May 24, 2020 [Ascension]  Luke 24:44-53b  J.D.Roekle

 

44He said to them, “These are my words, which I spoke to 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.”

45Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. 46He said to them, “This is what is written and so it must be: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49Look, I am sending you what my Father promised. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

50He led them out as far as the vicinity of Bethany. He lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51And while he was blessing them, he parted from them and was taken up into heaven. 52So they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53They were continually in the temple courts, praising and blessing God. Amen.

 

Where Is Jesus Now?

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

          A nasty virus seems to rule these days.  It seems to dictate our lives in so many ways. It has dictated how we have worshipped over the last two months.  It scares people to such a degree that many have been afraid to walk out their doors.  It has contributed to over 30 million Americans losing their jobs.  It has led to more and more people are feeling isolated and alone.  Are we tempted to ask: where is Jesus in all this?  I need him now!  Where is he? 

          That’s what makes the festival of the Ascension of our Lord so timely.  The Ascension reminds us of exactly where Jesus is.  It tells us where we can find him.   It communicates to us what Jesus is doing.  Jesus hasn’t left us like a man who walks out on his wife and children.  No, far from it.  Jesus is as active now and involved in people’s lives as when he walked the earth.  To see this, let’s look more closely at Jesus’ interaction with his disciples leading up to Ascension and also at his Ascension. 

 

          [Jesus] said to them, “These are my words, which I spoke to 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.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” 

          As confusing as our times are today, they were even more confusing for the disciples.  Jesus the Messiah had come!  He lived with them and taught them and did miracles.  Everything was good, so it seemed.  But then they weren’t so good when Jesus faced growing opposition.  Then he was captured by the authorities.  Sentenced to dead. And executed on a cross.  Their hopes were suddenly dashed.

          But wait.  Now Jesus was suddenly alive again.  What did it all mean?  Jesus patiently took the time to explain things to them.  He reminded them of what he had told them during those three years.  He reminded them that the Bible had spoken about all these things, and that he was to do exactly what the Bible had predicted he would do.  And then Jesus helped them by opening up their minds in order to understand what the Bible had said about Jesus. 

          Where is Jesus?  Don’t look to far.  Don’t think that you have to go searching for him.  He comes to you.  He comes to you in the Bible.  Just as the disciples could find him on the pages of the Old Testament, you and I can find him in there too.  We have the bonus also of finding him in the New Testament.  

          Just think about how generous Jesus is in making himself know through the Bible.  Consider how accessible the Bible is.  Maybe you have been give a Bible as a gift, or maybe you have bought one.  Even if you don’t have one, you should know that it is rather easy to buy a Bible.  Even in these times, you can simply order one online and have it delivered to your home.  Even you own a computer, tablet, or phone, there are free Bible translations you can download. 

                    Where is Jesus now?  He is as accessible as ever on the pages of the Bible.  Spend time with him daily!  But some might say, I have a Bible, but I don’t always understand it.  Jesus replies to us that not only does he speak through his Word, but he also speaks through other people; through believers.  

“He said to them, “This is what is written and so it must be: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49Look, I am sending you what my Father promised. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”” 

Do you see what Jesus is doing here?  He is not only reminding his disciples of the what of his work.  He is giving them the why of his work.  Yes, we know that Jesus suffered, died, and rose.  But why? Why did he do it? The answer is in the phrase “repentance and forgiveness of sins.”  He came to make sure we knew that God is serious when he tells us that we are to keep his commandments perfectly.  And that if we stray from them even once, we will find ourselves outside of God’s kingdom looking in.  He makes sure that we know that it is impossible to keep his will perfectly.  But Jesus also came to win forgiveness of our sins for us.  Because he was willing to sacrifice himself in our place, we are now forgiven. 

This is the message of the church.  To communicate Christ by repentance and forgiveness.  Law and Gospel.  It is a message that never gets old.  It is a message that we need to hear regularly.  It is a message that we repeat each time we meet.  We hear it as we speak the Confession and Absolution.  There are countless hymns that proclaim it.  It is in our liturgy songs.  In our prayers.  In the Scripture lessons and in our sermons. 

Where is Jesus now?  He is still speaking through the church!  Satan himself cannot stop Christ from speaking through those who believe.  Satan has tried.  Since the time of the disciples, he has tried to silence the church through persecution.  And even now through the coronavirus, Satan attempts to silence the church, but the church has been more active than ever through the use of technology.  You can hear Jesus speaking through the church almost any time you want through so many different sources.  Through websites.  Through live streams or recorded services.  Through email devotions.  Through online Bible studies.  Jesus is speaking through the church louder than ever today! 

          That’s great, you might say.  But it still seems as if evil rules the day.  It still seems as if there is so much more bad in this world than good.  It seems as if Satan has the upper hand in so many ways.  For even more reassurance of Jesus’ powerful presence in our world and in our lives, let’s consider Jesus’ Ascension itself. He led them out as far as the vicinity of Bethany. He lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51And while he was blessing them, he parted from them and was taken up into heaven. 52So they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53They were continually in the temple courts, praising and blessing God. Amen.” 

          Jesus parted from them and was taken up into heaven.  The lesson from the book of Acts tells us that a cloud took him out of their sight.  Jesus simply disappeared from their sight.  The lesson from Ephesians tells us that Jesus was seated at God’s “right hand in the heavenly places.” 

          This isn’t a place where Jesus is idle.  It is actually a place of activity.  Activity that is beneficial to you and me.  And there is so much Jesus can do from this position, because it is the highest position there is.  It is “far above all rule, authority, power, and dominion, and above every name that is given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22God also placed all things under his feet and made him head over everything for the church. 23The church is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”

          Jesus is interceding for you and me.  Jesus is preparing a place for you and me.  Jesus has ultimate power.  Jesus rules! 

 

          Where is Jesus now?  He can be found in his Word.  He can also be found speaking through his church.  And he can be found ruling over his world with his ultimate power.  One day we will see him face to face.  In the meantime, we can count on the ascended Lord, no matter what we are going through.  Amen.