Ascension 2021

Ascension
May 13, 2021 A+D
St. Luke 24: 44-53

NO SERMON AUDIO

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

Forty days after His resurrection, Christ ascended into heaven and was seated at God’s right hand. His reign is not yet fully visible. It will not be fully visible until He comes in again in glory. Nonetheless, from the Father’s right hand, to this very day, the risen Christ reigns over all creation as a Man, Victor over death, and we worship Him as Lord.

The Old Testament provides the background for this reality. First and of most importance is Genesis 3. There we learn that the Messiah will be the Seed of Eve, that is, He will be a Man without a human father and He will crush Satan to redeem us.

As to the reign of Christ at the Father’s right hand, Psalm 110 is preeminent. There we hear the Father say to the Son: Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool. Then He swears to the Son and promises that He will not relent, saying to the Son: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Then David jumps in. He says to the Father: The Lord is at Your right hand; He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the nations, He shall fill the places with dead bodies, He shall execute the heads of many countries. He shall drink of the brook by the wayside; Therefore He shall lift up the head.” (Psalm 110, NKJV)

Melchizedek seemed a minor figure in the life of Abraham, but he was both the priest and king of Salem, the site of the future Jerusalem. He gave Abraham bread and wine and blessed him. The Lord that sits at the right hand of the Father is a priest-king in the order of Melchizedek. He also gives blessings with bread and wine. He is exalted to a heavenly throne and the He waits for his rule to be fully established when comes to judge among the nations and destroys God’s enemies.

Isaiah 53 also teaches of His reign and from whence it comes:
It pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:10–12, NKJV)
The death of Christ as atonement for the sins of the world is foretold here, but so also does the Father promise to give the Christ, the Suffering Servant, a place with the great and the spoil of His victories as a reward for His obedience and sacrifice. Thus the Christ will be raised and exalted.

Finally, consider Daniel 7. There the prophet describes what he saw at the end of the world:

I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13–14, NKJV)

Prior to the appearance of the Son of Man, Daniel saw four beasts dominating the earth. They represented the empires of men. Although men dominated the earth for a time, Daniel sees how their rule will be swept away when the Son of Man’s kingdom is eternally established. The Son of Man ascends on a cloud to the “Ancient of Days,” that is, to the Father. He shares His Father’s throne and rule which will never pass away.

This promise was echoed by the angel Gabriel to St. Mary. He told her that Jesus would take the throne of David, but unlike David, He would reign over the house of Jacob forever and of His Kingdom there would be no end.

The New Testament consistently proclaims that Christ’s exaltation by the Father is a reward for His obedient death. This vindication and exaltation happens in two stages. First, Jesus appears to his disciples and others in His body, raised from the dead. His resurrection and bodily visits to them for forty days demonstrates his exaltation and triumph over sin, death, and the devil. Secondly, Jesus moves physically, in His body, from the temporal world to the supernatural realm of God’s power and glory in heaven.

Though His exaltation reveals His full Divinity as a Man, His ascension demonstrates that heaven is open to men for He goes there to possess a heavenly throne as a Man and to be our Advocate. Thus the disciples are not sad at His departing but rejoice. Don’t go looking into the sky, but look to His promises. At the throne of the Father, Christ acts as our high priest, making intercession for us and preparing a place for us, and from there He comes to us in His risen Body and Blood, the Man Christ fully using His Divine attributes.

As a Man, Christ participates in the attributes of the divine nature. Thus He can become physically present, in His risen body, at many places at once. He, born of the Virgin, Seed of Eve, one of us, is the Mediator between God and man. He is given all of the Father’s power and glory even though He is still a Man, and so it is that He rules us by faith and grace. We rightly call Him Lord, King, and God, even as we call Him Brother, Husband, and Friend.

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Based on the article “Jesus’ Session at God’s Right Hand” by Jack Kilcrease in Lexham Survey of Theology, ed. Mark Ward et al. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018).

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