Let us pray: Dear Savior, how comforting to know that You are waiting for us in heaven right now! How comforting to know that right now You are watching over our lives–guiding and protecting us! How comforting to know that You still dwell with us—coming with forgiveness and love through Your Word and Sacraments. How comforting to know that You are listening to our every prayer—including this one—and answering the groans of our hearts better than we can imagine! Lord, continue to give us Your comfort until glory comes to us! Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR RISEN AND ASCENDED LORD!
TEXT: Luke 24: 50-53: “When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.”
Fellow Redeemed Sinners Made Whole By Our Ascended Lord Christ!
Last Sunday after service one of our members remarked that if the pastor uses only one hand when he gives the final blessing, they try to sit on that side of the church. But, if he uses both hands in blessing, then they don’t worry which side to sit on. Well, that got me thinking—about:
ASCENSION: THE HANDS OF BLESSING
Thoughout the Bible hands play a large visual role when it comes to blessings. In Exodus we know that in one battle, “as long Moses held up his hands” the children of Israel prevailed, but the moment we dropped them in weakness the battle went against them. So, Aaron and Hur held up his hands until victory was achieved. In the Psalms we have many references to hands, as well. God’s people are told to “clap their hands” in praise. They are also told to “lift up their hands” in prayer. In Isaiah, God says of His hands: “All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people.” In Lamentations, Jeremiah writes: “Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven.”
Likewise, in the New Testament, hands also play an important role. Christ healed with His hands. His hands were pierced with nails on the cross. He showed Thomas his hands to quell his doubts. And He also used His hands to bless His children—as our text mentions. Later on the laying on of hands was used by the disciples as part of pastoral ordination—announcing God’s blessing upon the person involved. So, why hands? What does it all mean?
When someone claps his our her hands, it is an attention-getter, isn’t it? Usually it means: “I’m happy for you.” But it can also mean: “Listen up!” How about when someone holds out their hands to you? That can mean: “I need help.” Or, “I care for you and want to give you assistance.” In ancient times holding out an open hand showed you weren’t carrying any weapon—which still holds true today. And that is what the open hands of blessing really mean—God isn’t holding anything against us—for Jesus took all His anger away on the cross. Instead, He now wishes to bless us and give to us comfort and joy.
We know from the Bible that 40 days after His resurrection, Jesus visibly ascended into heaven in front of the assembled disciples. The date was May 18th, 30 A.D. according to many Biblical scholars. He had used those 40 days to teach them about the salvation of their souls and prepared them to go and spread that life-saving message. Now He would go and “prepare a place for them, and us, in glory.” So, as He visibly leaves them, “he lifted up his hands and blessed them.”
Christ ascended into heaven. He went to rule all creation at the “right hand of God” as the Creed says. But just where is the right hand of God? Is it some little space in the afterlife? No! God the Father fills all things. He is everywhere. So, His right hand is everywhere, too. And as God the Father’s right hand Man, Jesus exercises divine power everywhere over everything for our benefit. After all, that’s why He came—to save souls and to continually lift us heavenward. So, this extending of His hands, coupled with a blessing, is a reminder that we’re never alone. Christ is always with us with His grace and mercy. He’s always doling out good things to His faith-filled children. He leaves visible earth with open hands extended towards us. That is, He leaves us with the reminder that “nothing in all creation shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”
That message of benediction, of blessing, is ongoing, alive, well, and active even today. The disciples knew it, too. That’s why when they went back to Jerusalem to await the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, they didn’t feel sorry for themselves, alone, or forgotten. Instead we’re told: “They worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” Joy at Christ’s departure? Yes! All because He left them with the hands of blessing outstretched to them!
My mother always told me when I was a child that: “The church service is not over until the pastor gives the benediction.” We have members today who have been likewise taught not to leave until that occurs. That’s good! Because having God reach out His hand to touch you in love is always worth the wait! My friends, don’t ever forget that! Ascension is really about the hands of blessing. The disciples didn’t want to leave that mountaintop without that blessing and neither should you! For without Christ’s blessed hands reaching out to protect you, you’re in mortal danger. But, with them wrapped around you—remember He’s everywhere—you truly can do all things through Him who gives you His strength! Amen