Ascension of the Lord (May 5, 2016)
- First reading
- Second reading
Ephesians 1:15-23 | New Living Translation (NLT)
Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.
I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.
So today is just ten days before Pentecost – forty days after Easter. It is the day that is traditionally considered as the day that Jesus ascended back to heaven to prepare a place for us. Look at the Acts 1 narrative:
In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit. During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.
Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”
He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”
Jesus tells his disciples that in just a few short days that the Holy Spirit will come upon them and that they will be witnesses and their witness will be heard literally around the world.
This morning Pam shared a thought about those who had seen the resurrected Jesus. The eleven that were left when with Jesus outside the city. They were commissioned to take the gospel to the nations – baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and Christ promised to be with them always – even to the end of the world – we know that as the Great Commission. We don’t know how long it was between that and the encounter in Acts 1, but again we have Jesus commissioning his disciples. Then Jesus ascended to heaven – to begin his reign. The disciples just stare, but are soon rebuked by these angelic men, “Why are you standing here? Get busy” (My paraphrase) “This Jesus whom you saw ascend to heaven will return the same way – so go – pray – received the Holy Spirit and be my witnesses – be about God the Father’s business.
Paul starts the letter to the Ephesian church in a similar way that he began Colossians. Paul writes about the supreme authority of Christ – that he is above all. Christ is the ultimate authority and he reigns even now. Christ is not only the ruler to come, but he rules now – and He is the head of the church – Christ is the authority for the church. The church is only made full by being full of Christ – we as his followers are only made full by being full of Christ. The way to be full of Christ is to be full with his Holy Spirit – we will be celebrating that in a few days.
So for now we know that Christ is risen – he is reigning and — he is coming again!