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Ascension
Ephesians 1:15-23

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Christ from the dead.  Amen.  The Word of God for our consideration is found in Ephesians, chapter 1. (read text)  In the name of Jesus, our ruling Savior, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

There are all kinds of cool things to focus on about Jesus’ ascension.  We could focus on the truth that Jesus lifted up His hands to bless the disciples.  When Jesus did that, what would they have seen?  Of course!  The nail marks!  The nail marks which were proof that their sins were forgiven, that Jesus loved them! Or, we could focus on the truth that as Jesus ascended He continued to bless them, we’re never told that he put His hands down. In other words, Jesus’ blessing to His followers never ended, and never will. Or, we could focus on the truth that a cloud came and hid Him from their sight. So really, Jesus hadn’t left them or gone anywhere, the just couldn’t see him with their eyes. Or we could focus on the fact that the place where Jesus ascended was the Mount of Olives. A place from which you can literally see things like the Garden of Gethsemane, Caiaphas’ palace, Mt. Calvary, the empty tomb. They could see all those important places where Jesus accomplished salvation. We could focus on all or any of those.

But today, let’s just focus on one aspect of it. The fact that He could do it. Imagine being there: there he stood, on top of the Mount of Olives, all of a sudden He simply goes right up into the sky! Can you imagine that?? Could you do that? Could anyone do that? No! Why not? Because we’re weak human beings compared with God. On our own we can’t defy gravity and simply rise into the sky. We can’t do it, but Jesus can!

Jesus can do that! And that reminds of a truth about our Savior, doesn’t it? It points out the truth that we see in this text from Ephesians. Jesus is the real all-powerful God! And here Jesus shows it! Jesus powerfully goes up into the sky. But that’s just one very small aspect of Jesus’ power. Here we’re told that Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand in the heavenly realms, “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” God has placed all things, everything under Jesus’ feet.  That means He rules over absolutely everything!

Now, it’s easy for us to say those words, but stop for a moment and think about their meaning a little bit. The fact that the world is still spinning on its orbit is because Jesus is causing that to happen. The fact that the sun is still shining in the sky today is because Jesus causes it to. Jesus sends the clouds and the storms where he wants them. The plants sprout and grow because Jesus causes them to. The planets and the stars stay in their orbits just because Jesus wants them to stay there. Someday all the dead will rise because Jesus will tell them to. We could keep going and going, but Jesus’ power is absolutely amazing and incredible!

You know, there will be times in my life when I’ll have a thousand things on my mind, my nerves will be edgy, I won’t know how to handle some situation, I tempted to feel stressed and then I’ll pause and just look outside at this world, the trees, the sky, the evidence of God, and think, “Wait a minute, who’s with me? Who’s watching over me? It’s the all-powerful God who rules the entire universe! The one who sits far above every power and authority- that’s who’s on my side! And soon whatever it was that was causing me stress really isn’t that big of a deal.

Does that sound familiar? Do you ever find yourself stressing about this thing or that thing? I’m sure there have been times when each of us has been stressed about something. But the reality is, that’s sinful. Why? Because it shows that we don’t trust our God with our whole heart. It shows that we don’t have perfect faith in God, for if we trusted God completely, we would never be stressed about anything. We would always perfectly trust that God has everything under control. But, we all too often find ourselves piling on the stress, worry, anxiety, fear of the future or unknown. And that’s sinful.

And then there’s Jesus’ ascension. What did Jesus do? He lifted His hands up in blessing, showing them His hands still bearing the nail scars. So what did Jesus, the all-powerful God, do? He went to the cross…for you! In your place! Jesus, the all-powerful God, who holds the planets in their courses, laid His life down…for you! To win you forgiveness! The scars on Jesus’ hands prove it!

So, how do we deal with things that stress us out? We look at the nail scars – proof of Jesus’ love for us, greater love has no on than this that He lay His life down for His friends. Then we look at what happened next, Jesus powerfully going up into  the sky! And as He does so, we’re reminded of what? We’re reminded of who He is – the all-powerful God!  The God who rules all things. The God who can do anything and everything! That’s the one who is ascending! That’s the one who is looking after you! That’s the one who’s promised to be with you always! That’s the one who’s ruling all things for the good of His people! That’s Jesus! The powerful Jesus! Imagine that whenever you looked up into the sky you would see Jesus, the risen and ascended Lord, sitting on His throne ruling, governing, orchestrating all things for your good. That’s the reality! All of a sudden all those things that cause stress just don’t really seem quite so stressful. For if the all-powerful one is on your side, then you can deal with whatever comes no matter what!

And how can we know that He’s willing to do that? God gives us a clear indication at the end of our text, as He paints a picture of the relationship between Himself and His people. Jesus is described as the head; the Church – all believers in Jesus – is pictured as the body. So, let’s think about a human body. If you cut your head off your body, how’s your body going to do? Obviously, the body couldn’t function at all without the head. And so it is with us, without Jesus, we believers can’t function at all.

But the opposite is true too, isn’t it? If you cut your head off your body, how will your head do? It would be completely helpless too! The head can’t function without the body. And here the application is incredible, even shocking. What God is saying is that He can’t make it without you! The all powerful God is saying that HE can’t make it without you! Now, we have to realize that it wouldn’t have to be that way. God was just fine. He’s the all-powerful One, the One who stands completely independent. BUT, in incredible grace, God has chosen to bind His relationship to His people together so tightly that it’s like the relationship between my head and my body; neither can function without the other. God, in amazing grace, says that He can’t function without you, because He’s connected Himself that intimately to you by calling you to faith in Him. And remember who it is! It’s the all-powerful, almighty God, the God who rules the universe. He’s the One who’s connected Himself to you so intimately, so closely, so personally. And He’s the God who loves you so dearly!

Hmm.  Sounds like we’re going to be okay.

The weeks, months, years after Jesus’ ascension were filled with stress for the disciples.  They had been charged with the responsibility to take the Word of God to the world.  As they did, the world didn’t eagerly open their arms to their message.  Instead, the disciples were whipped, beaten, jailed.  They would see some of their people put to death (like Stephen), see many believers scattered because of persecution.  They would see some from their own midst martyred because of their faith in Jesus.  They knew stress, far more than most of us.

But they also knew their God!  They knew their Savior, the One who had died for them.  They knew that the One who was on their side was the all-powerful ruler of the universe, the One who had risen from the dead, the One who had powerfully ascended into heaven.  They had THAT ONE on their side.  And with that One on their side, they could handle anything!

And so can you.  Amen.