Where is He now?

Christ Jesus ascended to heaven to be near us. Tonight marks 40 days since his resurrection and we gather to focus on what it means that he has “ascended to be near us.”

Luke 24:44-53 New International Version (NIV)

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

The Ascension of Jesus

50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

Three ‘R’s’ of the Ascension

Ascension Day 2016

The Reminders – Acts 1:1-9, Luke 24:50-51

Repetitio est mater studiorum. Any one know what that means? I’m not sure who first said that phrase but it’s Latin and it’s become a famous teaching principle. It means “Repetition is the mother of learning.” Every teacher knows that repetition is necessary to facilitate learning. So students have reviews and tests. Over and over again you’re reminded of certain truths so that you remember them. We need those reminders.  When Jesus ascended He left these reminders for the disciples and for us so that we would remember them. So what would the disciples have remembered about Jesus’ ascension? All kinds of things!

First of all, we see that Jesus lifted His hands up to bless His disciples. And, of course, they would have seen on His hands the scars where the nails had been. The receipt, if you will, that their sins were paid in full on the cross. Then Jesus just went up into the sky, He just rose into the air. Who does that?? Who could just on their own start going up into the air?? Jesus could- why? Because Jesus has that kind of incredible power! So the one who blesses them is the one who loved them so much that He died for them and the one who has incredible power. And interestingly we’re never told that Jesus put His hands down. So, that means He still has His hands up today, He’s still pouring out His blessing on His people today. And then we’re told that Jesus didn’t just go up and up and up until He was gone, rather, Jesus was hid by a cloud. He hadn’t left, they just couldn’t see Him any more.

What powerful reminders the disciples had! The disciples were going to face some horrible things, horrible suffering for their faith. It seems that only one of them wouldn’t die a martyr’s death. We, too, face many discouraging things in life. Our plans fail and we’re thrown into misery. Things don’t happen the way we want or expect and we’re filled with stress. We commit some sin and we’re loaded with guilt and shame. We hear the news or look at the world around us and we’re appalled at the evil we see or are fearful about the future.

But then we’re reminded of Jesus’ ascension. We’re reminded of His nail scarred hands – he loved us so much to die for us. We’re reminded of His going up into the air and we know that He has all power to lead everything in the world so that the most possible may be saved. We’re reminded that he hasn’t left us, we just can’t see him, but He remains watching over us. Repetition is the mother of learning and we need those reminders of Jesus’ ascension.

The Right Hand of God – Ephesians 1:17-23, Hebrews 10:12-14

The 2nd “r” that we’re going to look at this evening about Jesus’ ascension is where Jesus ascended to: the Right Hand of God. First, we have to know what is the “right hand of God”? We say it every time we say the creed: “ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.” What does that mean? We’re given a definition here: It’s in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, all things have been placed under Jesus’ feet.

You see, the right hand of God is not so much a place as it is a position. You see Jesus is not confined by space and time. It’s not like somewhere far off there’s this throne and God the Father is seated there and Jesus is sitting next to him. No, the “right hand of God” is everywhere, it’s not a place, it’s a position. It’s a position of ALL authority, ALL power, ALL dominion, ALL rule. Sometimes we forget this. We get the impression that Jesus’ ascension is like his retirement. He did his work and now he’s retired, He’s sitting back relaxing, far away, unconcerned about the day to day affairs of life, certainly not concerned with my life, the things that I’M facing, the difficulties that are looming ahead for me. But that’s wrong! How sinful of us to think that!

Jesus’ ascension isn’t His retirement, it’s His coronation, His crowing ceremony as King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Often, when people retire, their work isn’t complete. In fact, most people I know who are retired are incredibly busy. Maybe they retired from one work, but are very active in other work. Yes, Jesus’ work is complete in one sense, but in another sense He’s very active. What does it mean that Jesus is at the right hand of God? It means that His work of redemption is done. That’s what the Hebrews passage tells us. Every priest in the OT had to offer sacrifice after sacrifice, but Jesus – the ultimate Priest – offered Himself as the one perfect sacrifice for all sin to make you and me perfect forever. His work of paying for your sins and making you perfect in God’s sight is done, it’s complete.

But He’s not done working. He’s still working, still active. He sits at the right hand of God. He has the position of ALL power in heaven and on earth! He’s very involved! Even though we might not always see it, understand it, grasp it, He is using His almighty power to work all things for the good of His people. How do we know it? Because we have His promises. And God has never and will never let one word of His promise fail. His power makes sure of it.


