Summary: Find Courage In Jesus’ Ascension 1) Our place in heaven is secure 2) Our purpose on earth is clear
Tears filled his eyes as he watched his brother go. “So this was it,” he thought. His brother was really going. He could hardly believe it. No on in the family could really believe it. They never thought that someone they knew, much less a sibling, would become Prime Minister! What a difference this would make in their lives. With their brother as Prime Minister, they would be invited to attend state dinners and get to meet famous people from all over the world. They also now had someone in power who was sure to listen to their needs and do something about them.
Are you as excited about Jesus’ ascension as you would be if a sibling was leaving to take up his post in Ottawa to lead the country? If not, if you’re not sure how Jesus’ ascension is a blessing, then today’s sermon is just the thing you need to hear, for we are to find courage in Jesus’ ascension. We find courage in Jesus’ ascension because the ascension makes our place in heaven secure, and it makes our purpose on earth clear.
How exactly are we to understand Jesus’ ascension? Do you think of the ascension as Jesus leaving to relax up in heaven while we slug it out down here on earth? That’s not at all how we should think of the ascension. Permit me to compare Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension to the deciding game for the Stanley Cup. Jesus’ death on the cross is like the fast and furious final minutes of that championship game. When the final horn sounded it seemed like Satan had triumphed. Jesus was dead. But the game wasn’t finished; it had only gone into overtime. While Satan and the other demons celebrated Jesus’ death, Jesus quietly slapped in the winning goal when three days after his death he came back to life.
If Jesus’ resurrection is the winning goal in overtime of the championship game, his ascension is the celebration that follows – the hoisting of the Stanley Cup, if you will. But it wasn’t a trophy that was hoisted at the ascension; it was the victor, Jesus, who was “hoisted” above the earth to acknowledge his triumph over sin, death, and the devil. This is why we find courage in Jesus’ ascension; it proves that our place in heaven is secure. Had Jesus not defeated sin, death, and the devil the heavenly Father would not have hoisted him to heaven. Instead, Jesus would have been relegated to the loser’s circle in hell where we too would be bound to go with no hope of salvation. But such is not the case! Jesus did save us from our sins. He has disarmed the power of the devil and death. His ascension proclaims that like a winning team’s parade proclaims that it has been victorious over all opposing teams.
While a victorious hockey team will bring the Stanley Cup back to their hometown, what did the victorious Jesus bring back with him to heaven? For starters he brought pardon and peace. Jesus now stands in heaven as our advocate. He pleads our case before the heavenly Father whenever we sin. When we lose it with our children. When we fudge on our timecard. When we copy someone else’s homework and feel guilty about these sins afterwards we can think of Jesus’ ascension and remember that Jesus stands at the door of heaven and holds it open to us because he died to pay for those sins. No matter what sin, or how many sins it is we have committed, our place in heaven is secure for Jesus’ ascension guarantees our forgiveness.
Pardon and peace is not the only thing Jesus took back to heaven with him; Jesus also carried blueprints. Jesus once said to his disciples: “2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2, 3). If your father was leaving the family to go to another country, you would be sad unless your father said that he was going away to build a mansion where you and the rest of your family would live forever with him when it was all finished. That’s what Jesus’ ascension is like. He went up into heaven to prepare a place for all believers. And the fact that Jesus has had a couple thousand years to work on this place should give us the idea that it’s going to be awesome.
But there is one big difference between the previous illustration of a father leaving his family to build a mansion and Jesus’ ascension; Jesus has not left us. Sure the disciples watched Jesus ascend into the sky where they lost sight of him when a cloud covered him but this does not mean that Jesus has left us. No, he’s still here. That’s what he promised in the Great Commission: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b). How can Jesus be with us if we can’t see him? Think of it like this: just as a cloud that obscures one’s view of a mountain doesn’t cause the mountain to actually disappear into thin air, so the cloud that covered Jesus did not make him evaporate from this world; it only hid our view of him. But can we really be sure that Jesus is still with us? I mean how can he be preparing a place for us in heaven and be with us on earth at the same time? Jesus can do this because he is the glorified savior, he is the Son of God, he is God!