Summary: Live with An Ascension Attitude 1) Cheer the great things Christ has accomplished 2) Count on Christ’s continuing rule for your benefit
The cost of gas has gone up again. It’s predicted to keep rising until it hits $1.40 per litre this summer. How does that make you feel? Does your stomach churn as you calculate the cost of driving to work? Are you rethinking that summer camping trip? Do you fear what other costs will go up as a result of increased oil prices? These feelings, while natural, are not God pleasing. Why not? Because gas isn’t the only thing that’s gone up, so has Christ. He has ascended into heaven. This fact will change our outlook from one of gloom to bright optimism no matter what a barrel of oil costs. Today the Sons of Korah encourage us to live with an ascension attitude as we cheer the great things Christ has accomplished, and as we count on Christ’s continuing rule for our benefit.
Forty days after he rose from the dead, Jesus took his disciples to a hill outside the town of Bethany, not far from Jerusalem. There he floated up into heaven. From the book of Acts (1:10, 11) we get the impression that the disciples felt like children who had just lost their helium balloons. They kept studying the sky intently perhaps hoping that Jesus would come right back with thousands of angels in tow to usher in the end of the world. Angels did appear but only to assure the disciples that Jesus would come back in time. In the meanwhile, however, the disciples were to return to Jerusalem and await the promised coming of the Holy Spirit. In his gospel, Luke tells us that the disciples returned to Jerusalem - not shuffling like a team that just lost in a penalty shootout, but rejoicing like one that just won the championship (Luke 24:52). Why? Because by God’s grace the disciples had come to understand the nature of Jesus’ ascension. On their way back to Jerusalem they may have even sung Psalm 47. It would have been most fitting if they did. Listen again to the opening words of this psalm. They will help us understand the nature of Jesus’ ascension and what it means for us. “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. 2 How awesome is the LORD Most High, the great King over all the earth! 3 He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet. 4 He chose our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom he loved…5 God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets. 6 Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises” (Psalm 47:1-6).
If you picture Jesus’ ascension as his retirement, I want you to get rid of that image. Instead I want you to picture a king returning to his palace after winning a war. Trumpets play. Citizens clap. Confetti and flowers rain down from balconies. People cheer. That scene has been repeated hundreds of times in world history. But Jesus’ ascension is different. Jesus is a king who went to war, not for his benefit, but ours. Note how the author of our text said that God “subdued nations under us” (Psalm 47:3a). That’s amazing. Rulers normally don’t leave the comforts of their palace unless there is something in it for them. Even then they will usually send others to do the work for them. It’s the private, for example, that sweats in the foxhole over in Afghanistan, not the Prime Minister. Or imagine your shock if minutes after reporting the loss of your wedding ring while visiting the Legislature grounds here in Edmonton, the Premier himself bursts out of his office and gets on his hands and knees to look for your ring in the flower beds and under the pine trees. And he doesn’t stop until he’s found it.
Well the Son of God loved you so much that he left his comfortable throne in heaven and got on human hands and knees to look for you. And he didn’t stop until he had found and saved you. What did the Son of God get for his trouble? He was smeared with our sin and as a result was cast aside by his heavenly Father as if an offensive rotten banana peel. The Son of God died, bruised and bloodied on a cross meant for outlaws. But the Son of God rose again. And his ascension signalled the end of his rescue mission. It was the final chord in his redemptive symphony and it set the tone for the disciples’ rejoicing. They could be certain that all of their sins had been paid for. Had they not been, the Son of God would not have been welcomed back into heaven as a victorious general. He would have lived out his days here in shame – like Bill Buckner, the infamous first baseman of the Boston Red Sox who cost his team the World Series in 1986 when he let a routine ground ball go through his legs. Boston fans were so angry that when Buckner quit baseball he could not remain in Boston but had to move all the way to Idaho to get away from the threatening phone calls. Jesus, however, is no failure. He did everything that God demanded to win our salvation. So live with an ascension attitude. Cheer the great things Christ accomplished – most important of which is eternal life for all.