Summary: Understanding the meaning and significance of Christ's ascension into heaven leads us to praise him for his grace that has saved us and for his promises that sustain us.
They had ten days to think about it. As the disciples waited for Jesus to keep his promise to send the Holy Spirit to them, they had ten days to reflect on the fact that he had ascended into heaven. What things do you think came to their minds in the days after that amazing event? Perhaps they remembered most vividly the way Jesus overcame the pull of gravity to rise into sky. We heard in our Scripture lesson from Acts that the disciples stood staring into sky even after they lost sight of Jesus. But they had seen Jesus do miraculous things many times before. Certainly walking on water is no less astounding than rising into the air. Perhaps they reflected on the last thing that Jesus did before his ascension. In his Gospel Luke tells us that at the moment Jesus started his ascension he was blessing his disciples. Or maybe their minds were just filled with memories of the years that they had spent with Jesus—their friend and Rabbi.
Although many thoughts would have raced through their minds during those ten days before Pentecost I imagine that the disciples thought more about the meaning of Jesus’ ascension than anything else. How would things be different now that Jesus was no longer going to be visibly present among them? And what was Jesus going to be doing now that he had returned to his Father in heaven? As they searched for the meaning of the ascension the disciples would have probably begun recalling what Jesus had said to them in the days just before his suffering and death and during the forty days between his resurrection and his ascension.
Jesus had told them, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” And he had promised them, “I am with you always…” He had also said, “I am going to prepare a place for you…I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” Jesus had reassured his disciples by saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He had commanded them, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” What Jesus had done for them and the promises he had made to them were absolutely the most important things for them to remember as they thought about his ascension. Jesus’ mission was accomplished and so he rightfully returned to his position of authority at the Father’s right hand. And because he ascended into heaven Jesus would continue to do everything he had promised his disciples.
Today as we recall and celebrate Jesus’ ascension those same truths fill our hearts and lives. Jesus’ ascension reminds us that our salvation is complete. Heaven is open to us because of our Savior. And since Jesus lives and reigns at his Father’s right hand we can be sure he is keeping all the promises he has made to us. So let’s take the title of the hymn we sang a few minutes ago as the theme of our sermon. Yes, brothers and sisters in the faith, may each of us shout:
“ALLELUIA! SING TO JESUS!”
I. For his grace that has saved us
II. For his promises that sustain us
The word of God on which we are now focusing our thoughts is taken from the closing verses of our Bibles. I think it would be fair to say that in these verses Jesus summarized the message of Revelation. Jesus had won a complete victory over sin, death, and Satan. And so sinners like us are saved by grace through faith in what he has done. But this book we call Revelation also has a sobering message as well. Until Jesus returns to put an end to the world the battle for souls between him and the devil will continue to rage. However, to give us hope the Book of Revelation also holds out the promises Jesus has made to us. As we plod along each day through life in a world that hates us, with a sinful nature that fights our best intentions, and with Satan seeking our destruction we need those promises to sustain us. May all of those truths lead us each to say, “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus!”
We hear our ascended Savior declare, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.” At first this verse might intimidate us! Are we ready for Jesus to return? And do we want Jesus to judge us according to what we have done? No. Wouldn’t you agree that we would be in big trouble if he judged us on the basis of what we have done? One sin disqualifies us for eternal life with God. And we can’t pay for our sins with good works. Waiting for Jesus to return on Judgment Day would mean waiting for hell! Our only hope is for Jesus to judge us according to what he has done! In these closing verses of Revelation we will hear Jesus go on to explain how we are saved by grace not by works. He will tell us in what way we can be judged “according to what we have done” through faith in his perfect life and sacrificial death.