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“What Does Christ’s Ascension Mean for You?”
Luke 24:45-53, Acts 1:1-11


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Sunday after the Ascension—May 12, 2013

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

In today’s Reading from the Book of Acts, Luke tells us, “After his suffering, [Jesus] showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”  That is why the Ascension of Our Lord is celebrated on the fortieth day after Easter Sunday.

A few years ago the editor of another denomination’s magazine, similar to “The Lutheran Witness,” had a big editorial about how Ascension Day happened to fall on a Thursday that year.  He went on and on about how unfortunate it is that Ascension is a Christian holy day we don’t celebrate with as much fanfare as Christmas or Easter, and it was sad that because Ascension happened to fall on a Thursday that year instead of a Sunday, it would be largely ignored. 

The next month, however, there was a red-faced retraction of that editorial.  Apparently the editor didn’t realize that since the Ascension of Our Lord comes forty days after Easter Sunday, it always falls on a Thursday, every year.

But that embarrassed editor was right about one thing.  Although the Ascension of Our Lord is one of the major Christian holy days, we really don’t celebrate it with as much fanfare as Christmas or Easter, and maybe we don’t understand what the Ascension of Jesus is all about.  We know what Christmas means: Jesus was born; we know what Easter means: he rose from the dead.  But what is the significance of this holy day, which we are observing today on the Sunday after the Ascension?

You are invited to follow along on the bulletin insert as we ask: “What Does Christ’s Ascension Mean for You?”

Christ’s Ascension means, first of all, that his work of redemption is COMPLETE, for you.  Hebrews says, “After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” 

You may be aware that government regulations actually allow into our food certain levels of such things as insect parts, but that food can still be labeled “pure and unadulterated.”  God, however, insists on a much higher standard of purity.  For admission into heaven, God requires absolute purity, 100% holiness, no trace amounts of sin allowed.  This is a test all of us fail, for we have all sinned and fall short of the perfection God requires.

There is nothing we could ever do to purify ourselves and make up for our sins.  But, “After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”  One of our communion hymns says, “Offered was he for greatest and for least, himself the victim and himself the priest.”  Jesus Christ is your great high priest who purified you by sacrificing himself to atone for your sins.  As Hebrews says, “We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven;” “When this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.”

Christ’s Ascension means, his work of redemption is complete, for you.  Trust in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, as Hebrews says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

What does Christ’s Ascension mean for you?  Christ’s Ascension means, the God-Man Jesus is your KING.  While he was here on earth, Christ did not always and fully use his divine power, but he humbled himself, as Paul says in Philippians, “Who, existing in God’s form, did not consider His being equal with God a thing for self-glorification, but He emptied Himself by taking a servant’s form when in human likeness, and, being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by being obedient unto death—even death on a cross!”

The Ascension marks the end of Christ’s earthly humiliation and the glorification of his human nature.  Not only as God but also as man he is the almighty ruler of all things.  As Paul continues in Philippians, “Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

When the Scriptures say that Christ sits at the right hand of God the Father, it doesn’t refer to a physical reality but a spiritual reality.  In ancient times kings would often have what was called a “right hand man.” He sat to the right of the king and to him was given all power and authority to rule over the kingdom, as Pharaoh gave to Joseph.  So when we say in the creed that Christ “sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,” it means that the God-Man Jesus Christ has complete power and authority.

Christ is your king in three ways, he has a three-fold kingdom: power, grace and glory.

Christ’s Kingdom of Power means that he rules over all creation and all people, both believers and unbelievers, as the song says, “He’s got the wind and the rain, in his hand; he’s got the sun and the moon, in his hand; he’s got you and me brother, in his hand; he’s got the whole world in his hand.”

And Christ is also the absolute ruler of the spirit world, as Peter says, “Who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”

We may think that the world is completely out of control and run amuck.  We may think that the devil and his demons are free to attack us.  But Christ is in complete control, as Paul says in Ephesians, “God raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his 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.”

So, why do things in this world happen the way they do?  Paul goes on to tell us the governing principle of Christ’s rule: “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church.”  Everything that happens in this world is for the Church, for the protection and blessing and benefit of the Christian Church, and for the protection and blessing and benefit of YOU as an individual member of Christ’s Church. 

It helps to have friends in high places, and you have the best friend in the highest place.  “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church.”  As Paul says in Romans, “God works all things together for the good of those who love him.”  We may not comprehend how all things in this world are working together for our good, but we trust that Christ, our king, is doing exactly that as he rules his Kingdom of Power.

Christ’s Kingdom of Grace is the Holy Christian Church on earth, all who have faith in him.  Peter said at Pentecost, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.  Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.”  Christ is the founder, ruler and head of his Church on earth.  Through the Holy Spirit, Christ empowers the Church to serve him and witness for him.  As Peter says in Acts, “God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.  We are witnesses of these things.”

Christ’s Kingdom of Grace is the Church on earth, and Christ’s Kingdom of Glory is the Church in heaven.  The thief on the cross says to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom,” and Jesus replies, “Today you shall be with me in paradise.”  That is the Kingdom of Glory: Paradise, heaven.  Christ your king will take you to be with him in paradise, as Paul says in 2 Timothy, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.”

What does Christ’s Ascension mean for you? Christ’s Ascension means, he is INTERCEDING for you.  Paul says in Romans, “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.”  In ancient kingdoms, it was the job of the “right hand man” to receive petitions and requests and pass them on to the king.  In the throne room one would not address the king directly, but speak to the king through the “right hand man.” 

Jesus says, “The Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”  God the Father’s “right hand man” accepts your prayers and petitions, and intercedes with the Father for you.  And because of his Son’s righteousness, God the Father hears and acts on your prayers, for his Son’s sake.

Jesus especially pleads with the Father for our forgiveness, on account of his sacrifice for us, as John says, “If anybody does sin, we have one who pleads with the Father for us—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

What does Christ’s Ascension mean for you?  Christ’s Ascension means, he will COME AGAIN.  Jesus says, “In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  The angels said to the disciples, “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.”  Revelation says, “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him.”

Jesus will come again, at the Last Day.  His Second Coming could occur at any time.  At the moment he comes again, heaven and earth will pass away, all the dead will be raised and judged, and you and all believers will enter into eternal life.  As Paul says in Colossians, “Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. . .  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

What does Christ’s Ascension means for you?

His work of redemption is COMPLETE, for you: “After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”

The God-Man Jesus is your KING: “God raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his 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.  And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church.”

He is INTERCEDING for you: “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.”

He will COME AGAIN: “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Amen.

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