Exaude, The Sunday after Ascension June 4, 2000
213, 359, 221, 54
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. So far the Holy Word.
In the Name of Jesus, Who ascended triumphantly to the right hand of God, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
If you could have one thing that would make you perfectly happy in life, what would it be? If there were one item that would enable you to meet life’s problems head-on, do you know what that one item would be? The first thing that probably comes to mind is—more money. Some time ago there was a lottery jackpot in California worth 65 million dollars. Maybe you thought to yourself, “If I had even one million dollars, my problems would be over?” Would a windfall of money be the answer?—It wouldn’t be for long. There are plenty of wealthy people whose lives prove that you can be fantastically rich and utterly miserable at the same time.
What about a better education? With all the emphasis on higher education these days, you may be thinking that if only I had my MA or Ph.D. on the wall—then I would be successful and happy. And yet some of the most brilliant people on earth are also some of the most unhappy. What about more friends? We’re all lonely sometimes. “If only I had friends constantly by my side.” But we all know that you can be surrounded by friends and still feel all alone.
So what is the one answer to all of life’s problems? The Apostle Paul knew. He prayed in our text that all Christians would know that answer, too. The answer is to have and Ascension faith. And today I’d like each of you to consider this question for yourselves—
Is yours an ascension faith? You’ve probably never thought about it. For many Christians, Ascension Day is simply an event which bridges the gap between Easter and Pentecost. It’s just the story of Jesus’ going from here into heaven. But the fact is that Ascension is more than a transportation story. It is the positive proof that God has done everything necessary to save you.
When Paul prayed that God may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, he was thinking about the Ascension. That event was the capping off of Jesus’ entire work of redemption. It meant that not one single item was lacking in the plan of salvation. Jesus was going back to heaven just as a triumphant king returns from battle. He was victorious. And that victory belongs to everyone who trusts in Him!
Perhaps we don’t emphasize the festival of Ascension as much as we should. In olden days, all Lutheran churches had a weekday service on Ascension Day—maybe it’s time we revive that tradition. The truth is, the Ascension is the rock-solid assurance that we are saved. It’s the proof that nothing, and no one is ever going to be able to condemn us. Paul writes in Romans, “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”
At Christmas we remember how God loved us enough to send His only Son. On Good Friday we remember how Jesus brought us forgiveness and freedom with His death on the cross. At Easter we remember how Jesus was raised up as proof that God accepted the sacrifice He made for us. And now, the Ascension completes the cycle. Today we remind ourselves that our Savior is at the Right Hand of the Father, triumphant, with all power in heaven and on earth. Today we commemorate Jesus’ glorious return to the throne of His heavenly Father, where He constantly intercedes for us.
That should be a big comfort for you. Because there are times in our lives when we find it hard to believe that we are forgiven. There are times when our conscience nags at us, and condemns us. There are people, including other Christians, who want us to question whether we are really saved. Soon, we ourselves might begin to wonder—“Will I really go to heaven when I die?”—And then we remember the Ascension. We remember that Jesus is right now pleading our case with the Father. He is saying, “Father, this person I have redeemed, and You must forgive him. I paid the price for his sins, and You have already accepted it.”
Is yours an ascension faith? It is, if you will merely trust the fact that God has done everything to save you.
But the power of the Ascension is really there for you in day to day living. This is the one thing that empowers us to meet life’s worst problems head-on, and to walk away victorious. An Ascension faith realizes that God not only has done everything to save you—He will also do anything else to serve you!
Paul says that God raised up Christ and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all powers and principalities. Each Sunday we confess that Jesus “sits on the right hand of God the Father almighty.” That’s picture language, of course. In Bible times, the right hand was the sword hand. It was the power hand. And to say that Jesus is at God’s right hand means that Jesus has complete power over everything that happens in our world.
People tend to think that most power decisions in the world are made either by the very wealthy or by the politically powerful. We are led to believe that our destinies are determined by men in influential positions. But having an Ascension faith reminds us that it is our Lord Jesus who is finally in control; that over the long course of history, He rules. It is not the captains of industry nor the barons of finance, not the economic systems or political maneuvers, not computers or automation, weather or climate that is in control. The Father has placed Jesus Christ is in control of this world.
When trouble crops up in your life, do you feel like a pawn being moved about on some huge chessboard? Or do you have an Ascension faith? Do you remember that your own Savior Jesus is pulling the strings and manipulating the events around you for your good? Is yours an Ascension faith?
In the Bible are many examples of people who had an Ascension faith. One of my favorites is the account of David and Goliath. King Saul had to find somebody who was willing to fight the giant warrior Goliath. Now, if you could have walked through the ranks of the Israelites before that fight, I think you would have found the same kind of “faith” that a lot of today’s Christians exhibit. If you asked one of them, “Do you believe in God?” he would have responded, “Of course I do!” “Do you believe that God has all power?”—he’d have said, “Certainly I believe that God has all power!” If you asked, “OK, then—are you ready to trust in God and go fight Goliath?” he’d have said, “Not in a million years!"
On that day, none of the Israelite soldiers was willing to trust God that far. So a stripling shepherd boy stepped forth. For weapons, he had nothing but a slingshot. Oh, yes—he did have one other thing—an Ascension faith! He walked onto the battleground certain of one thing, that the Lord was in control. Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel.” 1 Sam 17:45. And then, with one small stone, David knocked the giant off his long legs.
Is yours an Ascension faith? It should be, and it can be. Just think about it: God has already defeated your most powerful enemies—sin, death, and the devil. Can’t you trust Him to handle the other problems that confront you in life? Yes, as Paul says in the eighth chapter of Romans, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” 31-32. Our Lord is continually controlling the events of the world for the good of His children. Jesus didn’t ascend in order to get away from us! He did it to show that the same loving Savior who died for us on the cross is now the one who holds all authority in heaven and on earth! You can triumph over life because of him.
So what do you need the most in life? Isn’t it an Ascension faith? The next time you’re in the hospital waiting room, remember the Ascension. The next time your family is flat broke, and searching for a way to make ends meet, remember the Ascension. The next time you feel all alone and depressed, when you feel like giving up the battle against the hard knocks of life—remember the Ascension. The battle has already been fought and won—and you are made a conqueror through Jesus Christ!
If you ever visit a Greek Orthodox church, you’ll notice they have an interesting way of remembering that Jesus is the triumphant King. Many of their churches are built with a dome over the sanctuary, and in that dome is a painting of Christ. Not Christ on the cross, but Christ seated on a throne. Every time a worshipper looked up in the church, he would be reminded that his Lord was not only his Savior, but his ascended and all-providing King as well. May God grant each of us to remember that. From time to time, let us look up from life’s problems, and see our Ascended Savior. He is watching over our every moment, and waiting to take us to Himself in Heaven. May God give us each an Ascension faith! AMEN.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.