The Response – Luke 24:50-53

Do you know what “object permanence” is? If you’ve ever played peekaboo with a young infant, you’ve experienced it. Object permanence, as I understand it, is the psychological ability to realize that objects remain even when you can’t see it, touch it, feel it, hear it, etc. So, when you hide your face from a small infant, in their mind they think you’ve just disappeared and are gone and they will start looking for something else to occupy their attention, but then when you show your face, somehow you’ve just re-appeared.

Does that happen to us? Jesus’ ascension doesn’t mean that Jesus is gone. The fact that we can’t visibly see Jesus doesn’t mean that He’s not in control, not incredibly caring for you, not watching over you, not guiding all things for your good. But it’s so easy for us to be distracted, to focus on the things of this world, to be enthralled with this thing or that thing. But Jesus isn’t gone!

The disciples realized that. We’re told that after Jesus ascended the disciples didn’t see Jesus but they were filled with joy. How’s that? He’s gone, but they’re filled with joy, they’re worshipping, their praising him. Really? That’s they’re response? No more hiding behind locked doors, no more fear, but joy and praise. That’s also our response. The fact that Jesus has ascended means that our salvation is complete, our redemption is won, forgiveness is ours today, tomorrow, and forever. Jesus’ ascension means that He has all power, might, and rule over the universe. You know what that gives us? Joy. Jesus is alive and well, Jesus is ruling all things for your eternal good, and Jesus will one day bring you safely to His perfect kingdom.

So what does that mean for you? You can live with joy. You can worship Him, praise Him. You can serve Him with gladness. You can do all things in life to His glory and praise. No matter what your life is like you can anticipate an awesome, glorious, incredible future with your Savior! Thank the Lord for our ruling King! Amen.

What makes the difference?

