Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — Departing then to be Near Now

Ascension Day
St. Luke 24:44-53

 

In the Name X of Jesus.  AMEN!

Beloved in the Lord,

Steadfast Sermons GraphicThe work of our salvation began in the Old Testament.  Moses, the Psalms and the Prophets set before us the Christ who was to come.  And this Christ of God, this one coming into the world, was coming for the world.  His coming for the world required His suffering, dying and rising from the dead.  To suffer, die and rise from the dead necessitated the incarnation.  Jesus came to the world, for the world, and immersed Himself in our human condition.  He, who from eternity was one with the Father and the Spirit, humbled Himself and became obedient.  His obedience began with His conception and His nativity.  Being born in the likeness of men He pitched His tent and dwelt among us as one of us.  Thus, as God, Jesus is one with the Father and the Spirit and because He is flesh and blood, He is one with humanity.  Through the incarnation Jesus has united the divinity with the humanity.  Creator and creature have been joined in one person and that one Person set about to redeem the whole world, even you, even me.

Therefore, wherever Jesus goes, there goes God and there goes humanity, our humanity, your humanity.  There He goes for us, for you.  His going and His working is our redemption. Thus His baptism is for us.  His triumphal entry is for us. His betrayal, arrest and subsequent trials are endured all for us. His crucifixion is for us.  His sleep in the tomb is for us and His Easter morning walk is for us.  Everything Jesus does, everywhere Jesus goes happens for us, for you. He is God in the flesh for us, for all.

And so when Jesus leads His disciples to the Mount of Olives, we go there too.  We go there because Jesus is there.  Wherever Jesus is, He is there for our good and for our salvation. Being there with the disciples we see what they saw and we hear what they heard.  The sight is ours, the blessing as well.  Jesus ascends.  He is parted from them, He is parted from us.  He is received by His Father in glory. His ascension is our ascension.  His reception is our reception. Why?  Because Jesus bears our humanity, He is united to us and us to Him. Where He goes we go.

But the text says He is parted from them.  And if parted from them then also parted from us.  That means He is up there and I am down here.  So how do I get up there where He is?   That question makes sense.  And because that question makes sense to our fallen reason, fallen reason devises all sorts of manners and methods to get from earth to heaven, to get from here to there.

If only we had a ladder that reached from here below to there above!  If only there were steps we could take!  We could climb Jacob’s Ladder!  Or, we could ascend Babel’s tower!  But how many steps are needed? How high must we climb? When will we know we’ve reached the summit?  One question leads to another and the answers usually leave us doubting and thus asking more questions which lead to wrong answers and more doubting.  To help us with our doubt we pray that God would give us certainty.  But there is no certainty when we try to climb the ladder or build the tower.  So we look for Jesus to be our helper.  Maybe we just need a little help.  But how and where does Jesus give us the help we need?  How do we even take the first step?  Some say, taking the first step is asking Jesus to be your helper.  Well, okeedokee! How then do you know that Jesus has agreed to be your helper?  How do you know when He’s helping? How do you know He’s even the one helping you – maybe it’s not Jesus, maybe its . . . Satan. Maybe the ladder you are climbing is actually going the wrong way.  Maybe the tower you’re building, the life your living, the works your doing are actually making things worse.  How do you know otherwise?  Because you can feel it? Nothing feels better than a hard day’s work. Working hard is something to be proud of.  Ooops!   The bible warns, “Pride comes before the fall.” Working up the ladder leads to pride and pride knocks us back down.  Climbing and building aren’t going to get us there.  We need something else.

What we need is what Jesus gives us in our text.  We need His Word.  When Jesus opens the scriptures to the disciples He gives them and us His Word.  Giving us His Word He reveals the depths of our fall into sin and the necessity of His blood, sweat and tears to cover over our sins.  If don’t hear His Word, if our ears are stopped up, we’ll try to climb the ladder or build the tower and we’ll fall and we’ll fail and we’ll end up in hell.  If we are to be saved and get from here to heaven where Jesus is, we must take Him at His Word, believe His Word and hold firm His Word.  Everything Jesus has done for us is tied up in His Word.  For into His Word Jesus has poured Himself; His nativity, baptism, perfect life, innocent suffering death and resurrection. Where the Word of Jesus is being proclaimed there are the gifts of Jesus being given out. Where the Word of Jesus is being heard and the gifts of Jesus are being received there are sinners being forgiven, the afflicted being comforted, the dying given hope, the dead being quickened and promised their own resurrection on the last day.  Everything needed for your salvation is bound up with God’s Word and promises because God’s Word and promises are bound up with Jesus!

So, when Jesus is parted from the disciples in our text He does not leave them without giving His gifts.  In the giving of His gifts Jesus remains with His disciples from now unto eternity, He remains with you and me until He calls us home.  For the gifts His gives to his disciples are gifts which give Himself.   In Water and the Word Jesus has placed His death and resurrection.  In bread and wine He gives His body and His blood.  In the absolution He gives the fruit of His cross – the forgiveness of sins.  These give Jesus and giving Jesus these give eternal life and salvation –  these give all that Jesus has won for the world, all that Jesus has won for you and me, all through His death and resurrection.

And so beloved, though Jesus is parted from His disciples according to what the eye can see, He has not really parted from us at all, but has in fact drawn nearer to our hearts through the preaching, teaching, and giving of His Word and Sacraments.

  • These things we Christians receive, hear, eat and drink in order to be saved.
  • These things we find in His church.
  • These things we have in common with all Christians of all times.
  • These things unite us to the one Christ who is King of kings and Lord of lords.
  • These things unite us to each other through the bond of the Spirit poured into our hearts.
  • These things create faith.
  • These things sustain faith.
  • These things comfort and encourage and preserve and endure.

Thus, we Christians hold these things in the depths of our hearts until the day Jesus comes back just as we saw Him depart.  Through these things Jesus is with us now and will be with us until the very end of the age. How do we know?  We have His Word.  And if we have His Word, hold His Word, believe His Word, we have everything!   We have heaven and we have Jesus.  AMEN!

 

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!


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