5/5/05 Ascension Day
Luke 24:44 He 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. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; 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. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
Imagine that you were friends with the Prime Minister, whoever that will be tomorrow. Think of the benefits it would bring. Having friends in high places can be useful.
Every Christian has a friend in the highest place possible. Jesus. He brings us enormous benefits.
Firstly, Jesus had to leave in order that the Holy Spirit could come. Jesus work on earth had been done for the moment, and he had prepared the way for the next Chapter in God's dealing with humankind. The era of the Holy Spirit.
This was what Jesus was talking about in 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."
Jesus could only be in one place at one time. He could not make the disciples more courageous and bold. Look at the way Peter disowned him three times. But God the Holy Spirit is with all Christians, all of the time, wherever they are. The Holy Spirit empowered the disciples to be bold witnesses for Jesus whereas they had previously been afraid.
A second benefit is that God, in Jesus, understands what it is like to be human. This leads to him being able to identify with us. This allows us to approach him for mercy and help when we need it. Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Thirdly, Jesus can save us because, as the one who is supreme and has defeated death. The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. His very presence in heaven at God's right hand is, in itself, a type of intercession for those he will save completely. This is what Hebrews 7:24 is referring to ...'because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.' This is not suggesting that Jesus is continually pleading with God for people's souls. He has already done enough to save people.
There is one other aspect of the ascension which is very important, Jesus will return to earth. Acts 1:11, "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
Jesus will return with the same resurrection body in the sky with power and glory ( see also Matthew 24:30 ). When he returns next time every knee will have to bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord.
Philippians 2: 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
When Jesus returns it will be unexpected, so we are called to be ready all of the time. Those who have never voluntarily bowed their knees to Jesus before his return in glory will have their decision honoured by God, and be expelled from his presence, because Jesus return will involve him judging the living and the dead. The basis for this judgement will be people's response to God's grace in Jesus..
47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
The ripple of the gospel started in Jerusalem and spread out to the whole world. We are here because the good news of Jesus has been passed on from one nation to another. From one generation to another. As those who know the risen, ascended, glorified Jesus we have the duty and joy of sharing this with a dying world in the power of the Spirit.
"Around the corner I have a friend,
In this great city that has no end.
Yet days go by and weeks rush on,
And before I know it a year is gone,
And I never see my old friend's face;
For life is a swift and terrible race.
He knows I like him just as well
As in the days when I rang his bell
And he rang mine. We were younger then--
And now we are busy, tired men--
Tired with playing a foolish game;
Tired with trying to make a name.
"Tomorrow," I say, "I will call on Jim,
Just to show that I'm thinking of him."
But tomorrow comes--and tomorrow goes;
And the distance between us grows and grows.
Around the corner!--yet miles away...
"Here's a telegram, sir." "Jim died today."
And that's what we get - and deserve in the end -
Around the corner, a vanished friend."
[ Around The Corner, by Henson Towne. ]
We have a friend waiting for us. Let us continue in our relationship with him. Let us introduce him to others