Grace and Peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Risen and Ascended Savior, Jesus Christ.
At the beginning of sporting events, they often make a big deal out of the entrance of the players. You’ve seen this before, whether it’s the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games, or college football teams bursting through giant banners. Entrances are a big deal.
Even so, what happens on the field is always MORE important. For example. A football star might trip and fall during the big entrance, sprawling all over the turf and embarrassing himself. But if that player makes the game winning play, his embarrassing entrance is quickly forgotten.
That was the case with Jesus. He entered our world in a very humble way. The sinless Son of God was born in a dirty stable, as a fragile, human child. But He didn’t come here to play a game. He came to win forgiveness for all sinners. And when He left this world, He left in glory, because He left with our salvation in hand.
In our sermon reading for today we’ll see that Jesus Left Supernaturally…
1. To Emphasizes His Destination and Ours
2. To Bless Believers to this Very Day
Our sermon reading comes from…
Luke 24:50-53 (NASB)
50And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53and were continually in the temple praising God.▬
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians tells us that after Jesus was raised from the dead, He appeared to Peter, to the Twelve and later to more than 500 of His disciples all at once. These resurrection appearances took place in the forty days between Jesus’ return to life and His return to heaven. Today we celebrate Jesus’ Ascension, His “lifting up” to Heaven.
Now, Jesus could have just disappeared and gone home to be with the Father. But He didn’t. Jesus ascended visibly from the earth so that His followers could know for sure where He had gone.
Jesus was ascending above this corrupted creation to take His rightful place at His Father’s side.
I’m sure the disciples wished they could go with. But God had work for them to do. Jesus had trained them to carry His life saving message to the world. And now that His personal training was finished, Jesus had other things to tend to.
Jesus had previously told His disciples:
“2In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am”(John 14:2-3 NIV).I don’t know all that Jesus is preparing for His followers, but I know that it’s better than any temporary mansion here on earth. It’s more comfortable than any celebrity home ever built. And whatever physical wonders we find in Heaven, the best part is revealed when Jesus says:
“…I will come back and take you to be with me…” (John 14:3b NIV).Our place in Heaven is next to God the Son.
The book of Acts tells us that while Jesus’ disciples watched Him ascend, two men dressed in white appeared beside them.
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.” (Acts 1:11 NIV)First Thessalonians describes Jesus’ return in more detail:
“16For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18Therefore encourage each other with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 NIV).▬
Jesus’ visible ascension emphasizes His destination, and assures us of ours too. He lived for us. He died for us. He was raised from the dead for us. And yes, though we don’t talk about it much, He ascended for us too. And someday, He will come, and WE WILL ASCEND to meet Him in the air.
Jesus also ascended to bless believers now.
Our text says:
“50And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:50-51 NASB).To “bless” someone just means to “speak good words” toward them. Good words from a normal human aren’t very powerful. We might say, “Bless you”, to someone and that someone might get hit by a bus a minute later. But when words of blessing come from God, they are powerful. God’s blessing is effective.
That’s why you can cherish the blessing spoken at the close of our services. That blessing was commanded by God. It’s HIS blessing, and therefore it is powerful. It’s not just a nice sentiment, it’s a promise from our Father in Heaven.
When I speak God’s blessing to you at the end of our worship, I usually lift my hands toward you. This is to show who this blessing is for.
As Jesus spoke His ascension day blessing, He lifted His hands above His disciples. Then He Himself was raised, high above His followers.
This is significant. Jesus blessed that gathering of disciples. But He was lifted high above all power and authority so that He could bless ALL BELIEVERS, including you and me.
The clouds hid Jesus from the disciples sight, but the words of scripture reveal where Jesus went.
“33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:33-35 NIV)Can you imagine what this would have meant to the disciples who had personally known Jesus? They knew that He was the Christ. The Savior that God promised. They had known Him in life. Then He had been crucified to death. Then He had come back to life, and had been teaching them again for the last 40 days. And then, there He went. With His hands out-stretched He floated up into the blue. Out of sight, into the mystical place where God is. To the Father’s side.
How confident their prayers must have been from then on!
They knew that Jesus was standing right there at the side of the Father. Their Friend. Their Master. He who love them enough to die for them. He was with God. Surely, whatever they prayed would reach the Father through Jesus.
Jesus makes us acceptable to the Father, and He makes our prayers acceptable as well. No prayer that is sent up to the Father can reach Him unless it goes through the Son. That’s why only the prayers of Christ followers are heard by God.
The hymn writer got it right when he wrote,
“What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer” (TLH 457).-
Just like Jesus, we entered this world in humble weakness, as little babies. We entered even weaker, for we were dead in sin. Spiritually dead. But because of Jesus we have now been made alive. And ultimately we will leave this world just like Him, in glory and power.
Because of the life, death, resurrection and ascension of God’s Son, we too will ascend to Heaven, to stand with the Heavenly Father Himself.
Until then, let’s do as the disciples of the ascension did. Let’s worship Him who has been raised higher than every power. Let’s be filled with great joy because we know where He has gone, AND that He will return for us. Let us continually worship Jesus because HE LIVES, and has ascended to the throne of His Father so we might live a blessed life now, and for all eternity.
All praise, and honor and glory be to our living and ascended Savior. Amen.