South Sydney Anglican Church

Portraits of True Faith: The Ascencion of Jesus

7 April 2024

Bible Passage: Luke 24:36-53

Jesus’ Ascension applies Salvation Now, as we Await His Return

Intro:  Well morning friends; my name is Matt Johnson and today as we finish our study of Lukes gospel, I want to think a little about Jesus’ ascension into heaven. We regularly speak of Jesus CRUCIFIXION and RESURRECTION. But today, I want to speak about the significance of Jesus ascension to Gods right hand in heaven.

PRAYER:  Well friends, the SIGNIFICANCE of Jesus’ ascension to heaven is that we worship a King who is still truly alive and is ruling over us from Gods right hand in heaven. Jesus’ ascension makes it clear – Jesus did NOT just die on the cross, rise again and then live in hiding somewhere until he died of old age. Versions of this lie sometimes still find expression. Some Jesus deniers say – YES, Jesus appeared to die on the cross. But really, he just passed out, he fainted and later when he lay in the cool tomb he revived and kind of “came to”. So it appeared like Jesus rose from the dead. But really it was just a passing out and a coming back to his senses. Now this is called THE SWOON THEORY and it’s a compelling argument. So let’s imagine that is true for a moment. What happened to Jesus after he supposedly woke up?

In 2003 Dan Brown wrote a best-selling novel called the DA VINCI CODE that was turned into a movie. The book says – that after Jesus emerged from the tomb (from swooning) the first woman he laid eyes upon was Mary Magdalene. They then fell in love, got married, had children and later died together of old age in Greece or France. Now the DaVinci Code weaved this idea into an edge of the seat thriller where the Roman Catholic church was desperately trying to kill off Jesus’ biological descendants – to preserve Christian doctrine. You can’t really say Jesus is God if he is has grandkids running around on earth.

Now of course, all this is NONSENSE. But in 2003, Dan Brown’s book caused such confusion among Christians that I was forced to read it so that I could answer everyone’s questions.

The problem was that Dan Brown – claimed in the introduction that all his claims were based on historically verifiable facts. But later, as various people tried to SUE HIM for 1) false claims and 2) defaming the Catholic church, he admitted that the introduction (that claimed to be based on fact), was also pure fiction. And rightly or wrongly, there is no law saying that you can’t make stuff up in a fiction novel.

But truly, there are no credible stories of Jesus after his death and resurrection – because shortly thereafter Jesus ascended into heaven because he was the Son of God. So today we are thinking about the SIGNIFICANCE OF JESUS’ ASCENSION – that takes place exactly 40 DAYS after his resurrection (and 9 DAYS before the giving of the Holy Spirit).

Point 1:         Jesus Ascension into Heaven completes His Work on Earth

Show:                        Lk.24:50-53 (READ)

Explain:         Well Luke goes on in Acts 1 to tell us Jesus’ ascension takes place 40 days after his resurrection. So for 40 days – Jesus has been appearing to 1) his apostles, 2) his followers and 3) sometimes whole crowds. What’s more, sometimes people touch him and sometimes they eat and drink with him – proving that he is not just a ghost. But after forty days – Jesus leads his followers to Bethany on the Mount of Olives and just two miles from Jerusalem he visibly and physically leaves earth and ascends to heaven.

Now the fact that Jesus remained on earth for FORTY DAYS after his resurrection may be significant. Jesus began his public ministry with FORTY DAYS in the wilderness with Satan saying if you are the Son of God prove it by doing x, y or z. Jesus refuses. But Jesus finishes his public ministry with forty more days – proving he really is the Son of God – by showing people his resurrection body. Jesus proved he was the Son of God by doing things Gods way, not Satan’s’ way.

Now the group present with Jesus at his ascension is possibly more than the 11 apostles. In Luke 24:33 – we read; There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together. This is the last referent to who was present in the last days of Jesus’ life on earth. So we know the 11 apostles are present at Jesus’ ascension, but perhaps a few others are also there.

