Scripture
Luke 24:44-53
Date
May 10, 2018
Speaker
Pastor Witt

 

Greeting:  Jesus Christ has ascended to the right hand of God the Father and rules over all things for the Church.

 

Text: 44) Jesus said to them: “This is what I told you while I was still with you:  Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.  45) Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.  46) He told them: This is what is written: ‘The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47) and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  48) “You are witnesses of these things.  I am going to send you what My Father has promised, 49) but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.  50) When He had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, He lifted up His hands and blessed them.  50) While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into heaven.  52) Then they worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.  53) And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

 

Introduction: You can probably name the three legs of American horse racing’s triple crown.  They are the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.   You can probably name the three apostles who were in the inner circle of those closest to Jesus.  They were Peter, James and John.  So far, so good.  Now for a tougher question.  Can you name the three Christian festivals that make up the “Feasts of our Lord’s Godhead”, that is the festivals that demonstrate that Jesus is truly God?   We have a number to choose from: Christmas, Jesus’ Circumcision, Jesus’ Baptism and Anointing, Jesus’ Transfiguration, Jesus’ death on Good Friday, Easter, and Ascension are the likely candidates.   Which three would you choose?   The answer to the question is this.   The three Christian festivals that comprise the “Feasts of our Lord’s Godhead” are Christmas, Easter and Ascension.  Are you surprised, even just a little?  I was when I read about it.   The reason is that Ascension is included.   This festival is often underemphasized and overlooked.   But it shouldn’t be.  It is a very important event.  It has much for us to celebrate.

 

On Ascension Day in 2018, we are going to look at the Gospel lesson from St. Luke.  As you know, St. Luke also wrote the Epistle lesson, the Acts 1 account of the Ascension.  The Acts account is fuller and goes into more detail about the actual ascension of Jesus to the Father’s right hand.  The Gospel account, though, is also very helpful.   In it Luke tells us of the activity of Jesus’ followers before and after the Ascension.   In his account, he places emphasis on what is to be happening with Jesus’ followers on earth until the Ascending Lord returns on the Last Day.   This emphasis affects us directly.   Luke’s Gospel tells us how our Lord Jesus carefully prepared His followers for the His ascension and for the lengthy period after it when He would no longer be visibly present.   This preparation helps us answer the question:  What should I do with myself until Jesus returns?  The Savior who defeated death for us, the King who gloriously rules over all things tells us that there are two important activities for us to carry out as we live our lives and wait for His coming again.  We are to 1) Witness Faithfully to His Saving Word and 2) Worship Joyfully Until He Returns.

 

 

1.Jesus Prepares Us To Witness Faithfully

 

In the 40 day period after Easter and before the Ascension, Jesus appeared to His disciples numerous times and gave them helpful instruction.   The Lord carefully explained and reviewed the teachings of God’s Word with them.  He clearly showed how He had fulfilled all of the Old Testament promises God had given about the Messiah.  He highlighted for them how His bitter death and stunning resurrection had been predicted as part of God’s plan of salvation for sinners.   Like a skilled puzzle solver, Jesus picked up all the pieces and arranged them perfectly so the disciples could see the beautiful picture of God’s redeeming love.   Jesus then proceeded to unfold God’s will and plan that His believers are to be messengers of His Word, to share the teachings of the Law and Gospel, and to proclaim God’s call to repentance and His promise of forgiveness to all people.

 

We may wonder just how those teaching sessions went.  Jesus, the Teacher, so knowledgeable, so concerned, so patient – carefully, clearly, completely laid out God’s plan and purpose for His Christ and His Church.   The disciples, the students, so focused on grasping, understanding, and learning, carefully absorbed Jesus’ instruction so they could  pass the precious Gospel on to others.

 

Jesus still prepares people to witness faithfully to His Word.  He prepares us.   We do not have our Lord visibly present to instruct us, but we do have what He has left behind.   We have the sufficient, inspired record in Holy Scripture, both Old and New Testaments.   This Word has been carefully protected and passed on.  It has been painstakingly translated into our own language.   We have teachers of the Word who study it with great care and are capable of helping us grasp its truth and meaning.  

 

We are privileged to study and know the message that shows us our Savior and gives us spiritual life in Him.   Jesus has made us witnesses of the Gospel.   We have seen its truth and we are able to tell it to others.   Reliable witnesses play such an important role.   Their testimony in court can protect the innocent and put dangerous criminals away in prison.  We are witnesses of something very important.   We are witnesses of the Gospel.  We know the record of God’s Word and we know that it’s reliable.  We can help others know it so that the Spirit can persuade them to believe or to keep believing.  Our bedtime telling of Bible stories for our children or grandchildren;  our reading a Bible chapter at the bedside or over the phone to a sick relative;  our sharing of Scripture in a letter or email – all our ways we carry on out witness.  They carry the all-important message of the Savior who forgives tragic sins and errors, who gives true worth and meaning to life, who prepares a glorious heaven for people.   God uses our witness to make it happen for them.

 

 

2. Jesus Prepares Us To Worship Joyfully

 

The second great activity for us to carry out until Jesus returns is to worship our Savior joyfully.   The ascending Lord had taught His disciples to review their new life and great blessings from God, to treasure God’s gifts and thank Him for them, to honor and praise their Savior and Sanctifier.  The disciples were thrilled to Christ’s ascent to heaven so that He could prepare a place for them.   It filled their hearts with great joy and a strong desire to praise God.

 

Jesus has also prepared us to worship.   He commands and invites us to hear His Word, to receive His sacraments, and to offer Him our heartfelt thanks, prayers and praises.   Like the disciples of old, we also have a great need to celebrate our Savior.   We have so many mercies to remember from the past.   Each day, God adds more to our lives to review.   Each day we have ample reasons to be renewed in our appreciation for His kindnesses.   God designed us so that be He would be involved with us on an ongoing basis – to show His love for us and to let us show our love for Him, to give us fresh blessings each day and to prepare a glorious, eternal future for us.   Jesus has accomplished the hard, difficult work of salvation for us.   He has secured our future blessings.  Now the time of exaltation has begun.   It starts with Jesus’ ascension and it will continue with our entrance into heaven in the future.

 

True worship of God is not what so often passes for worship in our culture.  Worship of God is not primarily entertainment.  Worship of God is not primarily a mood lifter to help me feel better about myself.  Worship of God is a personal meeting with God to learn, review and treasure His words and works for us and to thank and honor Him and rejoice in Him.  Worship is when we encounter God in His grace so that we are stronger to live in faith and love.    It is a vital and joyful thing to do.

 

40 days after Easter, our Lord ascended to God’s right hand.   He ascended from the Mount of Olives.   The place where His triumphal ride into Jerusalem began is the place where His triumphant departure from earth occurred.  He was taken up into the sky and hidden by a cloud.   He went to reclaim His throne and rule over all.   He is preparing glorious places for us and all who believe and He will surely return for us.  Until He does, we know exactly what to do with ourselves.   Powered by the truth of His Word and in expectant faith, we do what Jesus prepared us to do.  We witness to Him faithfully and we worship Him joyfully.  Amen.