Summary: This is in some sense the zenith of His ministry, the high point and culmination of all His work on earth. All that’s recorded in the gospels, His teaching, miracles, suffering, death, and resurrection are simply preparation, a means to an end, that lead
Occasion: Sunday after Ascension
Who: Mark Woolsey
Where: Arbor House
When: Sunday, May 23, 2004
Where: TI, morning prayer
When: Friday, May 13, 2005
Where: Providence REC
When: Sunday, May 15, 2005
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Recently we celebrated one of the great feast days, that is, holy days of the church. Christ rose victorious over all His foes and ours, assuring us a place in heaven. He defeated sin & the devil so thoroughly that He publically humiliated them. This celebrated event is argueably the reason that Christ came to earth. Yet I am not talking about the Resurrection or Easter day. I am talking about something even greater. All that was in anticipation of this. This is in some sense the zenith of His ministry, the high point and culmination of all His work on earth. All that’s recorded in the gospels, His teaching, miracles, suffering, death, and resurrection are simply preparation, a means to an end, that lead to this great accomplishment. As a matter of fact, this celebration was actually two days ago; but since I was not with you then I’ve chosen it as our central focus of worship today. What is this great feast day that occurred on Thursday and that we are remembering today? It is Christ’s ascension.
Unfortunately this is a forgotten day in the church. We like to focus on the fun and sentimental, like Christmas, or the great victory that was publically won on our behalf and that guarenteed the forgiveness of our sins and our entrance into heaven, namely Easter. But these are primarily days for us. Christ didn’t come as an infant because He needed to experience life on earth. He made earth and knew exactly what it was like here. Likewise, He had no need in Himself to suffer and die for sins. He did that for us. We are continually turning everything inside out and upside down. We want to be the center of attention, the focus of God’s action. But we are not. God did not send Christ to die for you because He needed you; your redemption and forgiveness are simply a means to an end. And that end is the glory of Christ. The ascension means that Christ was raised up as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. This is His taking the throne that He battled for so diligently while on earth. He saved us not for ourselves, but to show His great power and glory and to honor Himself. This ascension is His coronation, an end of all His efforts.
As an example of what this day means, consider the presidential election in which we are in the midst and compare that with Christ’s work while He was on earth. There’s a great battle going on right now for our votes. The candidates are fighting each other, armies of volunteers are canvassing people, and speeches are being given, all to win the great victory on that special Tuesday in November. When the battle is over and the victor is declared, will he simply do a victory dance and go home? Is that the end? No, it’s not even the beginning. The presidential aspirant’s desire is not simply to win in November, but to rule in January. Although we see it as anticlimactic, the inauguration is the goal which he seeks. He wants our vote not simply for our well-being, but for this ultimate aim. Stopping at the Resurrection is like winning in November and then forgetting to actually be president. In this sense the ascension, Christ’s coronation, was the great goal of His Incarnation and Resurrection. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and this is His Father’s public display of this fact.
As beautiful as Mark and Luke portray it, King David gives us an even more glorious glimpse of what happened. Listen to Ps 24. It’s first six verses reads:
The earth is the Lord’s, and all it’s fullness, the world and those who dwell therein. For He has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters. Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face.
Before I read the last four verses, let me comment here. Who is the Psalmist talking about, who has clean hands and a pure heart? Look inside your hearts and tell me how pure they are. I’ll tell you what Human has such clean hands that He can boast before God: Jesus Christ. This psalm is about Him. Now listen to the remaining verses: