Good morning and welcome to worship! I have good news for you this morning! The story of Jesus didn’t end with the resurrection. Jesus didn’t just do his thing on the cross; get raised from the dead and 40 days later catch a ride to heaven for his retirement.
He isn’t finished yet, and neither are we! In fact, the best is yet to come. The night before he was crucified Jesus said these words to his disciples. “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12
Because of his ascension, Jesus is more involved in the work of saving, redeeming, healing, battling sin and evil today than when he walked on the earth 2000 years ago. Back then he could only be in one place at a time. He had to eat, sleep, rest. But now he’s in the control room of the universe 24/7.
Through the Holy Spirit and his people he is at work right now around the world. He is here with us this morning. His purpose for us as his people isn’t just to hang around until we blow this malt shop and show up in heaven. Let’s read those words from John 14:12 again. “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12
So what’s he doing? He’s preparing a place for us. With the Father, he is sending the Holy Spirit to convict of sin, teach, comfort, give assurance of salvation, and empower for ministry and witness. He is drawing people to himself. He is protecting, providing, renewing, saving. He is doing miraculous signs and wonders. He is reigning and ruling over all.
The ascension of Jesus is not about his leaving. Remember, He promised to be with us, to never leave us or abandon us. His last words in the Gospel of Matthew are these, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Mt 28:20
Before he left he told his disciples it was to their advantage that he was “going away” because that was prerequisite to the coming of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit would live within believers so intimately that it would literally be the Father and the Son making their home within us. At the same time, Jesus reigns with the Father at the control center of the universe. Together, they hold the position of ultimate authority over every other authority whether those powers recognized him or not.
Jesus told Nicodemus, “No one has ever gone up (ascended) into heaven except the one who (descended) came down from heaven – the Son of Man.” John 3:13
But that’s what Satan tried. He said, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will set enthroned on the Mount of Assembly… I will make myself like the Most High.” Isaiah 14:13-15
The powers of this world continue to try to dethrone God and exalt themselves in his place. But they cannot threaten the Lord or the coming of his kingdom or his sovereign rule.
Not long after Pentecost the church in Jerusalem had grown beyond the ability of the disciples to care for all the people. 3,000 were added on Pentecost alone! So they appointed deacons to help with the work of pastoral care. One of them was named Stephen.
Stephen was full of God’s grace and God was doing great wonders and miraculous signs through his ministry. The religious leaders were jealous and they persuaded some men to accuse him of blasphemy – same thing they had done to Jesus.
At his trial before the Sanhedrin, Stephen gave a powerful witness to Jesus. Suddenly, Stephen said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
At this the religious leaders dragged Stephen from the city and stoned him to death, but while they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, do not hold this sin against them.”
Stephen looked up and saw a greater reality beyond what was happening to him. Listen to these words from Psalm 34.
“I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” Psalm 34:1-7
The great theologian Karl Barth preached a sermon to men who were languishing in a prison cell in Nazi Germany during WW 2. These men had lost hope. The hideous evil that encompassed them had blinded them to the reality of the ascended Christ. Pastor Barth translated Psalm 37:5 like this, “Look up to him and your face will shine, you will never be ashamed.”
No matter how dark our circumstances; Jesus is risen from the dead, he has conquered sin, death, and the devil. He has ascended to the throne of the Most High. He is ruling on our behalf. He is engaged in the circumstances of our lives. From his position of absolute supremacy, he is pouring out his Holy Spirit to empower us to shine for him in every situation that may come our way. “Look up to him and your face will shine, you will never be ashamed.”
The key is to lift our eyes from the despair around us and look to him, rather than focusing on our circumstances. The Lord is in charge and he is greater than anything that may threaten us. Because he is on the throne and watching over us, we are more than conquerors – regardless of our circumstances.
Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him… I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” John 17:1-5
In the Ascension, Jesus moved from the limitations of life on earth to the omnipotence of his throne in heaven. He didn’t check out, he assumed command. That doesn’t mean our struggles are over. There is still a battle to be fought. But we aren’t alone.
If we could open a window and see into heaven, like Stephen, we would see Jesus reigning supreme, paying attention, fully focused, fully involved, in control, bringing his Kingdom into our hearts and achieving his will on to earth. We would never give in to fear. We would never hang our heads in shame or fear. Our faces would be radiant with confidence and joy.
Paul puts it this way in Phil 2:8-11 “…(Jesus) humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil 2:8-11
The Ascension of Jesus is the guarantee that “No matter how many promises God has made, they are “yes” in Christ”. 2 Cor 1:20 So let’s review a few of those promises… Because Jesus has ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father this morning…
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Phil 4:13
“…God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory.” Phil 4:19
“He is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine according to his power that is in work in us.” Eph. 3:20
“Greater is he (Jesus) that is in you than he (the devil) that is in the world.” 1 John 4:4
“He is able to keep you from falling and present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.” Jude 24
“He is able to bring all things under his control.” Phil 3:21
“Because he himself suffered when he was tempted he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Heb. 2:18
“He is able to save completely those who come to God through him because he lives to intercede for them.” Heb. 7:25
“He is able to guard that which I’ve committed (my life) against that day (day of trial or temptation, day of Final Judgment).” 2 Tim. 1:12
“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom 8:37-39
“Behold, I (Jesus) am with you always, even until the end of the age.” Mt 28:20
“Look up to him and your face will shine, you will never be ashamed.” Psalm 34:5