus if He isn’t present with you.  The disciples knew He was with them always, as He promised.  And so they worshiped Him as if He was still there, because He was, and He is, and so you worship Him. 
            He is hidden from your sight, but with you very tangibly in His Word and the holy Sacraments.  He is hidden from your sight, but you know by faith that He is here with you as surely and as bodily as you and I are here.  And you know some other very wonderful things that He does for you as He sits at the right hand of the Father.  He rules all things for your benefit.  He’s the King, “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,” all things having been placed under His feet (Eph. 1:21-22), the world and the whole universe, believers and unbelievers, kings and presidents, angels and archangels, heaven and hell and the devil himself.  He rules it all, for you, for your good, for your salvation.  And He prays for you.  He intercedes for you before the Father.  He has the Father’s ear on your behalf.  And the Father hears His prayer, and answers.  How could He not?  How could the Father deny His own Son?  The Son prays for you and for your salvation, and the Father says, “Yes.  Yes, my Son.  You have purchased them with Your own blood.  They belong to You.  Thus they belong to Me.” 
            And because the Lord Jesus became all that you are, to redeem all that you are, He gives you to become what He is: Righteous, holy, precious to the Father.  Where He goes, you go.  Heaven.  He ascended into heaven, we confess in the Creed, for having sanctified our flesh by becoming flesh, He now exalts that flesh to the right hand of God the Father Almighty.  As a result, you can know without a doubt that He is coming back for  you, and you will live with Him, in the flesh, in the blessed presence of His Father and yours, forever.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.       



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