Sermon for the Seventh Sunday of Easter (Ascension)

Text: Ephesians 1:19b-22
This power working in us is the same as the mighty strength which he used when he raised Christ from death and seated him at his right side in the heavenly world. Christ rules there above all heavenly rulers, authorities, powers, and lords; he has a title superior to all titles of authority in this world and in the next. God put all things under Christ's feet and gave him to the church as supreme Lord over all things.

Lord of lords

A husband and wife are getting ready for bed. The wife is standing in front of a full length mirror taking a hard look at herself.
"You know, Love" she says, "I look in the mirror and I see an old woman. My face is all wrinkled, I've got bags under my eyes, my hair has turned grey, and I've got too many chins."
She turns to her husband and says, "Tell me something positive to make me feel better about myself".
He thinks about it for a bit and then says in a soft voice, "Well....Honey......there's nothing wrong with your eyesight".

That wasn’t quite what the wife was expecting. Neither were the disciples expecting to see Jesus start rising from the ground, go upwards until he disappeared through the clouds. There was nothing wrong with their eyesight as they stood there with mouths open looking into the sky.

The question needs to be asked, "Where did Jesus go?" He went up, but up where? Into outer space, to a planet or a star? For 40 days Jesus showed to his followers that he was truly alive with a physical body. He had been killed but now he was alive again. He gave his disciples opportunities to talk with him, touch his wounds, eat with him in order to prove that he wasn’t just a ghost, an apparition or a figment of their imagination. And they need this time to learn from Jesus afresh about the incredible love of God, and how the cross and his resurrection were all part of God’s grand plan. After all the disciples were the ones who were to take this message about the love of God for everyone to every corner of the earth.

But Jesus’ appearances on earth could not go on forever. He was God. He had left his godly nature behind when he was born a baby in Bethlehem and for the past 30 years he walked this earth. Now it was time for him to once again take up authority and power and to rule over all things – this world, in fact, the whole universe.

The apostle Paul tells us the meaning of Jesus ascension when he says, "God raised Christ from death and seated him at his right side in the heavenly world. Christ rules there above all heavenly rulers, authorities, powers, and lords; he has a title superior to all titles of authority in this world and in the next. God put all things under Christ's feet and gave him to the church as supreme Lord over all things" (Ephesians 1:19-22). That’s a pretty good summary of what Jesus is doing right now. There is no power greater than his. There is no one and nothing that can claim to be mightier and have greater authority than Jesus, the Son of God. He is Lord of lords, king of kings.

In the letter to the Philippians Paul says this about the majesty of Jesus Christ, "God gave Christ the highest place and honoured his name above all others. So at the name of Jesus everyone will bow down, those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. And to the glory of God the Father everyone will openly agree, "Jesus Christ is Lord!"  (Phil 2:9-11 CEV).

Probably the earliest creed consisted of 2 Greek words – Kyrios Iesous – Jesus is Lord. The title "Lord" is a symbol of his victory over all the forces of evil. Jesus is our Lord because he has saved us. Jesus is our Lord because we are his and his greatest desire is to welcome us all into eternal life – heaven – when our earthly journey is over.

Jesus is Lord and King. I have emphasized this point a bit longer because it’s easy to be so focussed on Jesus as he walked this earth. We know the gospel stories that describe to us his humanity, we see pictures of him in Bible story books - that we forget that he was God long before he was born in Bethlehem and is God who will rule forever in eternity. Let me say it again - there is no power and authority greater than God's. That fact really needs to sink into our heads because it is just this, that has a dramatic effect on so many aspects of our life.

What does it mean for us here in 2004 in Caboolture that Jesus ascended to heaven?

Firstly, there is nowhere where Jesus is not. We know that wherever we go and whatever we do, Jesus is there with us. We are never beyond the reach of Jesus. While Jesus was here on earth the disciples could be separated from Jesus by a door or wall or a stormy lake. Now there is no barrier that can keep him from us. Now Jesus is always available and present with power to help, strengthen and comfort us when we need it the most.

Jesus did go up, ascend and leave the disciples that day, but he left this earth so that he could be the ever and always present God. He is Lord of all and wherever we go on this earth, under the sea or out in the depths of space, in a hospital bed, in the middle of a war, standing by a grave he is there – and he is there with power. Knowing that Jesus is always close by is a great source of strength for us when we feel that we are alone in our troubles, that no one understands what is going on in our lives. It’s great to have our loving Saviour near by when we feel no one else loves us.

And that leads me to my next point. There is no power and authority that is greater than the power and authority of Jesus. There is no problem he can’t help us with.
He is ready to use his power in our lives, our families, and our work places;
he is ready to use his power when we are overcome with fear, worry, grief, and pain.

Just before Jesus ascended to heaven he said, "I will be with you always, to the end of the age" (Matt 28:20). That means that Jesus not only has the power to be present in our lives as we come to terms with what is happening, but as Lord of lords and King of kings he has the power to do something about it.
When we learn that we have a serious health problem;
when we hear the news that someone close to us has died;
when we worry about money, our children, our job or lack of it;
when we are upset, hurt, guilty, angry or depressed;
when we have to make difficult decisions about the future;
we are reminded that the ascended Jesus is close by and ready to use his power.

The power of Jesus isn’t like any power that we know on this earth.
His power touches our lives.
He died for us, he claims us as his own precious children. As his children our lives are redefined, changed. We give up old selfish ways and let the love of Christ direct the way we treat others.
His victory over sin and death means that his power is stronger than sin and death – it gives forgiveness for even our worst sins – it gives eternal life.
He gives us his body and blood in a piece of bread and a sip of wine.
He gives us faith through the reading and studying of the Bible.

My last point, the ascension of Jesus to heaven has something to say about our prayers. When we pray we are praying to the one who is the "supreme Lord over all things". We know that he has the power and the knowledge to answer our prayers in the ways that are the best for us. He is waiting to use his power on our problems. He is waiting for us to call on his name. The writer to the Hebrews encourages us, "Whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God. There we will be treated with undeserved kindness, and we will find help" (Heb 4.16 CEV).

Jesus promised, "Whatever you ask in my name, he will give it to you". Each day thousands of people throw up their hands in despair over the frustrating situations in their families, their jobs, their personal lives. While this is happening, the Lord of the universe stands by ready to assist, hoping that his children will request his all-powerful help. The ascended Jesus intercedes for us at God’s throne – he knows what it’s like to live through trouble and pain in this world. He can sympathise with us and answer our prayers in the best way possible for our blessing.

One thing is for sure, he doesn’t treat us the way we deserve to be treated because of our sin, but rather he understands our predicament and gives us divine help and strength. The ascension assures us that our future is secure in the hands of the Lord of all.

Jesus doesn’t only minister to us – he ministers to others through us. Through us Jesus brings comfort to the sick and the dying, he gives friendship to the lonely and the stranger, he gives encouragement to those who are experiencing life’s difficulties..
Through us he comes into the hearts of others when we grasp windows of opportunity that arise in our daily dealings with others to share what it means to know Christ and the comfort that comes from knowing that he is near and ready to help in times of need.

The Ascension reminds us that we have a Lord who came and gave his life for us. He rose so that we can be free of fear. He rules heaven and earth assuring us that in the face of any evil force, he is Lord. "There is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8:39).


CEV = Contemporary English Version, © 1991, 1995 American Bible Society

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
23rd May, 2004

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