He presented Himself to them, living after He suffered, with many convincing proofs.
᛭ INI ᛭
Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
(5. Oops!: We’re puzzled by Jesus’ Ascension.)
Jesus’ Ascension is a bit puzzling to us. Here we are literally 40 days after Easter, just like it was back then, but it’s odd, we have to admit. Ascension defies anything we observe: “What goes up, must come down.” Gravity’s a Law of the universe, levitation’s a bit far fetched. But so is staying dead, especially after three days. So, if we start with the empty tomb and a Jesus who “presented Himself to them, living after He suffered,” well, then an Ascension isn’t necessarily to far fetched.
(4. Ugh!: We’re frustrated not happy like the Disciples about Jesus “being gone.”)
But we’ve got more than just a passing curiosity about Jesus’ Ascension. Our reaction is quite different from the Apostles. The Evangelist Luke tells us in His Gospel: “After worshipping Him, they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the Temple blessing God.”
For us in our times of need, it’s not a confusion that comes from looking at an empty sky, it’s not joy for a Jesus carried into heaven, but it’s actually frustration. Frustration over staring at the sky. Frustration over a Jesus who is gone.
The Scriptures lay it out clearly for us. Luke says in His Gospel, “He was carried into Heaven.” Mark says, “He was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.” Paul also says that the Father “seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”
When confronted with an evil world, when face to face with our own troubles, the sin of unbelief sets in. Don’t deny it. Don’t try disinform about the truth. (Our politicians are just like us, or we’re just like them.)
Unbelief festers in our hearts. It gyps us of the joy, pilfers the peace, and kills the comfort we have in Christ Jesus. The sky’s just a sky, no need to watch for Jesus—unbelief. We’re praying out loud to en empty room, only the walls to hear us—unbelief. Jesus is far off in heaven, but He’s clearly running the universe like a madman—unbelief.
(3. Aha!: “A cloud took Him from their sight.”)
This is just the original sin, wanting to be God in God’s place. We want better than God. We can do better than God. What’s God do with that? He suffers our sinful rebellion. He doesn’t just suffer for it. Jesus suffering in our place. No, He suffers our sinful rebellion. When the Son of God shows up in human flesh, mankind kills Him.
Yet He presented Himself to them, living after He suffered, with many convincing proofs. They saw Him, touched Him, listened to Him, ate and drank with Him, hung out with Him. For 40 days this happened.
The rebellion of our flesh continues through failed expectations. We look for many proofs of our own making and conclude that Jesus is gone, can’t help, won’t help. But look couldn’t be anymore clear: this isn’t true at all.
Luke says in Acts, his second volume, “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach.” Luke is saying that his Gospel describes what Jesus “began to do and teach,” and that means Acts is what Jesus continues to do and teach, through His body, the Church.
Let me put this a slightly different way. Jesus, then, isn’t gone. Acts 1:9 doesn’t say Jesus is gone but “a cloud took Him out of their sight.” We can’t see Him, but He’s still working for our good. And just like it was for His Disciples, we can see where He’s working. Some 2,000 years ago, He presented Himself to them, living after He suffered, with many convincing proofs. But today He continues working, and THE SIGNS ARE CLEAR: JESUS IS HERE!
(2. Whee!: THE SIGNS ARE CLEAR: JESUS IS HERE!)
THE SIGNS ARE CLEAR: JESUS IS HERE!
He presented Himself to them, living after He suffered, with many convincing proofs. For 40 days the “many proofs” had to do with seeing, touching, hearten, eating and drinking. That was the proofs and signs that Jesus was with them. Some 2,000 years later, it’s still pretty much the same. Sure, it’s not seeing Jesus directly face to face. (Not yet anyway, but more on that in just a bit.) Nevertheless,
THE SIGNS ARE CLEAR: JESUS IS HERE!
Jesus is here through hearing. Remember, Jesus continues to teach, we hear Him teaching, through “preaching and His Word.” Cherishing the 3rd Commandment is actually important for being able to hear Jesus. He is present with our “teaching them to cherish all that I’ve commanded you. I am with you always.”
We believe in “one holy Christian and apostolic Church.” In preaching and teaching, the ministers proclaim Jesus when they “preach in His name repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” When such preaching is taking place, it’s a sure sign Jesus is here! (Wherever something else is preached, Jesus is not there.)
It’s not just hearing. It’s touching along with hearing. Water along with Words. In that baptizing Jesus is here. Baptism, like preaching, is “for the forgiveness of sins,” as Peter says. Jesus is with us in our baptizing. “Baptizing all nations…I am with you always.” (Mt 28)
He’s also here in eating and drinking. He is “known to us”, present for us “in the breaking of the bread.” (Lk 24) Like it was with the Emmaus disciples. He is present in a very specific way: the bread and wine are His body and blood, which He accomplishes by His almighty power through the blessing of His Word. If there’s His Word, bread and wine, that’s sure sign—Jesus is present to bring us His body and blood “under the bread and wine,” as the Catechism says.
We don’t look at the wants and desires of our hearts (false gods). We don’t look at other signs in creation or life or circumstance for God’s presence or blessing (empty expectations doomed to fail). All such things are unbelief. True faith lives from Jesus’ Word and His Promises. Jesus, “living after His suffering,” makes and delivers these in “preaching and His Word,” His Baptism, and His Holy Supper.
THE SIGNS ARE CLEAR: JESUS IS HERE!
(1. Yeah!: Jesus’ here-ness is “until the end of the earth.”)
Jesus’ here-ness isn’t a one time thing. He wants it to be a continual, on-going thing for you. He says to His apostles, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” This, of course, is geographical. He wants all nations across the globe to hear of His “repentance and forgiveness,” of His death and resurrection for each, for all, for you.
But’s more than just here, there, and everywhere. His here-ness also endures. It endures “until the end of the earth.” Heaven and earth will indeed pass away, but Jesus’ Words and Promises never pass away. He promises to be here among those who gather to hear His Word and to receive His Sacraments. He promises this as long as time endures.
One day, the last day, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” He will come again. His “suffering and on the third day” “living after His suffering” are proof positive He keeps His promises. On that day you will see Him face to face and that way forever.
In the meantime, look! There’s a font for baptizing, a lectern for reading, a pulpit for preaching, behind me a vestry for absolving, and, the biggest thing in the whole building, an altar for giving Jesus’ body and blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of your sins.