Then we are told Jesus BLESSED his followers – most probably with the AARONIC BLESSING from Numbers 6. Aarron and the priests were told to bless God’s people saying (Slide 4); “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace.” (Num.6:24-25). Now given that Jesus is about to ascend into heaven and begin his work as our great high priest – it would be most appropriate if Jesus departed with this priestly blessing on his lips.

Jesus’ completed work on earth meant that God’s blessing could now become a reality in our life. THE CURSE of sin was gone. BLESSING and PEACE with God was now possible. So remember that if you are a Christian – this is now Jesus’ prayer and blessing over your life

Then as Jesus blesses his followers – he begins to defy gravity and he ascends into heaven. Talk about A SPIN OUT. Earlier in Luke 9, Jesus asked his followers – “who do you say that I am?” (Lk.9:20). Peter then respondedthe Messiah” without really understanding the significance. But now seeing Jesus’ resurrection body and watching him ascend into heaven – they reach a further conclusion about his identity. Verse 52 – says THEY WORSHIPED HIM. Jesus’ resurrection AND ascension now prove Jesus really is the Son of God (in the same way that God is God). So the disciples start to worship him. This is the first reference in Luke’s gospel to people actually worshiping Jesus. THE ASCENSION is the final event that really proves Jesus is God.

Now SCEPTICS dismiss all the miracles of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension because they begin with the assumption that God doesn’t exist. Of course, they can’t prove God doesn’t exist. In fact, everything in the world points to God’s existence. But because they ASSUME God doesn’t exist – they conclude that miracles can’t happen – so this must be untrue. But if God is real, miracles can happen and Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension are all entirely plausible. If God came into the world of man to complete a specific task, surely he can leave the world of man once that task is complete.

The reason Christianity overtook the Roman Empire and became the largest religion on earth is because God is real. 1) Jesus died on the cross for our sins. 2) He then rose after three days proving he was Gods Son. 3) Then Jesus ascended into heaven and poured out the Holy Spirit on believers. Now Christians then discovered that if they trusted in these events they started to experience a real, living relationship with God.

Apply:            Christianity is NOT simply based on intellectual assent to various miraculous events in Jesus’ life. Christianity is based (and dare I say confirmed) by the living, experiential and wonderful relationship with God that comes from believing God works miracles in Jesus. The Bible says “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Ps.34:8) Christians who really believe in Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension (as the Son of God) begin to experience God really loving them, really forgiving them and taking away their guilt and shame. Life becomes lighter (and less dark). And as they pray and talk to God (in Jesus’ name) they actually experience God giving them peace, hope, joy and answering many of their prayers. A real living relationship with God, did not END when Jesus ascended into heaven, it really BEGAN as Jesus ascended into heaven.

 Have a look at what Luke also writes in the beginning of Acts. (Slide 3). You’ll notice – the disciples are told by the angels that just as Jesus has departed and returned to heaven (presumably on the clouds) so will he come back in the same way to gather his people. So what is Jesus now doing in heaven? Well Jesus is still relating to us every day as our perfect King, Priest and Prophet.

Point 1:         Jesus Ascension begins His Work as your King of Kings

Show:           Ps.110:1-6 (READ)

Explain:         Psalm 110 is a Messianic Psalm spoken prophetically by King David. In 900BC David could see that one day there would be a Jewish King greater than himself – who would sit down at God’s right hand in heaven – and rule on behalf of God. This King would rule over Gods enemies. This King would have all the heavenly host of angels at his disposal. This King would ultimately be the judge of all the earth. And this King would also be a priest in the order of Melchizedek. The name Melech – Zedek – literally means a King of Righteousness. So Jesus’ ascension is taking place to fulfill the words of Psalm 110. And Jesus is now relating to us as a good and perfect King – who is working for your ultimate good.

