Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
May 28, 2017
Psalm 47:1-9, Acts 1:1-11, Ephesians 1:15-23, Luke 24:44-53
Full Service Audio: bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship
It is a short Gospel lesson this week; only eight verses, but there is a lot packed into these eight verses. Today we celebrate the ascension of Jesus into heaven 40 days after He rose from the dead. Next Sunday we will celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit given on Pentecost 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection.
Before Jesus ascends to the Father He tells His disciples once more that He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament – He fulfills the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms. Jesus says the Old Testament is about Him. The Old Testament points forward to Jesus. Jesus fulfills the scriptures and then He opens the disciple’s minds so they can understand this. The Old Testament scriptures point forward to what happens, “that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.” This is what was foretold in the Old Testament and what was foretold by Jesus Himself.
In His fulfillment, Jesus’ last words on the cross are, “It is finished.” Jesus is finished making His sacrificial payment for the sins of the world, but Jesus’ work is not finished. There is lots of work still to do, “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
Jesus gives this work to his disciples. What Jesus has done is not to be kept secret. What Jesus has done is to be proclaimed to all nations beginning from Jerusalem. And this is exactly what happens. The disciples proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins beginning right there in Jerusalem.
Some receive the message with an open heart and repent and receive forgiveness as we see on Pentecost when 3,000 are baptized. Others hear the message and seethe with hatred and anger and want to silence the message even if it means killing the messenger as we see with the brutal stoning of Stephen.
There is work to be done and the work is not easy.
Jesus tells the disciples, “You are witnesses of these things.” The disciples are witnesses in two senses of the word. The disciples are eyewitnesses of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. They saw what happened and recorded what they saw in the words of Holy Scripture.
There is lots of work still to do, “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
They are also witnesses in the sense that they tell others about what they have seen. They proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins. But they do not do this alone. Jesus tells them that they are to stay in the city until they receive power from on high. They are going to receive the Holy Spirit in ten days on Pentecost. The disciples who seem to have so much trouble understanding what is happening will receive the power of the Holy Spirit; the breath of God, to understand and proclaim the truth of the scriptures.
Many of the disciples are witnesses in a third way by being martyred for the faith. The Greek word for witness is μάρτυρες, martyres. Our English word martyr, one who dies for the faith, derives from the Greek word for witness. Ten of the remaining eleven disciples, it is believed, died for the faith. They were killed for proclaiming repentance and the forgiveness of sins found in Jesus alone.
Now you may think the disciples had it easy early on because they were right there with Jesus and should be able to clearly understand what Jesus wants them to do. While they have the advantage of being right there with Jesus. You have the advantage of knowing the whole story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and you have had the power of the Holy Spirit from the time of your baptism to give you faith to believe Jesus is God in flesh; the Lamb of God, sacrificed on the cross for your sins.
You have heard the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins. You know the truth about Jesus and have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you, making your body its temple. You are a saint of the Lord washed clean in the blood of Christ. You are holy in Christ, you are the light of Christ, and yet you are locked in a great struggle with the darkness. You feel the pressure to sin coming from the devil as he whispers, “it’s no big deal”, “everyone is doing it”, “no one will know”. You feel the world encouraging you to sin through a flood of temptation and you can feel it trying to make sin become your new normal. You feel the evil desires coming from your own sinful nature pulling you back again and again into your favorite sin. You are under great pressure to conform your life to the sinful ways of the world and it is unrelenting. Resist. Repent. Receive forgiveness. You know the truth. You are baptized. You no longer belong to the world. You know Jesus is Lord. You know that Jesus is God in flesh who died and rose from the dead just as He promised. You have the Holy Spirit. You know the truth about Jesus. There is great temptation to sin, so struggle against sin each and every day. Turn away from sin. Daily repent of your sin. Let go of the sin that ensnares you. Eliminate sinful situations. You resist sin, you fight against sin, you repent when you give in to sin. Because you know the truth about Jesus.
And you proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all the world beginning close to home among family and friends and the people in your life. You are salt and light to the world living your ordinary life in an extraordinary way. You read and study God’s word to know the truth about Jesus. You remain ready to give a reason for the hope that you have.
You proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins in your support of the ministry of Immanuel Lutheran Church and School. Your time and talents and treasures make it possible for repentance and the forgiveness of sins to be proclaimed here each Sunday morning. Your time and talents and treasures make it possible to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins at our school throughout the week in the classrooms and in chapel. You proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in support of necessary growth to reach out to even more students and families with the life giving message of the Gospel. You proclaim the truth of Jesus through support of missionaries in the field and pastors in training at the seminaries. You do the work that has been given you to do.
Jesus’ work of the sacrifice for sin is over but work remains to be done to bring the Good News to the world. You are a witness telling others about what Jesus has done; for you and for the world. You know the truth.
You know that Jesus ascended into heaven 40 days after His resurrection and this is a source of great joy. Great joy to know that indeed Jesus is God. Great joy to know that He sent the Holy Spirit. Great joy to know that all that He said He would do, He did, for you. Clap your hands, all peoples. Shout to God with loud songs of joy.
Salvation of the world begins right there in Jerusalem with Jesus and it spreads in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, even to here in Hamilton, Ohio. What Jesus said would happen, did happen. You have brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world.
And so today we remember Jesus’ ascension into heaven and how He has everything prepared for the disciples and you to continue His work. Next week we will remember Jesus fulfilling His promise of sending the Holy Spirit upon the disciples and the people on Pentecost. We will recall how the Christian Church begins there in Jerusalem as a fulfillment of the Old Testament and Jesus’ words. And each day we continue to do the work Jesus gave us to do because the ascended Jesus is Lord and Savior.