Thursday, May 21, 2020

Ascension Day Service

Ascension Day, 2020 – Luke 24

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia +
So, what's the point? If Jesus is just going to ascend, if we here don't get to tramp around following Him like the disciples did, if we don't get to live through the Exodus and see the Passover ourselves, if we don't get to visit the temple or see the miracles of Peter and Paul, then what is the point? That actually is a question these disciples were probably pondering, because they had hopes and dreams – they were hoping for a kingdom restored and earthly power... a nd they weren't going to get it. So, what's the point? Just before He ascends, before He returns to His God and My God (remember what He said to Mary on Easter morning), Jesus teaches His disciples once more before He sends them out as Apostles, and we get to hear it. 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 must be fulfilled. The point is Jesus does it all, He fulfills it all, overflows it all. The point of the Scriptures is Jesus Christ – this same Jesus Christ who died, rose, and ascended is God Himself, the Word of God by Whom all things were made, and the Word of God who became man to rescue you, His people, from sin, death, and the power of the Devil. And He's done that superabundantly well, pressed down, shaken, overflowing with good measure, my cup overfloweth well. And as you still get to spend some time in this world of fear and doubt, as you still have people to love, people who need your love and care – as you still have people to pray for, who need your prayers, Jesus wants to emphasize the point that in the end, when it all boils down, it's going to be okay because Jesus has got it all under control. Period. Even if you don't get to see Him sitting and teaching on a hillside in Galilee, or even if He isn't hanging out as a giant pillar of cloud, or relaxing as the Angel of the Lord in your tent – Jesus still has it all under control for your good, and His goodness and mercy endureth forever.

Every page of the Scriptures, from the start to the end, drive and point to Jesus Christ – to Christ Crucified for you. And this is something that we need to remember. The Scriptures are a gift; they are a gift given to us to point us to Christ Jesus. To give us Christ Jesus. To drop Christ Jesus and His love right into our laps when we've been distracted or conned by the world and fear and sin to forget that He is with us right now. And this is something you should consider whenever you are reading the Scriptures – what does this text have to do with Jesus being our Savior? Because it all drives to that. Jesus is promised to be your Savior as soon as the fall happens – He will crush Satan's head. He is the promised seed of Abraham in whom all nations are blessed – and everything in Israel points and drives to the Messiah. It's all driving to Christ for you.

Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and 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 of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” The whole thing, it's all driving to this: In order to save you from your sin, Jesus had to live sinlessly in your place. In order to save you from your guilt, Jesus as the sinless One had to take up that guilt. In order to save you from death, Jesus needed to take up death in your place. In order for you to live, to have true life again, Jesus needed to rise and break apart death. And this is what the entirety of the Scriptures proclaim – Christ Jesus taking the battle to sin and death to win you salvation. He has done it.

And so then – how do you benefit from this? How do you receive it? How do you get into this story if you weren't there when they Crucified Jesus, or if you didn't get to hear the sermon on the mount back on that day, or cross through the Red Sea? Well, it is proclaimed to you. We don't get what proclamation actually is – in fact, if I asked any of you when the last time you used the word proclamation was, you'd probably be stumped. A proclamation is this: It is something that legally and officially enacts what it proclaims. It pronounces, it declares – and it is. And when you hear it, it is yours. I pronounce you man and wife, the Emancipation proclamation was read to slaves and then they legally received the freedom it declared. We're not used to all these sorts of things anymore, but Jesus is the Word of God, so it makes utter sense that He would use the Word proclaimed to give His benefits to you. That's how He created, that's how He makes you anew.

And what does the proclamation of the Word do? It repents you and it forgives you. “Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name.” Both repentance and forgiveness are things that Jesus does to you by the power of His Word. It is the working of Law and Gospel, threat and promise. And, my friends, we need God's Law to be proclaimed – otherwise we run on and on in our sin and stupidity and folly, sometimes even to such an extent that our faith could be crushed or shattered. And so Jesus has His law proclaimed – yes, you sin, and yes, your sin is serious. Deadly serious. God dying serious – that's how serious that sin that you are trying to defend or brush off is – so stop it. Stop you. That's what God's Word of Law will do – it will stop you in your tracks and turn you around, re-pent you, change your attitude and way of thinking so that you are again revusled by your sin and fight against it. Which is good for your neighbor – if you are a sinful jerk you don't do anyone else any good. And so God will repent you for their good, so that you may better love and serve them.

But where does that leave you? God's law is a good thing, and it helps the world run much more smoothly – but if all we hear is the Law, then we are left in our sin and dying – even if we are nicer and our sin less catastrophic to our neighbor. Still sinners – thus it was necessary, to rescue you from sin, to win you forgiveness, for Jesus to do all that He did – to die, to rise, to ascend, to establish His Church, to establish the apostolic preaching office where His forgiveness would be proclaimed. He sends for His Word. Jesus declares people forgiven in His name – and they are. And you are.

And yes, an obvious place to look for that is here – me – oh look, a preacher, I guess he'll proclaim our forgiveness. Yep – as a called and ordained servant of the Word and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins. Biggest and best part of my job. And in this way Jesus ties us here today to His Church of all times and all ages for all eternity.

However, I want you to ponder something this morning. Something that is vitally important, especially as we are not able to meet as regularly as we are accustomed too. You are a Baptized child of God, you are a co-heir with Christ Jesus of His kingdom of eternal life. You are a member royal priesthood – that's what was pronounced at your Baptism - and so you too proclaim the Word of God. Not your job to do it here in service – but in your home, to your family, to your friends and neighbors. You proclaim. You forgive people. Try it. Say it. Proclaim it. I forgive you in Jesus' name... every one of you who are baptized has the right and privilege to proclaim that to anyone whom God places in your life. Because Jesus has given you forgiveness, He has preached it to you, and Jesus' gifts don't just stay in one place, they flow on and on and on – from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to the ends of the earth thousands of years later.

So you are people of the Word. Hear preaching yourself, be in the Word – so that God would repent you and forgive you. And as people of the word, doers of the Word – repent folks in a spirit of gentleness, restore them – forgive them. Because that is what Jesus does – that is the blessing and gift that He has given to His church, to you.

What's the point? You, right now, are forgiven in the Name of Christ Jesus. And this truth shall be proclaimed always and forever, even to the ends of the earth. Even by you. Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed, alleluia! +

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