Summary: Following the Ascension of our risen Lord, the final Sunday of Easter focuses on our Lord’s continual prayer for his church.
7th Sunday of Easter May 28, 2006 “Series B”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, through the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus the Christ, you revealed your glory, the forgiveness of our sins, and the hope of life eternal in your heavenly kingdom. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, assure us of your presence, strengthen our faith, and continue to forgive our repentant sins. Form us into your church, that we might live our lives reflecting your steadfast love and faithfulness. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
Have you noticed anything different this morning about our chancel? For the past six weeks, beginning with our celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter morning, the Paschal candle, which symbolizes Christ’s victory over sin and death, was positioned to the left of our altar and was lit during our worship services. The purpose for placing it beside the altar and lighting it during worship in the season of Easter, is to visually remind us of the forty days in which our risen Lord appeared to his disciples.
This past Thursday marked the Ascension of our risen Lord – his return to God the Father in heaven. As a result, the Paschal candle now stands beside the baptismal font. There it will be lighted for our celebration of baptisms and funerals, to remind us that through our faith and baptism, we participate in Christ’s resurrection victory over sin and death.
What an awesome sight that must have been, for the disciples to have witnessed our risen Lord’s ascension. Not only had they seen Jesus die by crucifixion, and then, on Easter Sunday, appear to them risen from throws of death – they also saw him ascend back to heaven! If there was any doubt remaining in the minds of the disciples about who Jesus was, or by what authority he healed and taught and preached, Christ’s ascension made it clear. In Jesus they had beheld the very presence of God in their midst.
Listen for a moment to Luke’s description of our Lord’s ascension. “Our risen Lord said to the disciples, ‘These are the words that I spoke to you while I was still with you – that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, saying, ‘Thus, it is been written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead… and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations… You are witnesses of these things.’
Then Jesus led them out as far as Bethany, and… blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And [the disciples] worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.” End quote.
This lesson from Luke tells us that there was no doubt in the disciple’s minds about the source of what they had experienced in their relationship with Jesus. In Jesus, they had experienced the saving grace of God. In Jesus, they came to recognize that God himself was in their midst, helping them to understand the meaning of life in a new and different way. In Jesus, they came to understand that through their faith in his death and resurrection, God forgave their sins, and offered them new and eternal life in God’s heavenly kingdom.
Is it any wonder that the disciples, according to Luke’s Gospel, left the mount of our Lord’s ascension, returned to Jerusalem, and spent each day at the temple blessing God and giving him thanks for what he had done for them, through his Son, Jesus the Christ? What they had witnessed and experienced filled their hearts with such great joy, that they couldn’t help but praise God for his redeeming grace, as they reflected upon all that they had experienced.
But the season of Easter does not end with the ascension of our Lord. Today, we are asked to join our Lord’s first disciples, to reflect upon the significance of what they had witnessed, and what it means to us. And I can’t think of a better lesson for us to ponder, than Jesus’ prayer for his disciples – his prayer for you and me. Think about this. Jesus, the Son of God, is praying for you and for me.
There is so much in this prayer, that I can’t possibly reflect upon it all. So take this lesson home with you and think about it, think about all that Jesus has done for you, think about Jesus praying for you!
From our text, Jesus acknowledges in prayer that he has revealed God’s word to the disciples, and that they had come to believe that he has come from God, and that God had sent him. Then Jesus begins to pray for the welfare of his disciples. Consider verse 11: “And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”