As Jesus ascends into heaven, he is ascending to take up this seat at Gods right hand – as King of Kings. Really, Jesus is returning to God’s throne – where God sits as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But now something is uniquely different about this throne. Something that is almost beyond our comprehension. As Jesus retakes the throne – he does so – as the God-man. Jesus DOESN’T LEAVE his HUMANITY behind on earth and just ascend to heaven spiritually. Jesus actually takes his HUMANITY with him to heaven – and sits down on Gods throne. This means Jesus is ruling over creation – A) not just in the best interests of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but B) also in the best interests of us – his people…

Illustrate:      Let me explain. I am the head of the Johnson home and until fairly recently I made decisions that were in the best interests of Matthew, Naomi, Ethan, Sienna, Liam, Rachel and Joshua. All my energy and ability was bent to doing what is best for these seven people. But then my eldest son got married and united himself to Mikaela in marriage. So something new entered all my decision making. Because I love my son Ethan – I now make decisions in the best interests of Matthew, Naomi, Ethan, Sienna, Liam, Rachel, Joshua (and Mikaela).

Apply:            Incredibly something similar has happened in heaven. Through God’s Son taking our humanity into heaven and sitting on Gods throne – all decision making (at the highest level) now takes into account what is best for us too. Jesus is not just ruling for the good of God, he is ruling for the good of his people. Hebrews, chapter 2, puts it this way (Slide 7; Heb.2:11). The point is – Jesus is now RULING 1) over all creation, 2) the angels of heaven and even the rulers of this world – with his family in mind. Jesus is not absent. Jesus is very present in your life as King. Jesus is orchestrating events in your life, opening and closing doors, even stretching your faith at times, so that you are 1) blessed, 2) grow in his likeness; 3 serve in his kingdom and 4) are found ready at his return. Jesus is relating to you as King and you should be relating to him as a King who is very interested in you personally.

Point 2:         Jesus Ascension also begins His work as your Great High Priest

Show:           Ps.110:4 & Heb.2:17 (READ)

Explain:         The second thing Jesus is doing in heaven is working as your high priest. The King on the throne in Psalm 110 is also A PRIEST forever in the order of Melchizedek. The book of Hebrews has much to say about Jesus work as our great high priest AND it is all modelled on the Day of Atonement (or Yom Kippur) in the Old Testament. Every year around September or October the high priest would call the Jewish people to confess their sins, repent and put their trust in God’s mercy. This would happen from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur – 10 days. Then on the 10th day – the high priest would offer a sacrifice for everyone’s sin. (Instead of people dying for their own sins, an animal would die in their place (pointing forward to what Jesus would ultimately do for us). Then, after offering sacrifices – the high priest would enter into the holy of holies in the temple – sprinkle the ark of the covenant with blood and then ask God to show mercy to the people. Now if the high priest DIED in the holy of holies (and did not come out) – it was bad news. It meant God did not accept the sacrifice. But if the high priest SURVIVED and came out of the holy of holies alive – it was good news. It meant God had accepted the sacrifice, forgiveness was granted and God and man could be reconciled.

Now this is what Jesus kind of does for us on earth. Jesus came to earth as a high priest. He called us to confess our sins and put our faith in Gods mercy. Then Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins. Jesus died in your place. (Now Jesus did this because he loved you and Jesus did this so that you can be forgiven). Now if Jesus offered this sacrifice to God AND then stayed in the grave (and didn’t emerge) then it’s kind of bad news – the sacrifice is not accepted. But Jesus’ resurrection back from the dead (as a kind of return from the holy of holies) was good news. It meant God accepted the sacrifice, our sins are forgiven and God and man can be reconciled. This was Jesus fulfilling the role of a high priest for us on earth.

But what Jesus symbolically did for us on earth – becomes a reality in heaven. After dying for our sins, rising from the grave and ascending into heaven – Jesus really entered THE HOLY OF HOLIES. As Jesus entered heaven – he presented to God the Father – his sacrifice on the cross for our sins AND asked God the Father to show us mercy. Then THE SIGN that God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice was that Jesus came back to us by His Holy Spirit. On the 10th day – after Jesus ascended into heaven – THE HOLY SPIRIT started taking up residence in people who trusted in Jesus and asked for forgiveness. The coming of the Holy Spirit was the sign that Jesus’ sacrifice was accepted and God and man could now be reconciled. Gods Spirit, literally taking up residence in believers.

