Ascension Sunday – Sermon 160

26th July 2012 Off By Derek Buckthorpe

Bible References :

Holy Communion CW

10.00 am 4th May 2008

Prayer to start 

May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the glory and honour of our Lord Jesus Christ

AMEN

Introduction 

Ascension Sunday – The Ascension of Christ – what does it mean for us – and how should we explain it – to others?

After all – Its probably the most difficult of all the events in the life of Jesus for us to reconcile against – our scientific understanding of the world and universe

If Jesus ascended physically where did He go?
Does that mean that heaven – is a physical place somewhere out in space?

perhaps – we should use a more modern interpretation – like the one used in the story of the Passion – shown – on our televisions – over the Easter week – where Jesus – after promising to be with them always – is seen walking away – and finally – disappearing into the crowds –

Whether Jesus actually went upwards – we will never know – as a cloud hid Jesus from the Apostles sight – maybe we will only find out – when we make that step ourselves –

but the significance of the Ascension in God’s unfolding plan for us – is clear – it was the final event of Jesus’ visible ministry – and part of His returning to His heavenly throne – it also signaled the start of the great Commission – and the releasing of the Holy Spirit – to help fulfill it –

the disciples who witnessed it – saw it as an ending – but it in fact – it was very much a new beginning –

Point 1       Luke’s explanation in Acts  

 

In our reading from Acts – Luke provides us with a summary of Jesus’ last days after the resurrection

‘Jesus showed himself to His disciples – and gave ample proof that He was alive – He was seen by them over forty days and spoke to them about the kingdom of God ‘-

In the period between the Resurrection and the Ascension – Jesus was preparing them for the days to come –

He re-assured them that it was really Him – talking and walking with them – and He – gave them specific commands – to go out and tell others what they had seen and heard

But to begin with – they were to stay in Jerusalem – ‘ for the gift promised by the Father’ – the Holy Spirit –

It was only when each of them had been baptised with the Holy Spirit – that they would become an effective witness for Him – a witness that would extend to the farthest corners of the earth ”

For Jesus it’s the end of His earthly ministry – and for the disciples – the beginning of theirs – Jesus would no longer be with them as he had been – before –

Luke tells of the disciples straining to catch the last glimpse of the cloud taking Jesus up to heaven
– perhaps clinging on to the hope that He will soon return –

and it was only after being spoken to by the two men dressed in white – that they realised it was time for them to move on and begin the next chapter in their lives-

The Ascension is a watershed moment for the Disciples and for us – for they would soon realise for the first time the full magnitude of who Jesus is

They had followed Him during His ministry believing Him to be the Messiah – rejoiced in His resurrection – and greeted Him as the Risen Lord – and now they would truly know Him as the Son of God – and could only but wonder what life would now be like for them – and for Him

Point 2      Ephesians the Fullness of Christ”

 

But the Ascension is not only about leaving – its also about arriving – and it marks the coronation of Jesus as Lord and King – over everything

The bible is very clear about what happened when Jesus was received in heaven –

As Paul reminds us in our NT lesson – ‘God raised Jesus from the dead – and enthroned Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms’

The right hand is the place of honour and power – and sitting there means that God has given Him that honour and power permanently –

His place and standing in heaven – is far above all other ‘government – authority – power and dominion’ –

its a place of sovereignty that commands allegiance – not only in this age but also in the ages to come’

Just as the resurrection expressed the reality of Jesus’ death – revealing Him as the Risen Christ – so the Ascension assures us that Jesus is ever present with God – and at His right hand

‘and in heaven’ as Paul says – Jesus puts all things in subjection under His feet’

No matter what happens – from this time onwards – Jesus has authority over it – nothing is outside of His control –

For us – as followers of Jesus – that means that – no matter what situation we find ourselves in – no matter what sin we have committed against God and and others – Jesus has the power and authority to ‘overcome’ it – and to offer forgiveness –

Paul also tells us that – Jesus is head over all things to the church –

Jesus who is the absolute Lord of the universe – is given to the church – for her advantage – and benefit – and His greatness is directed towards it –

That means that – the same power that accomplished His resurrection – His Ascension – His coronation and His headship of the church is also available to His church – and to each one of us –

As head – of the body of the church – He is our shepherd – our protector – our guide – our friend and comforter – and as people of His community – we have nothing to fear – we only need to stay obedient and follow His ways

 

point 3      “The Great Commission”

 

 

which brings us to our Gospel reading – and the third aspect of the Ascension – the great Commission – and the releasing of the Holy Spirit

The opening verses of our Gospel reading begins with a reference to Scripture –

Jesus reminds the disciples that His death and
resurrection – was no error of judgment – it was foretold – by the prophets and taught by Jesus –Himself –

and that all the things that have happened to Him – have been part of God’s plan – and the way God has chosen to show the world – His eternal love –

Jesus made reference to His death and resurrection many times – in His teachings and parables-– Luke has six references – including the parable of the vineyard –

The disciples had listened to Him – but not properly understood – or believed it would actually happen –

And it was only when Jesus now explained it all – and recounted it to them – in His resurrected state that the penny finally dropped –

Jesus tells them that – Repentance and forgiveness of sins are to be proclaimed to all nations in His name – beginning with Jerusalem – and that the whole world must be brought into the arms of God’s embracing love

‘You are to be witnesses to it all’ He said.

Turning away from sin and celebrating God’s forgiveness is at the heart of being a Christian – and of the Lord’s Prayer and each one of us – is required to respond to this message –

but as disciples – we are to go further – beyond the individual – to whole nations – the gospel message can not only change a person – it can change the agenda of the whole world –

and for this they will need the the Holy Spirit – who will be released by Jesus on His Ascension –

The Holy Spirit – will bring the power – create the opportunities and help them respond and radiate Jesus’ presence to others –

How they behave – will not only affect their salvation but also the salvation of those who look for Jesus in them.

Through Jesus we are made new people – with a story to tell – and people to reach – Our story must witness to the power and presence of Jesus – in our lives – and In His church –

As John Wesley once said – “We must take the whole Christ for our Saviour – the whole Bible for our Book – the whole church for our fellowship – and the whole world for our mission –
Conclusion

The Ascension of Jesus is a great landmark in our Christian Faith – it not only signals the transfer and crowning of Jesus to His rightful place in heaven but also the start of anew era – of Christ’s authority over all – and the proclaiming of His gospel message to the whole world –

At our Baptism service – we are given a lighted candle – and commanded to go out – and “Shine as a light in the world – to the Glory of God the Father”

wherever we go – we are called to take the light of Christ – with us –

Jesus’ disciple had to wait for the power to come upon them – For us – today – that power is already here –

You can count on Jesus to do His part – can He count on us to do ours?
Prayer

In the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit

AMEN