Ascension, 7th Sunday of Easter
Acts 7:54-60

To Him who loved us and freed us from our sins by His own blood and made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. In the name of Jesus, our risen and ascended Lord, dear friends in Christ,
It’s kind of scary when you think about it, isn’t it? He was a young man who grew up in a God-fearing family. His parents taught him to know God’s Word, the Bible. They told him about how God promised to send a mighty hero to rescue them. Day after day they taught him what God wants His people to do – to do good to those around them and to love God. He grew more and more in his knowledge and insight. In fact, he decided to dedicate his entire life to learning God’s Word and teaching it to others. People all over looked at him and said, “This is what a believer should look like.” Who is he? You met him in our text this morning. His name was Saul and he was helping people… murder Stephen. And we’re told right after this text that not only was he giving approval to Stephen’s death, but then began to destroy the church, dragging men and women off to prison.
This text is a sobering reminder, isn’t it? And it’s not just because it reminds us that people can be so full of hate and violence that they can essentially lynch another human being, we get those reminders all over our world. It’s also not just that we’re reminded that there may come a time when we will have to lose our life because of our faith. No, what makes this terrifying is that someone who has grown up hearing God’s Word and being very religious could still end up being a Saul. So, what makes the difference? What is it that makes the difference between a Stephen and a Saul? Saul knew a lot about God, talked a lot about God, but couldn’t be further from the true God. But Stephen was different. So what made the difference?
Stephen wasn’t a teacher or a preacher, we don’t know that he sat at the feet of great teachers or not, he was simply a believer and was chosen to hand out food to poor widows. He helped and he served. And wherever he went he shared his faith. In fact, Saul probably would have done the same things, but with one difference: Stephen told people about Jesus. Saul didn’t really know Jesus. Yes, Saul looked forward to a promised deliverer. But the savior he was looking for was nothing like Jesus. He was looking for a Savior who would come and help the good people like him and destroy all the bad and evil people. He wasn’t looking for a Savior who would actually die for the evil people! And that’s why Stephen is where he is in our text. He was arrested by the Jewish rulers, accused of blasphemy, and then he gave speech and all the while we’re told that his face shone like that of an angel and it’s almost like the people were caught in a trance while Stephen traced God’s faithfulness from the time of Abraham and ended his speech calling all the Jewish rulers to repent because they had betrayed and murdered God’s promised Savior when they killed Jesus. But they didn’t react the way that he had hoped. “When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him…covered their ears and yelling at the top of their voices they rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.”
You see, Stephen was full of true Christian love. And it wasn’t so much the fact that he had helped out poor widows in giving them food or said nice things to people. You know, Saul probably did very similar things. But we’re reminded here of an important truth: the best measure of love isn’t so much how you treat those who need you, but it’s actually how you treat those who hurt and hate you. Did you notice what Stephen did? “While they were stoning him…he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” He prayed for them. Really?
So, how do you know if you have authentic Christian love? It’s not just looking at how you try to find ways to help those who are in need, or at how you faithfully work to provide for your family, or at how you cook meals or take care of your children, or at how you try to be nice to your spouse. Rather, look at how you treat those who hurt you – and don’t just think about those who are critical of your faith and values or those who persecute and kill Christians. The truth is, you don’t have to look too far to find those who hurt you. Maybe we’re ready to just lay into that lazy coworker who makes our work even harder and give them a piece of our mind. Or that same child whom I think I’m so good at taking care of and yet there are times when I’m ready to lose my temper with? Or my spouse whom I think I’m so good at loving and yet our marriage is full of times when I think our marriage exists to satisfy MY wants, MY needs, what I think is best for ME. I’d sure like to think I look like a Stephen, but all too often I think I’m more like Saul. Saul was lashing out at his enemies while Stephen was praying for those who were hurting him. Which are you more like? Which am I?
So what’s the difference? What made the difference between Saul and Stephen? They both talked a lot about God, they both read the same Bible, the same Old Testament. What’s the difference? Notice Stephen’s prayer once again, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Sound familiar? That’s very similar to another prayer that someone else prayed while people were putting Him to death. While Jesus was on the cross He prayed for forgiveness for those who were putting Him to death. That’s who made the difference, Jesus made the difference. And just before Stephen was killed what did he see? Not just heaven, not just God’s glory, not just paradise, he saw Jesus, Jesus with the nail holes in his hands, nail holes that Jesus has kept in His risen and glorified body as proof that He went to a cross and died for us. That’s the God that Saul didn’t know. A God who loves us so much He didn’t come to crush sinners; rather, He came to be crushed by us and for us. God doesn’t love you because you love Him; he loves us even when we hate Him, even when we hate others. He loves us even when we’re Sauls!
There’s a ton of people in the world and many who attend churches who when asked why they think they’ll go to heaven will respond by saying, “I’m a pretty good person, I’ve done a lot of good things, I’m better than most.” Saul would have said the same thing. But the real difference between Stephen and Saul doesn’t come from who we are or what we’ve done, it comes from Jesus. We live our lives, we try to fight temptation, we try to stay rooted in God’s Word, we try to do those things God wants us to be doing, but the reality is, we still fail so much. There are days when we look a whole lot more like Saul than Stephen. So what do we need? Stephen “looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” See Jesus. See that you have a Savior in heaven who died to take your sins away. See that you have a Savior who took all your bad on Himself. See that you have a Savior in heaven who lives to watch over you. See Jesus, and you’ll see the difference that He makes as He leads you to live in His love.
In a way this text is terrible, it’s terrible to see a Christian die for his faith! But it’s an important reminder. As we live our Christian lives, sometimes it will look as if God is failing you or like His promises don’t really apply to your situation in life. You know, Stephen loved Jesus, believed in Him, but Jesus didn’t send an angel to stop the stones, no one came to raise Stephen from the dead. God didn’t do anything to intervene and stop it.
And you’ll see that in your own life, too. You do selflessly care for your children, and they take you for granted. You do put your spouse first, and they just take and take. You do share your faith, and you get rejected too. And God doesn’t seem to do anything! I think there’s one more reason Jesus showed himself to Stephen. It was as if to remind him: Stephen, don’t forget your goal. Stephen, this pain isn’t going to last forever. Stephen, I know it looks like I’ve failed you, but I haven’t. Do you see the difference that makes? While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. We don’t live our lives as if saying, “If I do this or that, God will love me.” Rather we say, “I know that God loves, and this is the difference it makes: since I know Jesus will receive my spirit in the end, I’m not afraid –even of death.”
There are some days when I feel like a Saul. Maybe you do, too. But this isn’t the last we hear of Saul. One chapter later, Saul becomes a man who starts talking about the truth and living Christian love. Do you know what made the difference? He saw Jesus. When you feel like a Saul, go back to that same Jesus. You’ll see that He loves even Sauls, He gives you the peace to die like Stephens, and more than anything, He gives you the love to live like Jesus. And that makes all the difference. Amen

See His Power For You!

