WHY JESUS CHRIST'S ASCENSION IS IMPORTANT TO CHRISTIANS
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
United Methodist - American Baptist
28 MAY 1995
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 Timothy 3:16
As a teacher, and as a pastor, I have found that there are many believing Christians who do not understand the difference between Jesus' resurrection and His Ascension, or the significance of His Ascension.
Jesus' resurrection was from the dead.
Others were also raised from the dead, but they all died again.
Only Jesus died and rose from the dead, and then 40 days later ascended into heaven, never to die again.
And as we recited in The Nicene Creed, He ascended to sit upon His throne at the right hand of the Father.
He sat down in the place of honor.
One thousand years before Jesusí Ascension, King David had a vision of this event, and he composed it into a Psalm. (Psalm 110)
Let's look at these words again, and see if they don't shed some light on the importance of Jesus' Ascension.
1. The Lord says to my Lord:
"Sit at My right hand,
Until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet."
2. The Lord will stretch forth
Thy strong scepter from Zion, saying,
"Rule in the midst of Thine enemies."
Jesus not only ascended into heaven, but He also ascended unto the Kingship, where He rules from heaven until He returns to earth to rule here.
The first time, Jesus came as the Suffering Servant; the second time, He will come as King.
3. Thy people will volunteer freely in the day of Thy power;
In holy array, from the womb of the dawn,
Thy youth are to Thee as the dew.
4. The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind,
"Thou art a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek."
All the other priests lived and died.
Jesus Christ ascended to His eternal priesthood, as well as His kingship.
Thus, He both rules and ministers to His followers.
And in this dual position, He will minister justice for all: to the righteous, a position of rule with Him forever, and to the unrighteous, a place of punishment.
5. The Lord is at Thy right hand;
He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath.
6. He will judge among the nations,
He will fill them with corpses,
He will shatter the chief men over a broad country.
7. He will drink from the brook by the wayside;
Therefore He will lift up His head.
This is the description of Messiah, for whom the Jews are still looking.
And when he comes back to earth a second time, they will repent; for they will realize that it was He who came the first time, too.
Listen to the departing words of Jesus, before His Ascension, as recorded by Matthew (28:18-20).
18. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
19. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
20. teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Jesus is telling His disciples what is about to take place.
He is speaking as both King and Priest.
If we follow His orders, then we are His disciples.
It's that simple.
And we must always remember that His orders are based upon love and compassion, first, and that we will be following the Prince of Peace.
Unless we are the loving, compassionate, peacemaking children of God that Jesus taught us to be, then it is not Jesus we are following.
We have all heard the account of what took place at the last supper, but listen carefully to what John records of that event (John 13:1-11).
Remember, each of the Gospel writers recorded those things which seemed most important to him, and that John's view, unlike the others, was addressed to believers and is written from a heavenly vantage point.
1. Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He should depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.
Note carefully His servant and His teacher qualities being expressed.
2. And during supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him,
3. Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God, and was going back to God,
Now notice the acknowledgement of His pending kingship, "the Father had given all things into His hands."
4. [He] rose from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself about.
5. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.
After just having acknowledged His kingship, and the fact that soon He was going back to His heavenly abode, Jesus still takes the position of a humble servant.
How many people in high positions do you know, who would behave in a similar way?
Yet, if you remember what we just read in Matthew about what He said just prior to His Ascension, isn't He here setting an example of how we are to appear to others in order to lead them to the Lord?
But sometimes we are stubborn, as was Peter, and we don't want to accept that degree of humbleness, because it makes us feel embarrassed.
6. And so He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, "Lord, do You wash my feet?"
7. Jesus answered and said to him, "What I do you do not realize now, but you shall understand hereafter."
8. Peter said to Him, "Never shall You wash my feet!" Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me."
9. Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head."
10. Jesus said to him, "He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you."
11. For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, "Not all of you are clean."
And again at the end we hear the words of the King, the Righteous Judge.
He even washed the feet of Judas. He did not bypass him in His service to others. He would let Judas continue in his hypocrisy until the end.
But there is more.
We have also heard a condition of being part of His kingdom: that if we are to be part of what Jesus offers us in His kingdom, then we must be His servant as well as be able to receive what other of His servants offer to us.
Judas received, but he did not give.
Jesus' Ascension is the proof of His power to fulfill all that He says to us; both to those who follow Him and to those who reject Him.
Listen to how Paul explains this call to servitude and the spreading of the Gospel message to the Colossians, and how by his example he clothes himself, as it were, with Christ. (Colossians 1:24-29)
24. Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ's afflictions.
25. Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God,
26. that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints,
27. to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
This is the power of His Ascension.
28. And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ.
29. And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.
And it will mightily work within each of us who willingly obey His words.
Paul became Jesusí servant when he met Him; Judas continued to reject Him.
Jesus Christ did not really rule while upon this earth, but He does indeed rule from heaven now.
And we may wonder why He has allowed so much evil, pain, and suffering to exist upon the earth, it He is truly ruling from heaven.
It is His heavenly power that is available to be in us now, as he said to Peter, that we would have a part in Him.
The power to end, or at least minimize the pain, suffering, and death in this world rest with the believers, or at least it should.
His Ascension into heaven made this all possible.
Or as Paul says in Colossians 3:1-4,
1. If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
2. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
3. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
4. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
See, it's not only your crazy pastor who tells you to look down upon this earth from a heavenly perspective, is it?
For when we learn to do this, we also will see that we are filled with His glory.
It is the power of His Ascension that will also raise us up with Him to that lofty vantage point.
Make use of it.
1 Timothy 3:16 says,
16. And by common confession great is the mystery of godliness:
He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Beheld by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory.
And what more can we say, than Amen.
Remember who Jesus Christ really is, and the power He has given us to bring our heavenly Father's will to earth as it is in heaven.
We can and should be revealed as the children of God, who are ending the pain, suffering, and death in this evil world, for our fellow humans, for the animals, and for the environment.
Accept and use the Resurrection power you've been given, and help make this a more loving and compassionate world.
Let others see the Prince of Peace in us.
Your Comments are welcome
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