Ascension (Mk 16, 14–20; Acts 1, 1–11)

Photo by C Dustin on Unsplash

Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO

“A cloud took Him from their sight.”

᛭ INI ᛭

Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Not just risen! Ascended! Jesus ascended into heaven. But is He gone? No, He’s not gone. You don’t have to worry about that. Though we often do. Don’t we? Jesus is gone. Left. Sure He’ll come back some day. But right now, He’s far far away. Off in a place we can only dream of—heaven. “Seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.”

We think Jesus is gone. That He’s abandoned us. That the world’s spinning out of control. Society’s gone mad. People are living and acting just like they were in the days of the Judges of Israel: “Everyone doing what is right in his own eyes.” Even in what passes for Christianity: “People heaping up for themselves preachers who will soothe their itching ears.” “Daily and much” people live their lives “as if God didn’t matter and as if they mattered most.”

Sadly, that’s how we live a lot of the time, too. Me first. Selfish. Only concerned about how things affect you or those closest to you. We hold grudges for stuff people did that they didn’t even know they did! Turning that situation to our advantage. Even if they do know, the Lord has called you through Holy Baptism to “forgive as He has forgiven” you—freely, always one more time, always more forgiveness and mercy than there are sins.

But we live the way we do because we think Jesus is gone. He’ll never see. He doesn’t know. Jesus is off in heaven, and sure He’ll come back one day, but until then don’t have to worry about Him and Judgement Day. So we live without giving Jesus a second thought. So we live treating others badly, secondly, lastly. So we also live afraid, worried about what’s going to happen. We’re sad because of what has happened. And so we give ourselves empty comfort by saying, “God has a plan.” (Why not “Jesus has a plan?”)

But Jesus isn’t gone. He knows everything: your thoughts, words, and actions. He know what drives you—your wants, your desires, your heart, soul, mind, strength, and conscience. He knows all. Knows you most of all. Even if He were gone, Jesus knows all that, but He’s not gone. Luke actually tells us that in Acts 1.

Luke tells us two things that matter for us after Calvary, after Easter, and after the Ascension, too! The first is what I’ve been saying: Jesus isn’t gone. Luke says, “A cloud took Him from their sight.” Jesus wasn’t gone, isn’t gone. The disciples just couldn’t see Him anymore. Same for you and me. Jesus isn’t gone. We just can’t see Him.

Jesus is exactly where He’s promised to be. Jesus is doing exactly what He promised to do. And that’s the second thing Luke tells us: “In my first book I wrote about everything Jesus began to do and teach until the day He was taken up.” So, if Luke’s first book, the Gospel of Luke, was about all that Jesus began to do, then Luke’s second book, the book of Acts, is all about what Jesus continued to do.

What does Jesus continue to do? Mark gives us a clue: “The Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven after speaking with them, and He sat down at the right hand of God. They went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the Word through the signs that followed.” See, there again, the Lord was at work. He worked, using the apostles—His instruments. Where did He work? “Everywhere.” Everywhere they preach. They preach everywhere. So Jesus is at work everywhere in their preaching.

This is why He ascended. No longer in one place, but in everyplace, everywhere. He didn’t just ascend to some locked away place. He is “seated at the right hand of God.” “Far above all principality and power and above every name that is named both in this age and in the age to come,” ”powers and principalites being subjected to Him,” that at the name of Jesus every knee would bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Yahweh, to the glory of God the Father.”

Peter also says in Acts 3, “It was necessary that Jesus receive heaven until the times of the restoration of all things, which God announced from of old through the mouth of His holy prophets.” Or as Jesus puts it: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, therefore go and make disciples of all nations, by baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and by teaching them to cherish all that I have entrusted to you. And I am with you always even until the end of the age.”

See, Jesus is with you. Just as He promised to be. Only as He’s promised, never what we feel or think. Always rooted in what He himself says. Here tonight. “The Lord worked through them,” their preaching. “Wherever two or three are gathered in My name there I am.” “I forgive you all your sins.” Not just with the Sermon, the teaching, the Absolution, but also your Baptism!

He’s with you. Why? Because He’s promised to be! “Everywhere.” “Always.” That’s the Lord with you. Not because you feel Him there. Not because you think He’s there. But where as He promised to be? Holy Baptism! Jesus is with you because your Baptized. That’s His eternal promise to you.

That’s how the Lord Jesus uses the heaven and the power and the authority that He now possesses fully and completely at the right hand of His Father. He uses it to save you. To keep you. To strengthen you. To make you His. To keep you His. That’s His plan. No matter what to be with you and to bring you to Himself.

He died and rose for you. He baptized you. You could ignore all that and stick with what you think and feel. Most of the time that means we live and act as if He is gone, not around, doesn’t know, doesn’t care, especially when the going gets tough. No wonder we’re miserable and treat others that way, too!

Nothing can keep Jesus from saving you. Not death. Not grave. And certainly not His ascension. There Jesus rules the universe, heaven and earth, to make everything spin and move and work so that you’d be saved.

We can’t see Him, but He’s still here working. Just like Luke, as moved by the Holy Spirit, tells us. “A cloud took Him from their sight.” “All authority Mine,” Jesus says. “He received heaven,” Peter says. “Name above all names,” Paul says. Even more so tonight. “Eat and drink. This is My body; This is My blood. For you for the forgiveness of your sins.” How could it be anything else! Can’t be. All yours. From Him. To you.

And so we’ll rightly praise Jesus during communion with these words:

2 Although You did to heav’n ascend,
Where angel hosts are dwelling,
And in Your presence they behold
Your glory, all excelling,
And though Your people shall not see
Your glory and Your majesty
Till dawns the judgment morning.

3 Yet, Savior, You are not confined
To any habitation;
But You are present even now
Here with Your congregation.

4 We eat this bread and drink this cup,
Your precious Word believing
That Your true body and Your blood
Our lips are here receiving.
This word remains forever true,
All things are possible with You,
For You are Lord Almighty.

Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

᛭ INI ᛭

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