Ephesians 1:15-23

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Christ from the dead.  Amen.  The Word of God for our consideration is found in Ephesians, chapter 1. (read text)  In the name of Jesus, our ruling Savior, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

There are all kinds of cool things to focus on about Jesus’ ascension.  We could focus on the truth that Jesus lifted up His hands to bless the disciples.  When Jesus did that, what would they have seen?  Of course!  The nail marks!  The nail marks which were proof that their sins were forgiven, that Jesus loved them! Or, we could focus on the truth that as Jesus ascended He continued to bless them, we’re never told that he put His hands down. In other words, Jesus’ blessing to His followers never ended, and never will. Or, we could focus on the truth that a cloud came and hid Him from their sight. So really, Jesus hadn’t left them or gone anywhere, the just couldn’t see him with their eyes. Or we could focus on the fact that the place where Jesus ascended was the Mount of Olives. A place from which you can literally see things like the Garden of Gethsemane, Caiaphas’ palace, Mt. Calvary, the empty tomb. They could see all those important places where Jesus accomplished salvation. We could focus on all or any of those.

But today, let’s just focus on one aspect of it. The fact that He could do it. Imagine being there: there he stood, on top of the Mount of Olives, all of a sudden He simply goes right up into the sky! Can you imagine that?? Could you do that? Could anyone do that? No! Why not? Because we’re weak human beings compared with God. On our own we can’t defy gravity and simply rise into the sky. We can’t do it, but Jesus can!

Jesus can do that! And that reminds of a truth about our Savior, doesn’t it? It points out the truth that we see in this text from Ephesians. Jesus is the real all-powerful God! And here Jesus shows it! Jesus powerfully goes up into the sky. But that’s just one very small aspect of Jesus’ power. Here we’re told that Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand in the heavenly realms, “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” God has placed all things, everything under Jesus’ feet.  That means He rules over absolutely everything!

Now, it’s easy for us to say those words, but stop for a moment and think about their meaning a little bit. The fact that the world is still spinning on its orbit is because Jesus is causing that to happen. The fact that the sun is still shining in the sky today is because Jesus causes it to. Jesus sends the clouds and the storms where he wants them. The plants sprout and grow because Jesus causes them to. The planets and the stars stay in their orbits just because Jesus wants them to stay there. Someday all the dead will rise because Jesus will tell them to. We could keep going and going, but Jesus’ power is absolutely amazing and incredible!

You know, there will be times in my life when I’ll have a thousand things on my mind, my nerves will be edgy, I won’t know how to handle some situation, I tempted to feel stressed and then I’ll pause and just look outside at this world, the trees, the sky, the evidence of God, and think, “Wait a minute, who’s with me? Who’s watching over me? It’s the all-powerful God who rules the entire universe! The one who sits far above every power and authority- that’s who’s on my side! And soon whatever it was that was causing me stress really isn’t that big of a deal.

Does that sound familiar? Do you ever find yourself stressing about this thing or that thing? I’m sure there have been times when each of us has been stressed about something. But the reality is, that’s sinful. Why? Because it shows that we don’t trust our God with our whole heart. It shows that we don’t have perfect faith in God, for if we trusted God completely, we would never be stressed about anything. We would always perfectly trust that God has everything under control. But, we all too often find ourselves piling on the stress, worry, anxiety, fear of the future or unknown. And that’s sinful.

And then there’s Jesus’ ascension. What did Jesus do? He lifted His hands up in blessing, showing them His hands still bearing the nail scars. So what did Jesus, the all-powerful God, do? He went to the cross…for you! In your place! Jesus, the all-powerful God, who holds the planets in their courses, laid His life down…for you! To win you forgiveness! The scars on Jesus’ hands prove it!

So, how do we deal with things that stress us out? We look at the nail scars – proof of Jesus’ love for us, greater love has no on than this that He lay His life down for His friends. Then we look at what happened next, Jesus powerfully going up into  the sky! And as He does so, we’re reminded of what? We’re reminded of who He is – the all-powerful God!  The God who rules all things. The God who can do anything and everything! That’s the one who is ascending! That’s the one who is looking after you! That’s the one who’s promised to be with you always! That’s the one who’s ruling all things for the good of His people! That’s Jesus! The powerful Jesus! Imagine that whenever you looked up into the sky you would see Jesus, the risen and ascended Lord, sitting on His throne ruling, governing, orchestrating all things for your good. That’s the reality! All of a sudden all those things that cause stress just don’t really seem quite so stressful. For if the all-powerful one is on your side, then you can deal with whatever comes no matter what!

