Friday, May 06, 2016

Ascension Day Homily

Ascension Day Homily


Lynchburg, Virginia

         Jesus ascended to heaven bodily.  He still has that body.  His body did not separate from His Spirit.  The incarnation did not cease at the cross, or the tomb, or the ascension, or at Pentecost.  Jesus is still in Heaven.  Jesus, the God-man.  Jesus, with a man’s body, is seated at the right hand of the Father, ruling in Heaven.  This means that Heaven is a place.  If I could get the address and notify google maps, we could get directions to go there.
         This is important because it makes a mockery of much of our pietistic religion.  We are worshippers in body and spirit.  Our fallen bodies are redeemed and are being made new with the rest of creation.  Though they die, they shall be refashioned after the image of Jesus.  He is the first-fruits and we follow after.  He rose to Heaven and we shall do so with Him.  In fact, the Holy Spirit has drawn us into Heaven with Jesus, even now. We have the spiritual promise, the Holy Spirit, to hold our place until the Resurrection makes Heaven a present reality for us, in body, never to die again.
He was taken up.  But where did He go?  He went up into the clouds to be seated at the right hand of the Father.  This seems a very strange thing to do.  Luke tells us that He ascended after giving the disciples commandments.  They did not quite get it either.  They are left gazing into the sky with puzzled looks on their faces.
Jesus came into Jerusalem heralded as a king. And not just any king. The disciples and even the people thought He was the promised King to sit on David’s royal throne, forever.
Caesar was the authority in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and seemingly to the utter ends of the earth.  But Jesus gave commands to the disciples after His resurrection that it was not Caesar who was the ruler of the world but rather that it was Jesus instead.

Matt.  28:16-20- The Great Commission
18 All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
They were given marching orders to disciple the nations because the nations belong to Jesus. That discipleship began in earnest when the Spirit came at Pentecost.
Jesus rose from the dead and spent 40 days with the disciples. We should think of forty days as wilderness time. The New Church was in the wilderness still but was about to enter the Promised Land because the Son had inherited the nations.
Jesus prepares them by telling them to wait for the Holy Spirit.  His rule will be wherever the Spirit is present.  Wherever the Spirit is present, there is the Church.  And wherever the Church is, His kingdom is established and His rule is made known.  But they still did not understand. They stare into heaven.
This is one reason why Easter is not complete without the Ascension and Pentecost.  Jesus was raised from the dead but His rule must be universal, the Ascension, and governed by Him through His mighty power, Pentecost.  So, these great events must all go together.
We do not enter Christ’s Kingdom to go sit on a cloud, or to stand gazing up into Heaven. We are made alive to take dominion on Earth just as His dominion is absolute in Heaven. We do this in the strength of the Lord and by the power of Jesus with us now, His Holy Spirit.  If we understand this rightly, we see that there is no power in Heaven, on Earth or under the Earth that can withstand the power of God.  The Lord Jesus is enthroned and will rule to the utter east.

6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
         The answer to this question is yes and more. Not just Israel. God’s kingdom, represented by ancient Israel, will now be expanded over every nation. And yes, it’s now, well, in about 10 days, you will really understand.

7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.  8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
         Jesus’s answer is often misunderstood by the modern church.  We are Gnostics and want a heavenly kingdom without a body, without the trouble of created stuff.
We think Jesus said something like, “Oh, you misunderstand the nature of my kingdom.  It is spiritual which means that I do not rule the Earth or on the earth at all.  The rule of the Earth doesn’t matter to me.  My kingdom is only in Heaven.  That is why I am leaving all of you.  I do not want to trifle with this earthly stuff.  Matter is corrupted by sin and so I am going off to Heaven to be spiritual, for we all know that only in Heaven can we really be spiritual, right? Haven’t you read Plato?”
         But we fail to emphasize what Jesus was really saying, that the kingdom that He rules from Heaven starts here on Earth with the power of Pentecost and that it extends from here to the ends of the Earth. The kingdom is a spiritual kingdom but it is not in Heaven; it is on Earth as it is in Heaven.
         They are left staring into heaven in some confusion but they do what He says.  They wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes.  And when He does come, the Church immediately explodes and takes Jerusalem by storm.  Thousands are converted and begin to understand that the kingdom is far larger than anything that they had previously imagined. 

After Acts 15, the disciples begin to realize that there is nowhere where Jesus is not king.  We are the testament that He rules to the uttermost part of the earth.  But His kingdom is not yet complete.  There are many enemies left to conquer.  There is still rebellion in the camp that needs to be cleansed. But Jesus is exalted.  He has taken the sceptre of His rule and will rule well until every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, that He is King of all the Earth both now and forever. Amen.

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