Ascension Day Sermon on Luke 24:44-53
Text: He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
The book of Revelation is filled with vivid imagery depicting the final victory of Jesus Christ and his Church. Though it may appear as though the devil and his allies are winning, the book was written to encourage believers that the ultimate victory is ours through Christ. In chapter 19, we find this picture of Jesus, “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.” (Revelation 19:11-13) As the chapter progresses, a fierce battle is waged. At the end of the battle, it says that the devil and his allies have been defeated and punished. How wonderful for us to know that no matter how it might appear at the moment, victory is ours. The man who wrote the hymn we just sang, turned to the twelfth verse which says that “On his head are many crowns.” He is the Lord of all. As we study God’s Word this evening, we pick up the opening line of that hymn: “CROWN HIM WITH MANY CROWNS.” 1. Crown Him Lord Of The Word. 2. Crown Him Lord Of The Church. 3. Crown Him Lord Of The World.
Our text actually begins on Easter evening, as Jesus appears to his disciples in the locked room in Jerusalem. After he gave them many convincing proofs that he was alive, he went on to remind the disciples, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” (Verse 44) Then, we read, “He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” (Verse 45) As he reminded them of all that the Bible had said about him, he gave them the ability to understand his Word. He showed them that all that had happened to him was just as the Bible had said it would be. Yes, they had been with him these past three years, but now, with the help of God-given insight, they were able to see more clearly how the Scriptures had been fulfilled.
Jesus continues to be Lord of the Word. He has seen to it that his Word has been passed down from generation to generation. Though he is not physically here with us, he continues to act in his office of Prophet every time his Word is shared with others. He continues to speak to us every time we read or hear his Word. More than that, he continues to open our minds so that we can understand the Scriptures. Some people say that the Bible is too complicated to understand, that there are all sorts of hidden messages and meanings that must be figured out. In reality, the Bible’s message is a simple one. It tells us of God’s amazing love for us and all that he did so that we would be with him forever in heaven. This is not something that we could have discovered on our own. Without Jesus’ work, the Scriptures would be a closed, mysterious book. However, Jesus, the Lord of the Word, has opened that Word to us and shown us all that he has done for us.
Jesus is also Lord of the Church. By Church, we mean all those who believe in Jesus as their Savior. The fact that we call Jesus our Savior reminds us that we needed to be saved. We needed to be rescued because of our sins. You and I were born outside of the family of God. We were born the enemies of God. We show the remnants of that sinful nature, which we still carry with us, every time we do, say, or even think something contrary to God’s will. For example, think of how the disciples did not trust that Jesus would rise from the dead. He had said it so clearly, yet they doubted. How often don’t we doubt the clear promises of God? He has promised to take care of us. Do we always trust that he will? He has promised to hear all our prayers. Do we pray first or do we try everything else and then try prayer because nothing else seems to work? The list goes on and on. The fact remains that we have sinned. We would have been lost forever. We needed a Savior.
Jesus is the Lord of the Church because he came to the earth to rescue her. Jesus reminds us of this, when he said, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.” (Verse 46) This is what was necessary for our salvation. Jesus left his throne of glory in heaven and came to the earth to live for us. He always trusted his Father for everything in every situation. How often don’t we read of Jesus going off to pray? He was perfect for us. Then, to pay the debt of sin that we owed to God, he took our sins upon himself and went to the cross, where he suffered and died in our place. Then, as we celebrated forty days ago, Jesus rose from the dead, showing that he had won the victory. Our debt has been paid in full, because Jesus, the Lord of the Church, purchased us with his holy, precious blood and his innocent suffering and death.
To this Church, our Lord gives us a mission. He told the disciples, both of then and now, “Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in [my] name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Verses 47&48) This is what we are to be doing while our Lord is away. We are to proclaim to others what Jesus has done for them. At first glance, that sounds like a daunting task. However, remember that Jesus said, “You are witnesses of these things.” Witnessing need not involve a detailed theological treatise. It is simply stating the simple (yet profound!) facts that we have been taught. Jesus opened the Scriptures to us, so that we might understand them. He also opened them so that we might share them with others. It is stating the basic facts of law and gospel, sin, and God’s grace in Christ. It is explaining what Christ means to you, stating the hope that you have because Jesus is your Savior. The Lord of the Church has given us a mission.
The Lord of the Church also empowers us to carry out the mission. In verse 47, Jesus promised, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised.” Jesus was speaking about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came down with great power on Pentecost. We remember how the disciples were able to speak in foreign languages to a crowd. Three thousand people were brought to faith that day. The Lord of the Church gives us that same Holy Spirit. It may not be in such a spectacular way as on Pentecost. However, that same Spirit comes into our hearts, when we were brought to faith. For many of us, it was when some water was poured on our heads and God’s Word was spoken. For others, it may have been later in life. However, that same Spirit, who creates faith in our hearts, also gives us the ability to witness to others about what Jesus has done for them. The Lord of the Church has purchased us, commissioned us and empowered us to carry out his will.
In verses 50 and 51, we find the events of Ascension Day: “When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.” We note that as Jesus left his disciples, he was blessing them. He was showing that he cared for them and would continue to be with them. The fact that he was blessing his disciples reminds us of what Jesus continues to do for us while he is in heaven. We read in Ephesians 1:22&23, “God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Jesus is Lord of the world, as it says, “he is head over everything for the church.” Jesus rules the earth and causes everything to work for the benefit of his Church. He works through the events of history to make sure that his Word continues to be proclaimed. At times, it might seem as though there are setbacks to the proclamation of his Word. However, we have the assurance that our Lord is in control, and everything will go according to his plan.
This is also true for us, individually, as well. Jesus, whose hands were lifted in blessing as he ascended, continues to bless us, as well. He is not just in charge of the big, global events. He is also in control of our lives, as well. This gives us great assurance as we go through our daily lives. Jesus is not just sitting around in heaven, a disinterested party. He knows each of us individually and is involved in our lives. Though it may seem as though our lives are wandering about with no clear purpose or design, we have our Lord’s assurance that he has a plan for our lives, and that all that happens to us, is for our good. We are reminded of this in Paul’s words in Romans 8:28, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Jesus, the Lord of the World, to whom all things are subject, is also our loving Savior. He will continue to bless us because we are his.
After Jesus had ascended into heaven, we read in verses 52&53, “They worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.” Why were they filled with great joy? After all, their dear Friend had left them. They were filled with joy and praised God for the same reasons we do today. First, we rejoice because we know that Jesus did everything necessary for our salvation. Our salvation has been completed. If this were not the case, Jesus would not have returned to heaven. The fact that he did assures us that our sins have been forgiven. We also rejoice, because of the promise that he made in John 14:2&3, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” We know that Jesus is preparing a place for us in heaven. He left the earth to get your room ready for you. Jesus, the Lord of the World, is your Savior and is getting your place ready in heaven. That is why the day of Ascension is a day that is filled with joy, rather than sorrow. Our Savior has returned to heaven and even now is seated at the right hand of the Father, ruling all things for our good.
We began talking about the book of Revelation and how it reminds us of the victory that is ours because of Jesus Christ. It is only fitting that there are also many different hymns of praise to our exalted King. For example, the angels sing in Revelation 5:12, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” All the inhabitants of the earth reply, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” Indeed, our victorious King well deserves our praise, both with our voice and in our songs. How thankful we are that we have hymns, such as the one we sang a few moments ago, that help us to put into words the joy that fills our hearts this Ascension Day. “Crown him with many crowns . . . for he is King of all.” Amen.
St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches ©2023 All rights reserved.