And how can we know that He’s willing to do that? God gives us a clear indication at the end of our text, as He paints a picture of the relationship between Himself and His people. Jesus is described as the head; the Church – all believers in Jesus – is pictured as the body. So, let’s think about a human body. If you cut your head off your body, how’s your body going to do? Obviously, the body couldn’t function at all without the head. And so it is with us, without Jesus, we believers can’t function at all.

But the opposite is true too, isn’t it? If you cut your head off your body, how will your head do? It would be completely helpless too! The head can’t function without the body. And here the application is incredible, even shocking. What God is saying is that He can’t make it without you! The all powerful God is saying that HE can’t make it without you! Now, we have to realize that it wouldn’t have to be that way. God was just fine. He’s the all-powerful One, the One who stands completely independent. BUT, in incredible grace, God has chosen to bind His relationship to His people together so tightly that it’s like the relationship between my head and my body; neither can function without the other. God, in amazing grace, says that He can’t function without you, because He’s connected Himself that intimately to you by calling you to faith in Him. And remember who it is! It’s the all-powerful, almighty God, the God who rules the universe. He’s the One who’s connected Himself to you so intimately, so closely, so personally. And He’s the God who loves you so dearly!

Hmm.  Sounds like we’re going to be okay.

The weeks, months, years after Jesus’ ascension were filled with stress for the disciples.  They had been charged with the responsibility to take the Word of God to the world.  As they did, the world didn’t eagerly open their arms to their message.  Instead, the disciples were whipped, beaten, jailed.  They would see some of their people put to death (like Stephen), see many believers scattered because of persecution.  They would see some from their own midst martyred because of their faith in Jesus.  They knew stress, far more than most of us.

But they also knew their God!  They knew their Savior, the One who had died for them.  They knew that the One who was on their side was the all-powerful ruler of the universe, the One who had risen from the dead, the One who had powerfully ascended into heaven.  They had THAT ONE on their side.  And with that One on their side, they could handle anything!

And so can you.  Amen.

Picture It!

Ascension Day

Acts 1:1-11 – A Picture of True Power

A question people often ask of themselves, of their lives is, “What am I doing with my life?  Is my life important?  Is it meaningful?”  Perhaps it’s at the time of a graduation or job change or a move.  Well, the disciples had a similar thought.  Here we are 40 days after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.  The disciples had seen Jesus die, had seen Jesus rise from the dead, had seen all the work that Jesus did to rescue sinful humans like you and me.  But they still didn’t quite get it.  Notice what they asked Jesus, “Are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”  They were looking for a political, earthly kingdom.  And if Jesus set up an earthly kingdom, you know what that would mean for them?  That’d mean that they’d be His right hand men!  Talk about power, talk about meaning in life, talk about importance!  Right?

Wrong.  And Jesus dismisses their thoughts right away, “It is not for you to know the times and dates the Father has set by his own authority.” In other words, Jesus was telling them to forget about all this earthly power stuff!  That’s not what’s important!  That’s not what life’s all about.

You and I are often a lot like those disciples, aren’t we?  We can so easily get this picture stuck in our minds that having a meaningful, important life has to do with earthly successes, earthly power, earthly importance.  We picture making lots of money or having a lot of cool stuff or having some sort of influence or power over other people or things is what makes life meaningful, important.  But that idea is just as sinful as the disciples idea here.  And the reason is because all those things will go away.  When we die, it’s not going to make any difference how successful we were on earth or if we had power or if we had the latest cool stuff.

What does make life meaningful, important, powerful?  Jesus told his disciples, ‘It is not for you to know the time and dates…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  The disciples were going to be powerful, their lives were going to make huge differences, because they were going to do eternal things.  They were going to be influencing people in the greatest way possible by telling people about their Savior, by connecting people to Jesus, and through their work God would lead people to faith and people were going to end up in heaven.  That’s power!  That’s meaning!

