Ascension Day 2016
The Reminders – Acts 1:1-9, Luke 24:50-51
Repetitio est mater studiorum. Any one know what that means? I’m not sure who first said that phrase but it’s Latin and it’s become a famous teaching principle. It means “Repetition is the mother of learning.” Every teacher knows that repetition is necessary to facilitate learning. So students have reviews and tests. Over and over again you’re reminded of certain truths so that you remember them. We need those reminders. When Jesus ascended He left these reminders for the disciples and for us so that we would remember them. So what would the disciples have remembered about Jesus’ ascension? All kinds of things!
First of all, we see that Jesus lifted His hands up to bless His disciples. And, of course, they would have seen on His hands the scars where the nails had been. The receipt, if you will, that their sins were paid in full on the cross. Then Jesus just went up into the sky, He just rose into the air. Who does that?? Who could just on their own start going up into the air?? Jesus could- why? Because Jesus has that kind of incredible power! So the one who blesses them is the one who loved them so much that He died for them and the one who has incredible power. And interestingly we’re never told that Jesus put His hands down. So, that means He still has His hands up today, He’s still pouring out His blessing on His people today. And then we’re told that Jesus didn’t just go up and up and up until He was gone, rather, Jesus was hid by a cloud. He hadn’t left, they just couldn’t see Him any more.
What powerful reminders the disciples had! The disciples were going to face some horrible things, horrible suffering for their faith. It seems that only one of them wouldn’t die a martyr’s death. We, too, face many discouraging things in life. Our plans fail and we’re thrown into misery. Things don’t happen the way we want or expect and we’re filled with stress. We commit some sin and we’re loaded with guilt and shame. We hear the news or look at the world around us and we’re appalled at the evil we see or are fearful about the future.
But then we’re reminded of Jesus’ ascension. We’re reminded of His nail scarred hands – he loved us so much to die for us. We’re reminded of His going up into the air and we know that He has all power to lead everything in the world so that the most possible may be saved. We’re reminded that he hasn’t left us, we just can’t see him, but He remains watching over us. Repetition is the mother of learning and we need those reminders of Jesus’ ascension.
The Right Hand of God – Ephesians 1:17-23, Hebrews 10:12-14
The 2nd “r” that we’re going to look at this evening about Jesus’ ascension is where Jesus ascended to: the Right Hand of God. First, we have to know what is the “right hand of God”? We say it every time we say the creed: “ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.” What does that mean? We’re given a definition here: It’s in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, all things have been placed under Jesus’ feet.
You see, the right hand of God is not so much a place as it is a position. You see Jesus is not confined by space and time. It’s not like somewhere far off there’s this throne and God the Father is seated there and Jesus is sitting next to him. No, the “right hand of God” is everywhere, it’s not a place, it’s a position. It’s a position of ALL authority, ALL power, ALL dominion, ALL rule. Sometimes we forget this. We get the impression that Jesus’ ascension is like his retirement. He did his work and now he’s retired, He’s sitting back relaxing, far away, unconcerned about the day to day affairs of life, certainly not concerned with my life, the things that I’M facing, the difficulties that are looming ahead for me. But that’s wrong! How sinful of us to think that!
Jesus’ ascension isn’t His retirement, it’s His coronation, His crowing ceremony as King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Often, when people retire, their work isn’t complete. In fact, most people I know who are retired are incredibly busy. Maybe they retired from one work, but are very active in other work. Yes, Jesus’ work is complete in one sense, but in another sense He’s very active. What does it mean that Jesus is at the right hand of God? It means that His work of redemption is done. That’s what the Hebrews passage tells us. Every priest in the OT had to offer sacrifice after sacrifice, but Jesus – the ultimate Priest – offered Himself as the one perfect sacrifice for all sin to make you and me perfect forever. His work of paying for your sins and making you perfect in God’s sight is done, it’s complete.
But He’s not done working. He’s still working, still active. He sits at the right hand of God. He has the position of ALL power in heaven and on earth! He’s very involved! Even though we might not always see it, understand it, grasp it, He is using His almighty power to work all things for the good of His people. How do we know it? Because we have His promises. And God has never and will never let one word of His promise fail. His power makes sure of it.
The Response – Luke 24:50-53
Do you know what “object permanence” is? If you’ve ever played peekaboo with a young infant, you’ve experienced it. Object permanence, as I understand it, is the psychological ability to realize that objects remain even when you can’t see it, touch it, feel it, hear it, etc. So, when you hide your face from a small infant, in their mind they think you’ve just disappeared and are gone and they will start looking for something else to occupy their attention, but then when you show your face, somehow you’ve just re-appeared.
Does that happen to us? Jesus’ ascension doesn’t mean that Jesus is gone. The fact that we can’t visibly see Jesus doesn’t mean that He’s not in control, not incredibly caring for you, not watching over you, not guiding all things for your good. But it’s so easy for us to be distracted, to focus on the things of this world, to be enthralled with this thing or that thing. But Jesus isn’t gone!
The disciples realized that. We’re told that after Jesus ascended the disciples didn’t see Jesus but they were filled with joy. How’s that? He’s gone, but they’re filled with joy, they’re worshipping, their praising him. Really? That’s they’re response? No more hiding behind locked doors, no more fear, but joy and praise. That’s also our response. The fact that Jesus has ascended means that our salvation is complete, our redemption is won, forgiveness is ours today, tomorrow, and forever. Jesus’ ascension means that He has all power, might, and rule over the universe. You know what that gives us? Joy. Jesus is alive and well, Jesus is ruling all things for your eternal good, and Jesus will one day bring you safely to His perfect kingdom.
So what does that mean for you? You can live with joy. You can worship Him, praise Him. You can serve Him with gladness. You can do all things in life to His glory and praise. No matter what your life is like you can anticipate an awesome, glorious, incredible future with your Savior! Thank the Lord for our ruling King! Amen.