in Sermons

17. May 2012
Ascension
Psalm 110:1-4;  Luke 24:44-53

Solomon asked this question: Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name? Surely you know! (Proverbs 30:4).

No question is more important. The answer to this question is the essential Christian confession. Just as it was asked of the disciples, But who do you say that I am?, so it is asked of every Christian. Your entire faith hangs on your answer. Do you say He is a prophet? Do you say He is John the Baptist? Or do you answer with Peter, You are the Messiah of God (Luke 9:20)?

To confess Jesus as the Christ or Messiah is to confess His office as anointed one and King of Kings. If He is not divinely appointed to the office of Messiah then his sacrifice is in vain. If He is simply called Christ but does not fulfill the duties of his calling, then Jesus was merely a noble figure and a righteous dude.

Who is Jesus? Everything hangs on this question. If He is savior, then you are saved. If He is king, then you have a kingdom. If He is Lord, then He has conquered our foes and reigns victorious. To have an anointed king is one thing. Many heathen and hypocrite throughout Scripture and time call Jesus Lord but have a radically different notion of what this means. Maybe a Lord prophet? Or Lord king like David?

You recall the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, who came together and led Him into their council to try Him on Good Friday. They asked Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, tell us.” But He said to them,  “If I tell you, you will by no means believe. And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go. Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.” Then they all said, “Are You then the Son of God?” So He said to them, “You rightly say that I am.” And they said, “What further testimony do we need? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth” (Luke 20:66-71). From then on they sought to kill him.

Simply knowing He is the Son of God, or the Lord, is not enough. Okay, Lord, true, and king, also true. But how does this king go about kinging? This is all important. For Jesus rules but in a particular way and not the way the elders of the people expected or even wanted.

Psalm 110 begins this way: The LORD says to my Lord; “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” For David, the answer to the question, who do you say that I am? is: My Lord and my God. And how does David say the Lord reigns? Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool. In other words, Jesus, the one sent by the Father, will crush his enemies with His heel. The Son of God is sent to reign in righteousness and to anoint with oil of gladness. How? Recall the promise to Eve. A crushing blow by the heel was promised to her offspring. A boot smash to the head of the evil dragon, who is called Satan and the Devil. Our king kings by crushing Satan under our feet. His reign is over, his warfare ended.

Yes, he torments us day and night, seeking some to devour, some Christian fortress to overthrow. Yet, he can harm us none, the victory has been won, the kingdom ours remaineth. And along with the dragon, all his evil schemes and devices are destroyed. Sin is forgiven. Death has no more sting. The gates of hell are barred and heaven is opened.

Remember that Jesus prays the Psalms. They are his hymnal, prayerbook, devotional, and even his catechism. They are on His lips day and night. They are His Word. They guide Him on the way. They speak clearly of the Holy Trinity, of the Sacraments, and of the Church. That is, they speak of Jesus. Every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God is Jesus, the Word made flesh.

Thus, when you hear the psalms, you not only hear David singing with lute and lyre, you hear Jesus praying in Synagogue, temple, and in Gethsemene. When Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, its because He was learning of Himself by His own Word in the Psalms.

Even more so, when you pray the Psalms, you hear Jesus himself. That is, when you hear the Psalms you hear the promise and fulfillment of Jesus. He is David’s Lord who sits at the right of God. He is the one who makes our enemies our footstool. This is the kind of King you have, One sent by the eternal God to crush your enemies under His foot. He is the one, in whom everything written […] in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms [is] fulfilled (Luke 24:44).

How does the anointed Lord do this great work for you? He places your and His enemies under His feet. The full weight of the Lord of Glory hanging upon the old rugged cross bore down upon the slithering snake and crushed him. Yes, the dragon thought he had won, just as it was written that the Christ should suffer. But so also it is written and on the third day rise from the dead. Satan’s seeming victory was his defeat, for death could not hold our Lord. By His death He destroyed death and by His rising He brought life and immortality to light.

This festival of Ascension is more than confessing Jesus as Lord. It is more than simply stating He has destroyed your enemies. Or even that He has obeyed the Father’s will. It speaks of the joyous ascension of Jesus to sit at the right hand of the Father. Yes, dear Christians, this is the great blessing and a gift of this holy day. Our Lord Jesus Christ’s ascension is a source of great blessing. By His ascension to the right hand of the Father, he showers us upon us every fruit of the cross and every good gift from the Father. While heaven received Him (Acts 3:21), all who dwell in Him, whether in heaven or on earth are joined in His reign.

From this right hand, the gift of the Father, that is, the Spirit proceeds from both He and the Son, to call, gather, and enlighten the whole Christian church on earth. From this right hand of power, our Lord Himself blesses us with all His blessings of Word and Sacrament. Repentance and forgiveness of sins [are] proclaimed in His name to all nations (Luke 24:47).

From the right hand of power, Christ himself preaches to us. He calls us to drown the old Adam of sin and death in our Baptism. He calls us to put to death the works of unrighteousness in those precious waters. He calls us to turn from our old ways and to return to Him. This dying to self and rising to Christ happens each day in baptismal remembrance and each week in the proclamation of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit […] There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him (1 Peter 3:18-22).

From the right hand of the Father and by His resurrection Jesus Christ has been given all authority in heaven on earth. Thereby He grants us this saving baptism, the answer of a good conscience before God. So also from the same seat of power, He institutes and gives us His own body and blood to eat and drink. From the eternal throne, He serves as more than King but as our great high priest.

We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man (Hebrews 8:1b-2). All the sacrifices of old, the blood of bulls and goats, daily offered, could never take away sins. But this Man [Jesus], after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:12-13).

For Christ is the anointed king, the dutiful priest, and also the eternal sacrifice. He is the eternal sacrifice that is given to you to eat and drink. By this holy food you are in holy communion with the Son of God, David’s Lord, who sits at the right hand of the Father. You dwell in heaven, feasting with prophets and saints, angels and archangels. For now your life is hidden with Christ in God but when Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory (Colossians 3:3-4).

Do you now know what a blessing it is for Christ to be seated at the right hand of the Father? There He rules the heavens and the earth as Lord. There He serves as the great high priest, making intercession for the people. There is blesses you with the Word of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He graciously pours out, by water and Word, a saving flood, to drown your old man and sin, and make you clean in His own blood. This blood, too, is poured out and body given into your mouths for forgiveness of sins, the strengthening of faith, the proclamation of the Lord’s death until He comes.

The blessing of the Ascension is made known in the life of the church. We see this blessing in your faith in the Lord Jesus. We see the love of the saints. We see young and old alike growing in wisdom and knowledge of Jesus. The eyes of the heart are enlightened with understanding of the Scriptures. You know the hope of your calling and have and continue to received every richness of Jesus’s inheritance. All this comes because Christ himself was raised from the dead and seated by the Father at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.  And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:20b-23).

All the blessings of the Ascension will reach their fulfillment on the last day, when He will come again in the cloud. Then, Christ, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep, will call out to those who have died and they too will rise like Him. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death (1 Corinthians 15:24). Thus, our Lord reigns as Lord and King, keeping all enemies under His feet, until the last day, when that finally even death is destroyed forever. But we know and believe that death has already been destroyed in Jesus’ own sacrifice. We rejoice now in blessed hope for when our Lord who reigns will bring us to Him eternally.

In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church
Dyer, Indiana