Ascension Day (Observed) 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 2, 2019
Acts 1:1-11, Ephesians 1:15-23, Luke 24:44-53

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It is all right here.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,

     who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

     born of the virgin Mary,

     suffered under Pontius Pilate,

     was crucified, died and was buried.

     He descended into hell.

     The third day He rose again from the dead.

     He ascended into heaven

     and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

     From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

The Apostles’ Creed summarizes Jesus’ earthly life in seven lines.  We remember it each year beginning on March 24 with the annunciation.  The Angel Gabriel tells Mary she is going to give birth to a son.  Then to December 25, Christmas Day, when we celebrate God in flesh being born in the city of David, Bethlehem.  Then we fast forward 30 some years when in the Spring we remember Jesus’ suffering and death and celebrate His resurrection from the dead.  And that brings us to today; or more precisely, to this past Thursday, Ascension Day, 40 days after Resurrection Sunday.

Jesus leads the disciples out to Bethany on the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem.  Luke 24:46-49 (ESV) 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” [1]

Jesus is leaving, but He has a plan for the Church.  What is this divine strategy?  Jesus is leaving these eleven men on the Mount of Olives as witnesses.

This is Jesus’ plan.  He is leaving the disciples as witnesses of His life, death and resurrection.  He is leaving the disciples as witnesses to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations.  Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; Immanuel; God with us; God in flesh, is departing and the task of spreading the Good News of the forgiveness of sins is left with this rough group of disciples who 43 days ago mostly abandoned Jesus at the cross.  These are Jesus’ witnesses.  This is Jesus’ plan to save the world.

When I was in college I worked summers for an international construction and export company.  Our task at that time was to assemble and crate air handling systems to be shipped to an air force base in Egypt.  There was a big warehouse filled with so many different components that had to be found and assembled and secured and inspected and then enclosed in huge, heavy duty shipping crates.  It was a very small company with five employees and the task seemed insurmountable.  As I expressed my sense of being overwhelmed by the job my boss asked me, “How do you eat an elephant?”  I replied, “I have no idea.”  He said, “One bite at a time.”

Have you ever gotten a project from the boss or a teacher and when you hear what they want you to do you are just overwhelmed, but then you accomplish it; one step at a time.  How do walk 1,000 miles?  Take the first step and keep going, one step at a time.

There are eleven scared and lonely men on the Mount of Olives staring up into the sky.  They have been given the task of telling the whole world about Jesus.  How do they do it?  They take the first step of the journey and keep going one step at a time.

And Jesus does not leave them alone, ten days later, on Pentecost, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit and the disciples are filled with the Spirit and are able to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins to people from many tribes and languages gathered in Jerusalem for the Pentecost festival.  The disciples take the first step on the journey.

Have you ever gotten a project from the boss or a teacher and when you hear what they want you to do you are just overwhelmed, but then you accomplish it; one step at a time.  How do walk 1,000 miles?  Take the first step and keep going, one step at a time.

That same journey continues today, one step at a time.  That same plan is still in place today.  The disciples have all died; all but one were killed for preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins.  Only John is thought to have died a natural death.

Now the mantle has been passed on through the generations and now it has been passed to us.  You and I are now the witnesses to bring the Good News of forgiveness of sins in Jesus to the world.  This is an overwhelming proposition and you may ask yourself, “What can I do?  I am just one person.  It can seem like we are so small and the task is so large.  How do you eat an elephant?  How do you walk 1,000 miles?

Jesus told a couple of reassuring parables about the growth of the Kingdom of God.  Luke 13:18-21 (ESV) 18 He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” 20 And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.” [2]

The eleven disciples are like that mustard seed that has now grown into a tree; like that bit of leaven that has now worked its way through the whole world.  Small beginnings are not a problem.  You are now like that mustard seed and that bit of leaven.

It can be hard to be a witness for Jesus.  You can feel unprepared and have doubts.  “Who am I to try to tell people about Jesus?  I am not good enough for that.  I am not educated enough about the Bible.  I am not clever enough with my words.  How can I make any difference?  I am not going to be able to change the world.  People get offended by Jesus; I don’t want to be offensive.  Maybe it is better to let someone else handle that.”

We are still living with Jesus’ plan of spreading the Good News through witnesses.  You are a witness.  You know the truth about Jesus; He is the Son of God; He died on the cross for your sins; He rose from the dead for you.  You know the truth and you are a witness of the truth.  You can proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins.  It will likely not be anything grandiose like Peter on Pentecost, or Billy Graham preaching to a stadium, but rather little by little.  Little by little, one step at a time.  One conversation with a fellow student or coworkers or friend or family member.  One invitation to bring someone to church.  One moment of showing Christian love.  One time of being prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have.  One day of contemplation of pursuing a vocation of church work.  One day of volunteering.  One donation to a missionary or a seminary student.  One gift to the ministry here for the church and school to reach out with the Good News of Jesus; planting seeds for the future even when we don’t necessarily get to see the seeds grow.  Little by little, one day at a time, one step at a time, the Kingdom of God grows by the power of the Holy Spirit through your witness.

Be aware that you will encounter opposition; don’t let that stop you, for it is nothing new for witnesses.  People reject the idea that Jesus rose from the dead, because that does not make sense.  Indeed, that is correct, it does not make sense and yet God is not restrained by what makes sense.  There is a lot about God that does not make sense, which does makes sense, because it means that we did not make up God.

Live your whole life as a witness to Jesus so that repentance and forgiveness is not just something you talk about, but it is how you live.

Do not use your witness as an aggressive weapon or as a show of self-righteousness, instead always witness to others in order to help them;.

Always witness about Jesus.  I think we can make a mistake of trying to talk about the church and Christianity and we end up talking about almost everything else except repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus.  Be a witness who speaks about Jesus dying and rising for the forgiveness of sins.

You are more than capable of being a witness.  The first disciples were not highly educated; wonderfully refined guys.  They were a motley bunch of fishermen and tax collectors and such.  And remember the Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well.  She had been married and divorced five times and was shacked up with a man in a state of adultery.  What kind of social standing do you think she had in her town?  What choice names did the “good” people have for her?  And yet she became a witness to Christ, and John 4:39 (ESV)  39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, …[3]  Certainly you can, and should, spend a lifetime studying scripture, but you already know all that you need to know to be a witness for Jesus.

Jesus has ascended into heaven.  He has left you to be a witness, but he has not left you alone; He has not left you with nothing to hold onto.  Each Sunday Jesus comes to you in His Word of forgiveness.  Each Sunday you hold the Body of Christ in your hand and you eat His Body and drink His blood.  He comes to you in a physical means to strengthen you.  And like the disciples on the day of Pentecost, you have received the Holy Spirit.  You are not a witness under your own power, but under the power of the Holy Spirit.

You are a witness to Jesus’ love and forgiveness; in your words, in your deeds, in your daily interactions, in your forgiveness of others.  Because you know the truth.  Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001


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