Sermon notes 05-16-21 The Ascent of Truth – Pastor David King
Luke 24:44-53 – Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God. (ESV)
Acts 1:1-11 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (ESV)
- Today is the day in the church when we commemorate the Ascension of our Lord. We always do so on the Sunday after the actual Day of the Ascension which always falls on a Thursday. I’m pretty sure most of us didn’t notice that Ascension Day came and went last Thursday. You might even say, “I’ve never even heard of Ascension Day. Why is it important to commemorate that, why was it last Thursday anyway, and what does it mean for us today?” So, I will try to answer those questions, and I especially want to focus on what our Lord’s Ascension means for us today.
- Many of us are at least somewhat familiar with the Apostles’ Creed, which we could say is a summary of the most essential things Christians believe. One of the essential claims we make about Jesus when we recite the Apostles’ Creed is that “He ascended into heaven.”
- The claim that Jesus ascended into heaven comes directly from the two biblical accounts of our Lord’s Ascension that Hunt (Kim) just read for us. Both accounts of the Ascension were documented by Luke, who of course wrote the Gospel of Luke, and also the Book of Acts. A shorter description of the Ascension of the Lord appears at the very end of Luke’s Gospel; a more detailed version appears at the very beginning of the book of Acts.
- The Acts passage tells us why Ascension Day was last Thursday.
- Acts 1:3 (Jesus) presented himself alive to (the disciples) after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
- So, after his resurrection Jesus was on the earth for forty days, teaching his followers about the kingdom of God. We believe Jesus was lifted up into heaven on the fortieth day. If we count Easter Sunday as day one, which is how Luke would have counted it, day forty would have been last Thursday.
- But what does any of this mean for us today? Let’s start with what the Apostles’ Creed claims about Jesus immediately after affirming his Ascension. It says, he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. We might ask, what is he doing up there at God’s right hand? One thing we believe Jesus is doing is interceding with God the Father on our behalf. Romans 8:34 – Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Friends, that means Jesus is on the throne beside the Father, praying, intervening and appealing to God the Father for our sake.
- The Bible says also that Jesus is up there advocating for us. 1 John 2:1: But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. Jesus is our advocate, taking up our cause in the presence of God the Father. Because he is righteous, Jesus is able to advocate for us sinners; in order that our sins do not bring God’s judgment on us.
- So, we believe that Jesus is up there at God’s right hand, interceding for us, and advocating for us. We believe he is also preparing a place for us. In chapter 14 of John’s Gospel, Jesus told his followers that he was going to prepare a place for them, and that he would come again for them so that where he was, they would be also.
- And there is one more thing we believe the ascended Jesus is doing for us. He is blessing us. Listen again to Luke 24:50: Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.
- Notice that Jesus parted from the disciples while he blessed them. In other words, Jesus did not issue a final blessing, then say Amen and end the blessing before he ascended. Christ was still in the act of blessing the disciples as he ascended. The sense is that the process of blessing was continuing as Jesus left. He was still blessing as he parted from them, which suggests that the blessing did not stop. Jesus was in the act of blessing us when he ascended, and we believe he has never stopped blessing us.
- So, I’ve named some things our ascended Lord is doing for us: preparing a place, interceding, advocating for us, blessing us … but he gave us something to do as well. In both accounts of the Ascension, Jesus gives his followers a mission: to be his witnesses. In the Luke passage Jesus says, You are witnesses. In the Acts account he says, You will be my witnesses.
- Yet, none of us were there to personally see the Ascension, so how can we be witnesses? I would answer that by saying we are called to bear witness to what we know to be true. We don’t have to be eyewitnesses to something to know that it is true, right? We believe in the Ascension of our Lord not because we were there to see it, but because we believe the Bible is true.
- Every claim we make about the Ascension of our Lord comes directly from what the Bible says about it. In fact, every claim we know to be true about our Lord, period, comes directly and exclusively from what the Bible says. Did you ever think about that? Everything we know to be true about God and Jesus and salvation and what it means to be a Christian and what it means to be the church comes directly and exclusively from what the Bible says about those things.
- Now it is of course true that there have been countless books written about God and Jesus and salvation and what it means to be a Christian and what it means to be the church. But those books are credible only insofar as they align with the Bible. The Bible is the foundation, the benchmark, the standard by which we measure truth and know the truth.
- Apart from the Bible, truth can be a very hard thing to come by, especially these days. God knew and God knows how desperately we would need and do need a reliable and unfailing source of truth and guidance for our lives. The Bible is God’s revealed word of truth to us. What an amazing, priceless gift God has given to us in the Holy Scriptures! There is nothing more important or more necessary on our journey as Christians than seeking the truth and discerning the truth and applying the truth that is revealed in God’s word to us. That is why Christians hold the Bible, God’s word of truth, in the highest regard.
- Jesus calls his followers to be his witnesses, to bear witness to the truth, and that means to bear witness to him. He said of himself in John 14, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” When we bear witness to the truth, we bear witness to Jesus, who is the truth. As followers of Jesus Christ, it is our privilege and our joy and our blessing to participate in his purposes as we respond to the call to be his witnesses wherever we are, and wherever we are sent, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Thanks be to God, who has given his holy word, written under the inspiration of his Holy Spirit, to be a reliable and unfailing source of truth and guidance for our lives. Thanks be to God, who empowers us with the same Holy Spirit to be effective witnesses to the truth, wherever we are. And thanks be to God, who exalted our risen Lord, the truth himself, to the Father’s right hand where he is even now interceding for us, advocating for us, preparing a place for us, and will never stop blessing us.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.