Apply:            This is Jesus’ heavenly work as High Priest. So even though Jesus is now heaven – we still relate to him as our high priest and we experience him in our life as a priest. (I am NOT your priest. I am your pastor. Jesus is your priest AND only he can really forgive your sins and take away your guilt. So every time you sin – you should be turning to Jesus again, and again and again – confessing your sin AND asking for forgiveness. And you should do this regularly, honestly and never give up because sin remains a problem for Christians. Sin still interferes in our relationship with God and it brings guilt, shame and condemnation. But the good news is Jesus always lives to intercede for you and he will never deny you the forgiveness you need.

Now with some sins you may need to ask Jesus for forgiveness many times. But no matter how many times you need to ask – Jesus always lives to intercede for you. So when sin is interfering in your relationship with God and the guilt and shame and darkness is closing in (and lets face it – we’ve all been there)– run to Jesus as priest again and again – so that times of refreshing and cleansing may come from the Lord. As your relate to Jesus as high priest (relying on his sacrifice and seeking his forgiveness) times of refreshing and cleansing and peace really do come from Jesus – in a life giving way.

Point 3:         Jesus Ascension begins his Prophetic Work of Scripture.

Show:           2Cor.3:3-4 (READ)

Explain:         Well in heaven – Jesus is not just working as our king and priest. He is also working as OUR PROPHET. In the Old Testament Moses said – God will send another prophet to you like me – you must listen to him (Deut.18:15). Now of course, Jesus was that prophet while he was on earth. Jesus spoke the very words of God – so that people may know the path of eternal life. But do you realise that not a word of Jesus was written down in Scripture until he rose and ascended into heaven.

When Jesus ascended into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God he then sent the Holy Spirit back to earth not only to be present with us – but also to speak to us. First, Jesus spoke to the apostles by the Holy Spirit reminding them of all his words – so that they could be written down accurately in the New Testament. So Jesus now speaks to us prophetically through Scripture.  But this prophetic work of Jesus was not really finished with the completion of the Bible. Jesus is still doing a prophetic work in Christians – by writing his law on our hearts and reminding us by His Spirit of all that is now written in Scripture.

As Christians we have all experienced Jesus’ prophetic work in our life. We sometimes sit in a sermon in church and it feels like Jesus is speaking directly to us. Or we’re about to do something really dumb and all of a sudden we hear Jesus saying – what on earth are you doing? What the… Jesus is still alive and He is still speaking to His people prophetically through His Word and in the Spirit. But Jesus word to us in Bible reading, sermons and sometimes reminding us of Scripture is not just a convicting word when we sin. Sometimes Jesus word to us is an inspiring word – to do something out of our comfort zone. Come on you can be more generous than that. We sense it as Jesus speaking to us – because he is alive. Or we walk past a person in need and we literally hear a voice inside us saying – “Stop. Go back and be the good Samaritan.

The fact is prophetic Jesus is not gone. Jesus is still speaking to us from heaven through Scripture and by His Spirit in a way that is at times tangible. We shouldn’t deny this. And as we make Jesus our prophet – letting him speak into our lives in ALL MATTERS A) from money to sexuality, B) career path to church attendance – we actually experience him taking care of us and leading us in paths of righteousness.

Apply:   Yes Jesus may have physically gone to heaven. But Jesus is not gone. Jesus is still the same Jesus – really and truly present with us – as King, Priest and Prophet by the Holy Spirit.  Yes we may not see him anymore with our physical eyes. But by faith we still see Jesus seated at Gods right hand in heaven serving as our perfect King, perfect priest and perfect prophet who is now working all things for our good. And as we fix our eyes on this heavenly Jesus – the author and perfecter of our faith – (the true King, Priest and Prophet) – we actually come to know that King, Priest and Prophet personally in our life. We come to know Jesus – not just as a historical figure who was a king, was a priest and was a prophet. We come to know him as our King, our Priest and Prophet who is immeasurably good and who we trust in all things. Taste and see that the Lord Jesus is good.

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