Summary: Ascension assures us that Jesus has all power and reigns on our behalf. It is he who we want to embrace more than we embrace Batman or Superman.
Have you noticed all the superhero movies in the last five years? There’s been Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Iron Man, X-Men… It would probably take you a week maybe even two weeks of binge watching to catch up on all the superhero movies. That tells me one of two things: either movie makers have run out of original ideas, or they’ve come to the conclusion that we love superheroes so much that we will pay to watch any movie made about them. That’s why to date there’s been 10 movies about Batman alone! We embrace superheroes, but why when they’re not real?
I think we embrace superheroes because we dream of a world in which the good guy will always triumph. We would love to know that no matter what kind of evil genius tries to take over the world, that there is an even more ingenious good guy who will counter him. Well our sermon text today reveals that we have such a hero—a genuine superhero. This is the superhero that we want to embrace more than we embrace Batman or Superman. This hero is of course Jesus. Though Jesus might not seem hip when compared to the superheroes from the movies, he will be described in our text today in a way that you probably don’t often think of him. Listen to these words from Revelation 19 which the Apostle John wrote: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:11-16)
This past Wednesday was May the 4th and so perhaps some of you went to school or even to work dressed in your favorite Star Wars t-shirt. May the 4th has been adopted as Star Wars day because the date, May the 4th, sounds like the Jedi greeting: “May the Force be with you.” But how many of you Star Wars fans realized what important day came after May 4th this year? No, I’m not talking about Cinco de Mayo. I’m talking about an event that comes 40 days after Easter. Yes, Ascension—the day on which Jesus rose up into the heavens! Did you remember to wear your “Jesus Rules!” t-shirts and release helium balloons? No? Well, in this service we are celebrating the Ascension and learning again what it all means.
As I have often said, Jesus’ ascension into heaven was not his retirement. It was his formal re-coronation as king of the universe. And so the Ascension is a good time to remind ourselves that we have a genuine superhero in Jesus who is guarding and protecting us from evil. And in the end, this superhero will reappear to trample evil to bits once and for all like an avalanche wiping clean the side of a mountain. That’s the Jesus that John describes in our text. Let’s take a closer look.
John said he saw a rider on a white horse from heaven. How do we know that this rider is in fact Jesus? John never identifies him as such. But John does say that this rider’s name is “the Word of God.” This was the very title that the Holy Spirit prompted John to give to Jesus when he was writing his gospel. There John said that the Word was with God in the beginning, and was in fact God. We also read that the Word became flesh. So the Word is clearly a reference to Jesus. He’s called the Word because he is God the Father’s message to us sinners, he is the Father’s living love letter to us. Jesus came not only to proclaim God’s favor, but also to win it through his death on the cross which pays for our sins.
John also said that Jesus is called “Faithful” and “True.” We’re happy to hear that aren’t we? Because the superheroes in the movies are not always faithful and true. They make promises that they are not always able to keep and often disappoint those closest to them. But not so with Jesus. Every promise he has made to us is a promise he has or will fulfill. That’s not just true of his promises of love and forgiveness, however, it’s also true of his promise of justice. In fact that’s what John was seeing in the vision—Jesus coming back to judge the world. Listen again to how that truth is described in the vision: “With justice he judges and wages war… 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood… 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty” (Revelation 19:12-15).