'The Son of Man'
Exaudi, The Sunday after the Ascension of Our Lord | May 2, 2008
You know how it is that the last time you see a person, that image is sealed in your mind. If a loved one is flying away, and you see them waving through the airplane window, you remember that wave the whole time they are gone. Jesus gives us this in His Ascension, the last time He was seen on the earth. He disappears from our sight with His arms raised in blessing.
50 Then [Jesus] led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands He blessed them. 51 While He blessed them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. [Luke 24:50-51]
There are thousands of beautiful paintings and icons and statues of the Lord's ascension, and every one that I've see He has the same posture: arms raised in blessing. This is marvelous, that the Lord wants this image to be stuck in our mind: Him giving us His blessings.
This is why Jesus was born, lived, suffered and died and rose again and ascended, that He might give to His church His blessings of forgiveness and salvation and life.
We have three accounts of the Lord's ascension: Mark tells us that the Lord was received up into heaven and sat at the right hand of God. [Mark 16:19] Luke gives us the account twice, once at the end of his Gospel [24:50-53], and again at the beginning of Acts [1:9-11]. Jesus goes with the disciples to Bethany, sends them back to Jerusalem to wait for the Holy Spirit (which would come ten days later, we will celebrate that on the feast of Pentecost next Sunday), and then tells them that with the coming of the Holy Spirit they will be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and then to the ends of the earth. Then, as Jesus is giving His blessing to is apostles, He is lifted up from the earth and is taken from their sight into a cloud.
As the eleven are standing there looking at the sky an angel comes and asks them what they are doing, assuring them that Jesus will come back the same way He went. This is another promise of the Lord Jesus' second coming, our great hope.
Now I told you that there are three accounts of the Lord's ascension, but I should clarify. There are three accounts of the Lord's ascension from below, from an earthly perspective. But there are, in the Scriptures, accounts from above, from a heavenly perspective. Mark and Luke show Jesus leaving, but there are texts from the other side showing Jesus coming in.
One of these “coming in” texts is Revelation 5. John sees this vision of the throne of God, and there, surrounded by the four living creatures and the saints and angels is a scroll that needs to be opened. The scroll is the book of life, and it's opening is the salvation of man, but there is no one to open it, and John begins to cry. But then the angel tells John to look, for the Lion of the tribe of Judah has prevailed to open the scroll. And John looks, and sees in the midst of the throne, A lamb standing, as if it had just been slain. This Lion, this Lamb is our Jesus, crucified, risen, ascended,. He has conquered and prevailed and won salvation, and the saints and angels sing His praises.
You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth. [Revelation 5:9,10]
There is at least one other heavenly account of the ascension (Revelation 12 might also be understood as a picture of the ascension), and it is our Old Testament text from Daniel 7. The beginning of Daniel's book if filled with stories of the prophets in exile, the faithfulness of Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. In the first six chapters we have the familiar stories of the fiery furnace and the lion's den.
But then around chapter seven the book changes and begins to give us the visions of Daniel the prophet. The two verses of our first lesson are from this first night vision of Daniel. Daniel sees the four living beasts that attend the throne of God, and the throne with the Ancient of Days sitting on it. This is God the Father. And thousands of angels and saints are a attending Him. And then our text, which again gives us a heavenly perspective of the ascension:
13 I saw in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a Son of Man,
And He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him.
14 And to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him;
His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
When Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father He is given as a gift from His Father the rule of all nations and kingdoms and peoples. Jesus ascension is His coronation, His taking up His birthright as King of King and Lord of Lords. “All authority on heaven and earth is given to Me.” [Matthew 28:19]
And this matters for us. There are not two gods in heaven, one that loves us and another that's in charge. No. There is One who is above all authority and dominion and reign, One who sits on the throne, One who holds the scepter of the universe. And He holds it with the same hands that were pierced for you.
“Sit here at My right hand until I make Your enemies Your footstool.” [Psalm 110:1] The feet that rest on that footstool are the same ones that walked on the shore of the sea of Galilee, the same the bore us under the weight of the cross, the same that were run through with a steak and hammered to the cross.
The head that is crowned with many crowns is the same brow that ran with sweat and blood and was circled with thorns. You get the point. It is your Jesus who is ascended above the heavens, who is sitting in the control room of the universe, who rules and reigns all things, who is in charge.
The throne of God is not a safe place, not a safe place at all for sinners like you and me. From that throne and from that holiness proceeds fire and destruction and judgment. But it is by the hands and the feet and the brow and the blood and the dying of our Jesus that fire of God's wrath is quenched and put out and heaven is made a safe place for us. Jesus is all powerful, the One who loves us, the One who died for us.
So Jesus lives and reigns at God's right hand, He lives and reigns to rule and reign all things for us, His church and dear sheep [see Ephesians 1:20-23]. He works all things together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose [see Romans 8:28].
Jesus, your Jesus has ascended to the throne of heaven, to God's right hand. So what are you afraid of?
May the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller
Hope Lutheran Church | Aurora, CO