And that’s your power too.  The most powerful thing in all the earth is the gospel.  It is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.  The gospel, the message about Jesus- what He’s done to save people with His death and resurrection – takes people from death to life, from unbelief to faith.  Having the gospel, knowing God’s Word, reading it, sharing it, being reminded of your peace with God, your forgiveness of sins, the fact that the all-powerful God is with you to help you, guide, you through whatever – that’s powerful!  True power!

When you picture Jesus’ ascension, picture true power.  The power of the gospel that God has entrusted to you and to me that makes an eternal difference in our lives and in the lives of those God places into our lives.  Amen.

Colossians 3:1-4 – A Picture Hidden in You

A huge problem plaguing our world in this digital age and age of information is identity theft.  In fact, yesterday I received an email from Thrivent encouraging me to enroll in identity theft protection.  Identity theft protection agencies thrive on these horror stories of people who have lost their credit rating, lost their savings, lost their retirement due to identity theft.  So now many places are asking for a picture ID to make sure you really are who you say you are.

Well, as Christians we have lost our original identity.  Having been born in this world we had an identity and it wasn’t a good one.  God says that a sinful parent plus a sinful parent equals a sinful child.  You and I were born into this world in sin, dead in our trespasses and sin, hostile to God, God’s enemies, worthless in God’s sight.  By nature we had a horrid identity completely corrupted by sin.

But God did something.  He sent Jesus who became human like us, identified with us in every way except He had a perfect identity.  He sent Jesus who identified with our sin by taking it upon Himself and dying for our sin on the cross. Then Jesus left that sin in the grave and gloriously rose from the dead.  Then gloriously ascended to the right hand of God, the place of all power and glory.

Then God did something wonderful for you.  He didn’t just steal your identity, He gave you a totally new identity.  How so?  He killed you.  You died.  You see, when God worked faith in your heart He connected you to everything Christ did for you.  Jesus’ death became your death to sin.  Jesus’ resurrection became your resurrection to new life.  Jesus’ ascension into heaven became your ascension into heaven.  When God worked faith in your heart He clothed you with Jesus so that you are now hidden with Christ in God.

We sometimes see pictures of ourselves and cringe or say that was a terrible picture!  So in life, if try to find our identity in ourselves, we’ll always cringe because we see our failures, our sins, our struggles.  But when you look away from yourself and look to Christ you see your new identity, you see your identity as God sees it, you are perfect for Jesus was perfect for you, you have a place in glory for Jesus ascended for you!  You see, your life, your peace in life, your contentment in life, your joy in life, has nothing to do with how you look, it has everything to do with where you look.

So what do you picture with Jesus’ Ascension?  Picture your new identity.  In God’s sight you’re no longer a sinner, you’re a saint who since Jesus ascended into glory you too will appear with Christ in the glory of heaven.  Picture that.

Luke 24:44-53 – A Picture to Remember

Pictures can be good reminders.  We save pictures to give us reminders of special times in the past.  We take them with our phone, save them in photo albums, make slideshows with them.  Well, on Ascension Day Jesus gave His disciples and us an awesome picture to remember.  After Jesus reminded the disciples of how He fulfilled all the Scriptures and how they are going to be witnesses of everything that He did and said.  He took them out to the vicinity of Bethany, the Mt. of Olives Acts tells us.

That’s an important little detail because over in the vicinity of Bethany you can actually get a good panaromic picture of the city of Jerusalem.  The disciples would have been able to see just about all the major spots of Holy Week: the garden of Gethsemane, the court where Jesus stood on trial, the place where Jesus died, the empty tomb.  Seeing those could have easily reminded them of everything Jesus had done to save them and us.

And then Jesus lifted up His hands to bless them.  And, of course, what would they have seen on His hands?  The nail marks!  The proof that He went to the cross to save them, forgive them.  Then He powerfully ascended into the sky, showing that He has all power as the risen and ascended Lord of all.

What a picture to remember!  Think about how that would have helped the disciples!  Think about how that picture helps you in your life!

Feeling weak or alone?  Picture Jesus powerfully ascend up into the sky!  Feeling horrible about some sin that you committed, conscience troubling you?  See the nail marks in Jesus hands, see the place where he suffered and died and rose and be assured that your sins are forgiven in full and completely!  Feeling frustrated about how things are happening in your life or turning out?  See Jesus’ hands still up in blessing today, remember that Jesus still rules all things for your benefit!  That’s a picture to  remember!