Be joyful in HOPE,
patient in affliction,
faithful in prayer.
Share with the Lord’s
people who are in need.
Romans 12:12-13

Ascension – 2023


(Sermon Text: Luke 24:44-53

Prayer: Lord Jesus, since You are ascended far above all heavens and are able to rule over Your Church, and give gifts, we pray You to watch over Your Church, to protect each soul from every danger, and bring us to be with You in heaven. Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed: Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our ascended Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Apostles’ Creed we recite the words that Jesus Christ “ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” But we aren’t only saying that it happened. Remember what a creed is: saying what we believe. “I believe,” is how the creed begins.

So we believe that Jesus Christ ascended and is at “the right hand of God.” But still we aren’t saying just that we believe it happened. In the creeds we’re saying who God is whom we believe in. So when it comes to the ascension, we’re saying we believe in Him, in Jesus, of whom this is true. Even more: All these things in the creed about Jesus say what He’s done for you. So you’re saying that you believe in this Jesus and what His ascension does for you.

So that’s really our question today. What does Jesus’ ascension do for you? What does it give you? His ascension gives us so much.

So what is Jesus’ ascension to heaven? Luke tells us in Acts 1 that it took place 40 days after He rose from the dead. Jesus brought His disciples to Bethany at the Mount of Olives. In every account it talks about this as something that happened to Jesus, done to Him. Mark says “He was received up into heaven.” In Acts, Luke says “He was taken up.” Here in Luke’s gospel: “He was parted from them and carried up into heaven.”

Because this is phrased as something that was done to/for Jesus, we are to see that this is heaven’s stamp of approval on everything Jesus did for us and for our salvation. He was taken up, carried up.

But you have to add the words “for you.” Why is it “for you?” Because He came down for us and for our salvation, and now when He is carried up it’s saying that everything He came down to do for our salvation is done! God the Father approves. Now there’s nothing the devil can do to undo it!

So now Jesus has ascended. What is now true of Him? If He is “seated at the right hand of God the Father,” does it mean He’s just sitting around?

No, not at all. When Jesus ascended, He didn’t go away. He removed His visible presence. This means that He stopped being present in the way He was during His earthly ministry, that He was limited to being in one location at a time. The best Bible verse about this is in Ephesians 4, where it says: “He ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.”

So Jesus ascended not to go far away, but actually so He could be with us even more closely and constantly. In fact, it was right before ascending that He said: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The other thing we should know about what happened in Jesus’ ascension is that He didn’t only ascend to heaven as God but also as Man. This might not seem such a big deal. If He’s true God and true Man, He ascended as God and Man. But it’s a really big deal. Usually when we think of His ascension – that He’s ruling over all, that He’s in control, that He’s able to be everywhere – we are thinking of His power as God, what He as God can do.

But now wherever His divine nature is, His human nature is too. The main thing in the ascension isn’t what He’s doing as God, but it’s that His human nature ascends to the right hand of God. Not just His human nature – but yours! For His human nature is the nature you share with Him, the only difference being that ours is a sinful nature and His human nature isn’t.

Jesus’ ascension should – by contrast – make you think about what your real problem is. Sometimes you look around at the world and wonder: If Christ is in control, if Christ is on His throne, why are things getting worse? We think the world is the problem. But our real problem is on the inside. It’s our sinful human nature. When we try to answer “What’s wrong with the world?” our answer should begin with: “I am.”

Your own sinful human nature has produced so many sinful actions done by you, as well as sinful thoughts, desires, and words that hurt others. Your sinful nature is doing damage still, every hour and every day. You see it in your own self-serving motives. You see it in how you respond to others.

Also our problem does include the sinful human nature of others. In how you are sinned against, how you’re hurt by others and it poisons your nature.

Our problem is also represented by all the consequences of sin in this world: that there is war, that there isn’t enough money, that things don’t work, that there are incurable sicknesses. That justice isn’t always done. That nothing is perfect: no perfect marriage, perfect parent, perfect child, perfect school, perfect job. All around us we see the wreckage of sinful human nature. We also see the limitations of our human nature. We can’t fix it.

Now see the contrast. Would Christ come down to share this? He did! He looked with compassion on all this that you experience. He heard your groaning. He came down from heaven to share your very human nature and human flesh, but without sin. He had His human flesh pierced. In His human flesh He died, and in His human flesh He rose from the dead and now He’s taken it up to the right hand of God. So all that is wrong, He fixed!

He didn’t fix it in a way that we can always see or feel. But because Jesus died for you and rose for your justification, all of your own sins, caused by your sinful nature, He declares completely forgiven. All the sins that are done to you, caused by the sinful nature of others, He cleanses their effect in you. When you look around at this world of fallen creatures, it’s a world of people every one of whom He loves, and has redeemed by His blood and flesh.

The real glory of His ascension is not the glory that He has but the glory He gives you! Because He, the Son of God, shared your flesh, made it His own but without sin, and has taken it up to the right hand of God, you now look forward to a flesh that’s perfectly renewed and healed.

When He meets suffering flesh, He – unlike everyone else – is not seeing someone else’s flesh, but His own flesh. That’s how fully He made it His own. See, it doesn’t end with Jesus coming to share your nature. He did this so you can share in His human nature, which is perfect, along with being a partaker in His divine nature. So your sinful flesh can be fully healed and made pure.

We’ve been hearing about the great things Jesus’ ascension does. But these are gifts that He gives you. Finally you need to know: How does He give you these gifts? How do they come to you or how do you claim them?

Here is one more comfort from Jesus’ ascension: He is not far from you. He does not take all this up to heaven and someday you’ll receive it. But as we heard, “He ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things” – and the verse continues: “and gave gifts to men.” It’s because He ascended and is at the right hand of God – which means, in the position of power and glory – that He is able to present everywhere in His Word and Sacraments.

The human nature of Jesus is not way off in heaven. He is with you, where His words are spoken to you: in the preaching of His Word, in Baptism, in the Lord’s Supper, in the absolution and the blessing.

Jesus speaks here in Luke 24 about His Word: that even all the words of the Old Testament are written, He says, “concerning Me.” And that when Law and Gospel are faithfully preached – as He says: that “repentance and remission of sins be preached in His name” – He’s there, it’s Jesus speaking. When you read or hear His Word, Jesus is speaking to you. When the pastor gives you the blessing, it’s Jesus blessing you like He blessed the apostles.

Especially the Lord’s Supper presents us with our ascended Lord and His gifts. He shows us in His Supper that He isn’t way off in heaven. He’s here! As you eat His body and drink His blood with faith in His words, you are made one with “this same Jesus,” who ascended but who descends to be with you in this way, to encourage you and show you the perfect life that is yours.

You take this out into your life in the world. As His Church, we do this too. We shouldn’t despair, say woe-is-me or even be angry at how the world is going and what the prospects are for His Church. Look at the disciples, their response to the ascension was what? See how Luke’s gospel ends: they return from His ascension filled with joy – wait, check that, “GREAT joy” – and let it flow over into actual rejoicing, which it says they were doing “continually” – all the time! Blessing and praising Him. See how changed they were!

The message is that His ascension gives us such gifts that we are changed into new men and women, as they were, who even when the world is against us respond by continually rejoicing and praising our ascended Lord who’s constantly giving us the victory He won for us. Amen!