Let us pray: Dear Savior, tonight we join with saints and angels in celebrating Your ascension into glory! What a privilege it was for the disciples to view the original Ascension and what a joy for us to remember that heady day and join in tonight. May we always honor You for the same reason the heavenly hosts honored You on the first Ascension—Your victory over all our enemies and the joyous party that resulted. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM OUR ASCENDED LORD JESUS!
TEXT: Acts 1: 1-11
When in the physical presence of Christ, when the disciples focused upon Jesus, they never feared. They feared angels, hence those calming words repeated at various times by them of: “Fear not!” Or, “Don’t be afraid.” But when in Jesus’ direct presence when He was the center of their attention, they never really exhibited fear. O, I know you’re thinking about the storm on the lake when Christ was asleep in the boat, or when the soldiers captured Him in Gethsemane they then showed fear. But that was because their faith was focused away from Jesus—Who calmed those waves and willingly went off to suffer on the cross and then to rise in victory on Easter over fear. Even after the resurrection we find them: “With the upper room door locked for fear of the Jews.” Yet the moment Jesus appeared among them, the moment He uttered: “Don’t be afraid”, the moment His loving presence revealed itself to them—fear went away. How could it not? This is why the writer of Hebrews later tells us to: “Fix our gaze on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Yes, Christ’s calming love banishes fear—always. In our lesson we see that happening once again.
St. Luke, the physician, the scientific man, wrote the Acts of the Apostles. He was an eyewitness to the events that he describes here. Over a period of 40 days after Easter, Christ had appeared among many of His followers. Luke says: “He gave many convincing proofs” that He was alive. Jesus knew the weakness of our mortal flesh. He knew how fear could quickly displace faith in us. He also knew that as God’s Almighty Son, He could and would calm all human fears—including death. For the Lord is risen! He is risen, indeed!
So now, on the 40th day He leads them out of Jerusalem to the backside of the Mt. of Olives and after blessing them, leaves them a final time, ascending into heaven! And just before doing so, promised them the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter from on high. He would pick up Christ’s work of calming human fear in Jesus’ absence.
Why did Jesus have to leave? Basically there are three reasons: 1. He went to prepare a place there for every believer. 2. He went to hear the prayers of all from that lofty perch so as to better answer them. 3. He went to literally serve as the Father’s “right hand” Man to protect and defend the Church from all evil, which births fear. And yet, He still didn’t leave us adrift from His gracious presence. For earlier He had promised them: “And lo, I am with you always to the very end of the age.” We judge reality according to our senses. But Jesus is above and beyond our senses when fully arrayed in glorious majesty. And it is now, so arrayed, that He goes home to do exactly that. He leaves visibly in total peace. He leaves with all things literally “under His feet” as He ascends, until “a cloud hid him from their sight.”
In human terms, when the Boss Man leaves the room, or the party, we humans let down, deflate, and the excitement leaves the room. You’d think that would have happened here—except for those 40 days of intense instruction which dissipated their fear. We’re told: “suddenly two men dressed in white (angels) stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’” This is a promise of Christ’s visible return on the Last Day, and also served as a final angelic: “Fear not!”
Christ always displaces fear. He brings calmness and peace. He’s still with us in the forms of the Gospel He has left behind. The forms through which the Comforter still operates: baptism, absolution, and the Holy Supper. For therein He applies to our souls that singular balm of forgiveness for all sins. So tonight we don’t mourn His absence, but join in the heavenly homecoming which continues unabated even now until He visually and physically joins us once again! Amen THE peace of God…..
Pastor Thomas H. Fox