Ascension Day Observed – June 1st, 2014 – Luke 24
Christ is Risen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia) Amen.
Yes indeed, Christ is risen, and more than that, He has ascended, and He is seated at the Right Hand of the Father, and He shall come again to judge the living and the dead, that is He rules the world with truth and grace, and that He shall come and finally put an end to all sin and wickedness, taking us to His side for all eternity. This is our faith as Christians, this is what we look forward to, what we long to see. And on this day, when we remember and celebrate the Ascension of our Lord, it is a time to see that all that Christ has done, indeed, all of the Scriptures are driving that this end – that Christ Jesus shall come again and that because of Him, you will live with Him forever.
Listen to our Lord. 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.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. Everything must be fulfilled, all the things of the Old Testament must be fulfilled, because God loves you and will not let anything stop Him from showing you love. You realize that is the story of the Bible right? It’s not just events of long ago, not just a list of rules, or even practical advice. It is the story of Christ Jesus not letting anything get in the way of His love for you, not sin, not death, not the Devil.
Consider creation. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. By Him all things were made – a garden where man and woman would live, delight, enjoy, and walk with God in peace. Sin messes that up – then Christ Jesus will come and redeem now sinful men and women, and He will make for them a New Heavens and a New Earth not tainted by sin, because that’s His love for you. Or Cain and Abel. Cain slays Abel, and Abel’s blood cries out. Then Christ Jesus will come, and He will be slain by His brothers, and His blood calls out for your pardon and peace. The world at the time of Noah is so wicked that it must be washed away – then Christ will come and give you the gift of Holy Baptism, so that your sins are washed away and you are left to live with Christ. Abraham had no children – so Christ comes to be His descendant, bringing Father Abraham the many sons that the children’s song extols. Isaac deserved to die, to be sacrificed! The Lamb of God will come and be sacrificed in Isaac’s stead, so that father and son can rejoice – whether that father and son are Abraham and Isaac or God the Father and all of you. Jacob thought he had to fight and cheat for his blessings, but instead Christ wrestles him down and says, “I will be the one who comes and gives you blessings!” Joseph suffers all sorts of wickedness, is sold into slavery, unjustly prisoned… but this is all so that he would be exulted by Pharaoh so as to save his brothers and give them bread. Likewise Christ is betrayed by His friend, handed over to wicked men and killed – and though they intended it for evil, God intended it for good; He raises and exults Jesus, and now He gives you a better bread, the Bread of His Supper, now His own Body so that you have life and life everlasting. All of it, all of Genesis – driving and pointing to Christ Jesus and His love for you.
And there’s 38 more books of the Old Testament… we could see the same in them all – in Moses, in the Exodus, in Joshua, in David, in the story of Boaz and Ruth, in the Prophets, in the temple, in the rules and regulations, in the Sabbath itself that points to Christ’s Sabbath rest in the tomb after Good Friday… but if we did, I might not make it out of this pulpit alive. And that’s not suggesting that any of you would do anything to me, I’d probably just keel over from exhaustion. But this is what Christ makes the disciples to see – that the Old Testament, the Scriptures, are the story of God showing love to His people, fixing the fall, preparing the way for Christ Jesus, pointing us to the coming Messiah, so that in Christ we would see and know the great love that God has for us.
And having shown this to the disciples, Christ Jesus continues. [He] said to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem….” This is what the Scriptures proclaim. Christ will bruise Satan’s head, while Satan bruises His heel. Or Psalm 22 – I am poured out like water and all my bones are out of joint, my heart is like wax, it is melted within my breast.” Hanging on the cross, joints destroyed, the spear pierces His side, His heart, and blood and water melt out. The Son must die and rise. And this truth is to be proclaimed – repentance and forgiveness. Behold your sins, for they are great, but Christ and His death and resurrection are greater, so there is forgiveness in Him, in His Name. And begin in Jerusalem, but go to all nations, for Abraham will have many sons, and the sheep not of this fold the Shepherd with gather, and go not like Jonah grumbling on his way to Ninevah, but rejoicing that this is for the Gentiles as well! Yes, you here in this room, those of you without even a drop of Jewish blood, who cannot claim Abraham as your physical father in the slightest – the promise is for you as well.
“You are witnesses of these things. And from our point of view, not just the Old Testament points to Christ. Indeed, the New Testament, the writings of the Apostles do the same thing. These witnesses preached, and they also wrote things down – the Early Church would call the New Testament the “memoirs of the Apostles”. And what do they do? The proclaim repentance and forgiveness in the Name of Christ. The Gospels proclaim this. The Epistles all proclaim this. Paul is determined to know nothing among you but Christ and Him Crucified. Luther is right – every page of the Old Testament drips with Christ, and the New Testament is the revealing of what was hidden in the Old, namely Christ. All things are set, all things are prepared.
“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.” And Pentecost will come. And the Apostles will be sent out, and the preaching of Christ will spread through all nations, through various languages, even making it’s way out here to Oklahoma, even in a language as strange as English. But more on that next week when we celebrate Pentecost. For today, let us consider what happens next.
“Then He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands He blessed them. While He blessed them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.” And His work is done. He has accomplished all things and won salvation. He has died and He is risen – your salvation is won. But did you note what He is doing even as He ascends? He is blessing them. And what do you think Christ is doing now? Right now, at this moment, Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. That implies two very important things. First, that is a position of power – All authority on heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Christ rules the world – and how does He rule it? For your blessing, for your good. And that may not always be obvious – the world still intends things for evil – God still works it for good. It may not be the blessings you expect, but Christ Jesus is in charge, and He will still bless you and keep you, will make His face shine upon you (like the transfiguration) and be gracious unto, and will lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace – Peace be with you, see My hands and My side! Christ Jesus is your Lord and your God, and He still cares for you. He has been crowned with many crowns, and the King reigns for you and acts out of love for you.
And not only that – you have an advocate with the Father. You have an advocate with the Father who has borne all your sin, who has with His own stripes healed you, and so that now in Him the Father is well pleased with you. You have been restored unto the Father, you have been forgiven by Him. This is the great joy and reality – and it is the reality and truth that we shall see in full, for one day this same Jesus who ascended shall come again with trumpet sound, and the dead will be raised, and we shall go to the joys of eternity with Christ. Christ has done it all, and in Him we have life, all thanks be to God. Amen. Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia.