Printable PDF: 5-24-2020 Ascension Sermon 2020
Pastor Jacobson ~ Jesus’ Ascension ~ May 24, 2020 ~ Ephesians 1:16-23
16I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
THE ASCENDED JESUS IS ABOVE ALL
“Sometimes I dream that he is me. You’ve got to see that’s how I dream to be. I dream I move, I dream I groove like Mike. If I could be like Mike.” The last 5 Sundays, ESPN televised a 10-episode docuseries on the 1998 National Basketball Association champion Chicago Bulls. The docuseries features retired Basketball superstar Michael “Air” Jordan. The docuseries allowed young fans the opportunity to learn what the fuss was all about with that team. The docuseries allowed older fans a chance to relive those championships in the 90s and perhaps learn something about them that they had missed. And what I learned is that Michael Jordan had a little bit of a “potty” mouth and that his “Air Jordan” shoes are still selling more than any other basketball player today.
I know Michael “Air” Jordan better, but the player we want to dedicate the rest of our study time today has much more hang time than Michael “Air” Jordan. When the Apostle Paul wrote a 6-chapter document to the Christians gathered in the city of Ephesus, the ascended Jesus had been above the clouds for about 30 years. In the words before us today Paul gives his past and current readers deeper knowledge of what Jesus’ Ascension is all about and what it means for us today.
- Let’s get to know him and his ascension better.
The Apostle Paul was certainly upbeat when he wrote, “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” There was much to be thankful for in Ephesus. Paul was happy to hear they were continuing to live in their Christian faith. Paul’s prayer of thanksgiving quickly turns into a prayer of intercession, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”
It’s important to note that Paul’s prayer isn’t asking for the Ephesian Christians to do anything more than they were already doing. They were reading their Bibles and studying their Scriptures. They listened to their preachers and asked questions in the synagogue. Paul is not asking them to do anything differently, but Paul is asking God to do something. Paul wants God to give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that they can know him better.
Maybe you have had this experience. You are reading a book, a real book, not an I-pad book or a Kindle book, but a book with pages you need to manually turn. And you can read the book just fine, but then someone walks behind you and turns on a light. And wow, you can read much better. The Holy Spirit does us the same favor. The Holy Spirit helps us see what we are reading. The Holy Spirit helps us understand what we are hearing. And with the help of the Holy Spirit, Paul wants his readers to have a better understanding of three things. The first is, “That you may know the hope to which he has called you.” You were born with a calling. At birth you were called to be a son or a daughter of your parents. In life you have taken any number of different callings in your family and in society. The hope in your calling as a Christian is that you will be in heaven. In heaven you will be seated with Christ in his heavenly realm. In heaven you will see God face-to-face without the shame that comes from sin. In heaven you will serve the Lord without any of the shortcomings of a sinful nature and a fallen world.
Your hope of heaven is certain because of its connection to the riches of his glorious inheritance. That’s Paul’s second prayer point. An inheritance is a gift. An inheritance is gifted after the testator dies. When Jesus died he gifted you with the forgiveness of sins. Your forgiveness of sins inheritance fully covers the multitude of transgressions you charged onto your account. Have you been like the Lost Son in Jesus’ parable? Have you squandered your resources in wild living? The Father welcomes you home though the blood of Jesus Christ. Are you like Rahab in the Old Testament? Is your name forever known among people because of a specific sin? Rahab, by God’s grace, became a member of the promised line of the Savior. And you, by God’s grace, were brought into his family through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. You are a rags-to-riches story because of your inheritance of forgiveness when Jesus died on the cross.
And the third purpose of Paul’s prayer benefits you right now. His incomparable great power for us who believe. Paul has more to say about this power. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” You have all kinds of power. You have leg power. Get up and get it yourself. You have horse power. Get in the car and drive. You have 5G power. Go online. You have all kinds of power, but none of that power is comparable to the power at work when you contemplate God’s Word in your life. That power is only comparable to the resurrection and ascension of your Lord Jesus Christ. It’s a miraculous power at work in you and for you.
And you need that power! Without that power, you will constantly doubt God’s ability to provide you with what you need. Without that power, you think you need to sidestep God’s commandments in order to get what is good for you. Without that power, you will always fail to do what is right in the face of pressure and persecution. God’s power helps you believe what God’s Word says and not what this world says. God’s power enables you to be more like Christ and less like yourselves and your sinful nature.
- Let’s understand what his ascension means for us.
Paul continues, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” It helps to see these verses played out in time and we see these verses played out in the Gospels and in the Book of Acts. In the Gospels it only looks like Pontius Pilate is the head, and Christ is something else. In the Book of Acts it only looks like the enemies of Christ are in change, and the apostles are done for. Looking back, in the gospels, Christ was head over Pilate for the sake of the church, and in the Book of Acts, Christ was head over persecutions for the sake of the church. And so it will always be in times of war and in times peace, in a soaring economy and in a great depression, and in good health and in a mysterious pandemic. Christ is always in charge, and we as the church will always benefit. We are his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
It’s strange to think Christ needs us, that Christ would somehow be incomplete if the church were to cease to exist, but that is exactly what Paul is saying. Christ is the Head. The Church is the body. The body is dead without a head. The head doesn’t function without a body. So it is with Christ. The ascended Jesus is above all. He rules over everything for the benefit of the Church. And as our Head he rules in us, the Church, for the benefit of this world. In Christ, we as a Church live and move and have our being. We are his legs. We as a Church go into all the world. We are his hands. We as a Church serve the Lord with all our abilities. We are his voice. We as a Church have the good news of all the great things he has done. I don’t know what I’ll watch on television tonight. I think the History Channel will have old war documentaries this weekend. The story of Ascension continues as Christ continues to rule over the world for the Church, and Christ is ruling in us, the Church, through the gospel for the benefit of the world. Amen.