St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

On Christ’s Ascension I Now Build The Hope Of My Ascension

Ascension Day Sermon on John 14:1-6

Text: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 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? 3 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. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

“You go first.” You often hear these words when something is new to a person. They will tell their friend or sibling, “You go first.” This doesn’t mean that they will not do what lies in front of them. They just want to see someone do it first, so that they can be sure that it will be OK. Then, they are more likely to follow suit. This evening, we have gathered to celebrate the ascension of our Savior. He has gone back to heaven. He has promised that we will be with him one day. Yet, there may be some misgivings about our ascension into heaven. That is one of the reasons we celebrate today. Because Christ has ascended, we know that we will also ascend. To borrow the title of the hymn that we just sang, “ON CHRIST’S ASCENSION I NOW BUILD THE HOPE OF MY ASCENSION.” As we study this portion of God’s Word, we have peace of mind because 1. He Has Provided The Way. 2. He Is Preparing My Home.

Jesus alluded to his ascension when he said, “You know the place to where I am going.” He was telling his disciples that he was going to be leaving them. Jesus had told them he was going, but he didn’t spell out for them, exactly, where that was. Thomas asked a question that, no doubt, the other disciples had, as well. “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (Verse 5) Thomas thought that Jesus, literally, meant that he was going to go on a journey and the disciples would know the road that he was taking. He wanted more specifics.

Jesus picked up on those words of Thomas and said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Verse 6) ‘You want to know the way, Thomas? You already do. I am the way.’ These words of Jesus give us great comfort and hope, because he tells us that he is the way to salvation.

Jesus’ words stand in stark contrast to what much of what the world teaches and believes. The world would have you believe that there are many ways to get right with God. If you follow all of the right rules, you can get right with God. If you make certain pilgrimages, you can get right with God. If you do more good than bad, you can get right with God. All of these ways may seem to be good to the world. However, if you followed all of these rules, would you ever feel completely certain that you had done enough? Let me put it this way. If you were told that in order to get to heaven, you would have to kick the tree. What questions would flood your mind? ‘Which tree? Where on the tree do I kick? How hard do I kick it? How many times do I kick it?’ There would always be this little nagging voice in the back of your head saying that you missed something.

The fact of the matter is that, no matter how hard we try to earn our salvation, we cannot. If there is the slightest misstep in keeping God’s law, we are lost. If we have ever said something that hurt another’s feelings, we have sinned. If we have ever been selfish, we have sinned. No matter which road people think that they can follow to get right with God, they can never do so. God says plainly in Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” This is what happens when people try other ways.

What is it, then, that makes Jesus “The Way?” Jesus’ sole purpose in coming to the earth was to do his Father’s will, which meant that he would live a perfect life in our place. Where you and I have failed time and again, Jesus did not. He would further carry out his Father’s will by going to the cross where he would suffer and die to pay for our sins. He rose from the grave to assure us that the way to the Father had been opened to us. He is the one way to heaven.

The fact that Jesus ascended into heaven assures us that he completed everything that he had been sent to do. It is for that reason that we celebrate Jesus’ ascension. Normally, when someone who is near and dear to our hearts leaves, there is sadness. However, since Jesus’ ascension assures us that he has done everything necessary for our salvation, we rejoice. This means that when we leave this earth, the way to heaven stands wide open. Because Jesus has ascended into heaven, we know that our ascension is certain.

Jesus tells us what he is doing since he has ascended. He says, “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.” (Verses 2, 3) Jesus told his disciples that his departure was necessary so that he could go and prepare their rooms in his Father’s house. There is comfort in the idea of a room in our Father’s house. Jesus did not go to set up our tent. Rather, it is a room. There is a permanence there. So much of what we face in the world today is constantly changing. This shifts in our lives and that changes. From the world stage of nations and kingdoms to our own little corner of the world, nothing stays the same. The fact that we have a room in our Father’s house gives us the calm assurance of permanence. Jesus’ ascension gives us this confidence.

Jesus began by saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” The idea behind the word “troubled” is water that is churning or stirred up, like a rough surf. Jesus tells the disciples to stop letting their hearts be stirred up. What was causing this unrest in their hearts? Jesus and his disciples were in the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday evening. Just previous to this, Jesus had told them that one of their own would betray him. He had also told them that he would be leaving them soon. The news of the Lord’s departure had filled the hearts of the disciples with fear. As long as Jesus was with them, they were strong. Peter even said that he was willing to die for Jesus. However, the news of the Lord’s departure would leave them in dismay. This news was more than what they thought they could handle.

What is it that is troubling your heart right now? What has you all churned up inside? Many of us look so calm and so serene on the outside, while inside there is a storm that is causing us to fear. It may be a family issue. It may be a situation at work. There are financial difficulties. There are health concerns. Our loving Lord tells us the same thing that he told his disciples. ‘Stop letting your hearts be stirred up. Stop being troubled.’

This is why we build our hopes on Jesus’ ascension. When we got to heaven, we will be in our Father’s house. Generally speaking, there is something nice about being at home. You are gone on a long trip and, even though you had a great vacation, you are glad to be home. This is even more the case, if your vacation was one disaster after another! You pull into your driveway. You open your door. You go to bed in your own bed. It is nice to be home. How much more so when we will get to our Father’s house, where there is true peace and perfection. All of the things on our life’s trip there that were so difficult will all be gone. Those things that are churning up inside of you will be forgotten. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Jesus had to depart from this earth, so that he could prepare your room for you. Your name is right there on the door. It is there waiting for you. This is why Jesus said to his disciples on that Maundy Thursday evening and why he says to you, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” What you face on this earth is only temporary. What waits for you is eternal. More than that, Jesus promised that he would come again. We have not been abandoned on this earth. Our dear Brother will come back and take us to be with him for all eternity. Jesus’ departure brings us comfort for our now and for our eternity. Jesus’ ascension gives us confidence as we face each day.

If a child sees an older sibling or a friend do something, they will be more inclined to follow suit. They might still be a little nervous about doing it, but because they saw someone else do it, they are more willing to try it. Because of what Jesus came to the earth to do, we have the confidence that our sins are forgiven. We know that, through faith in him, the way to heaven is wide open. We, also, know what is waiting for us. It is not some sort of wandering through the mists of the afterlife. There is a place in our Father’s house that is waiting for us. “You go first.” Jesus did. He has ascended into heaven and is waiting for us. Since he has ascended, our ascension is sure. We can say with confidence, “On Christ’s ascension I build the hope of my ascension.” Amen.