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Ascension Sunday (observed)
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
May 21, 2023
Acts 1:1-11, Eph. 1:15-23, Luke 24:44-53
Text and Audio: immanuelhamiltonchurch.com click “sermons”
Full Service Audio: bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship
Jesus’ ascension into heaven from the Mount of Olives marks the beginning of a new era for the followers of Jesus. You remain in this era, waiting for Jesus to physically return on the Last Day. Jesus has ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead. The disciples were waiting and you are still waiting in that pause between Jesus’ ascension and Jesus’ return.
The Bible teaches you to be aware of Jesus’ return. Matthew 24:42–44 (ESV) 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
The devil wants you to forget that Jesus is coming back. The devil wants you to grow complacent and forget about Jesus and all He has done for you and just live for the moment. But Jesus is coming back. And not only is Jesus coming back. Jesus is still here. Jesus has not left you alone.
Backing up 34 years from the day of Jesus’ ascension and traveling 90 miles north back to a house in the town of Nazareth we find an angel of the Lord visiting a young woman named Mary; a virgin engaged to be married to a man named Joseph. The angel announces …Luke 1:31–32 (ESV) 31 … behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,”
Luke 1:34–35 (ESV) 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” The angel leaves and it appears that Mary is alone, but she is not. As Gabriel announced to her Luke 1:28 (ESV) 28 …“Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” The Lord is with Mary…and how. Mary is pregnant with Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus is in Mary’s womb. The eternal Jesus, the Son of God, came down from heaven and is in Mary; the little body of God in flesh is growing inside His mother.
Back on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem 40 days after His resurrection, Jesus is going back to heaven in His body. The disciples are still confused and ask Jesus, Acts 1:6–7 (ESV) 6 …“Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.”
The disciples are still thinking Jesus is going to drive out the Romans, but that is not what Jesus has come to do. Jesus has come to conquer sin, death and the devil for all people. Jesus teaches the disciples, Acts 1:8 (ESV) 8 …you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Jesus then ascends into heaven and a cloud takes Him from their sight.
Jesus was with the disciples. Then He was killed and buried. It seemed that Jesus left them all alone, but Jesus rose from the dead and He is back with them. He is back, but then, 40 days after rising from the dead, Jesus ascends into heaven and it looks like the disciples have been abandoned, left staring up into the sky to where they last saw Jesus. “Jesus has left us alone again,” they think, but then a couple of messengers in white robes appear and say, Acts 1:11 (ESV) 11 …“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
The similarities between Jesus coming down from heaven and Jesus ascending up into heaven are remarkable. These scenes are bookends to Jesus first advent on earth. Jesus comes down to earth, Jesus ascends into heaven. There are angels and talk of power and the Holy Spirit coming upon you. Afterwards Mary is not alone. The Lord is with her. Afterwards the disciples think they are alone just waiting for Jesus to return, but He does not leave them alone. Jesus promises them they will receive power from on high. The Holy Spirit will come upon them. The followers of Jesus will receive the Holy Spirit and they will receive Jesus. As we heard in our Gospel reading last week John 14:18–20 (ESV) 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”
Mary is not alone awaiting the arrival of the Lord in Bethlehem. The Lord is with Mary. Mary has Jesus in her. The disciples are not alone waiting for Jesus to return. They have the Holy Spirit and they have Jesus. They are in Jesus and Jesus is in them. It is not the physical body of the unborn Lord Jesus, but it is Jesus with them as He promised. And like the disciples, you are not alone. You are in Jesus and Jesus is in you.
Sometimes it is taught that when you find yourself indulging in sinful behavior you have to ask yourself, “is this what I want to be doing when Jesus returns? Do I want to be dead drunk? Do I want to be surfing the dark side of the internet? Do I want to be in bed with someone to whom I am not married? Do I want to be cheating on a test? Do I want to be lying to my parents? Is this what I want to be doing when Jesus returns?” No, certainly not. But it is really the wrong question. The correct question: Is this what someone who is in Christ and Christ in you should ever be doing? Anytime? Even if Jesus is not returning today. The truth is that Jesus is not just going to see what you are doing when He returns; He knows what you are doing all the time, because Jesus is with you. Christ is in you and you are in Christ.
You are in Christ, Christ is in you. And together, we are Christ in the world. The Church is the Body of Christ. You are united with Christ and you are united in Christ.
Jesus comes to you in the waters of baptism as we saw this morning with little Luna. Galatians 3:27 (ESV) 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” You receive Jesus by hearing His Word and His word dwells in you. Jesus is the Word made flesh.
You receive Jesus’ own body and blood into your body. 1 Corinthians 10:16–17 (ESV) 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”
You are in Christ, Christ is in you. And together, we are Christ in the world. The Church is the Body of Christ. You are united with Christ and you are united in Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12–13 (ESV) 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”
You are in Christ and Christ is in you. It does not make sense, but the fact is that you wait for Jesus — with Jesus. You wait for Christ as a little Christ to the world. You are a little Christ; a Christian. You have put on Christ.
You are a Christian because those first disciples did what Jesus said to do. They were Jesus’ Acts 1:8 (ESV) …witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The Church grew and spread because of their witness and the witness of those who came after them. They were witnesses to the Good News of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. As the Body of Christ, as followers of Jesus, you continue what the disciples began on the Mount of Olives after Jesus’ ascension. You witness to the world, in word and deed, the love and forgiveness of Jesus, as you, a little Christ, struggle against sin and temptation and wait for Jesus to return to destroy evil forever.
Live as a Christian and continue to wait for Jesus, with Jesus. Amen.