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June 2, 2019      He Has Gone, Yet He Remains

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Dear Brothers and sisters in Christ,

Let’s think about 3 aspects of Jesus’ Ascension instructions; He said: #1) it’s not for you to know;   #2) you will receive the Holy Spirit; #3) & you will be my witnesses.

I heard this comparison once; see what you think. Imagine an oil-drilling team, working above a large, rich area of underground oil, natural gas, & many valuable minerals.   But the workers are only focused on the oil. They’ve been doing their hard & dirty work for over a year, and they expect to reach the oil at any moment, /be done, /go home /& enjoy their riches. With this project, the foreman personally selected, trained & supervised everyone, and guided them every step of the way.

Now he calls them altogether. They ask: “Boss, we’re so close! Will you now give the order to drill thru & get that oil?” But the Boss replies: “That’s not for you to know right now. It’s not time yet. At the right time, I’ll send my associate back to you & then you’ll know what to do.”   With that the foreman turns, drives off in his pickup, & disappears from sight, in a cloud of dust. The crew looks at each other ~ astonished. The foreman had said he was leaving soon, but why now; just when they were so close to their goal?

If the disciples were this oil-drilling crew, this might describe how they felt on Ascension Day after 3 years of following Jesus. But, it’s like the old hymn says: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” Even after all they had been seeing & learning, they still thought that Jesus was going to restore the nation of Israel to worldly power; that earthly splendor was part of Messiah’s plan. Of course, His dying on the cross had confused them at first, but now that He was risen; surely now would be the best time to restore the Kingdom to Israel == they had trouble seeing the bigger picture.

But Jesus had something else in mind. They had been chosen for a larger mission;

they were still missing the fact that Jesus was the King of the Jews and of the whole world;

so their job wasn’t done yet.   So He said; “You will be my witnesses /in Jerusalem, /and in all Judea, /and Samaria, /and to the ends of the earth.   And after He said that, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight.”

After Easter, they thought “Oh, we’re so close.”   They could almost taste the earthly glory & power; but it was not to be.   Soon would they understand that Jesus’ earthly ministry was just temporary, and now completed; and their part had just begun.   And even tho it was time for Him to leave their sight,   it was in this way that He would truly never leave them.

The Father designed a plan to send His Son to save a condemned creation, and substitute for sinful mankind. So, conceived by the Holy Spirit, & born of the Virgin Mary, this perfect Son was the perfect Lamb offered as the sacrifice for all people.   Because life is in the blood (says Hebrews),   His blood was given & shed to restore you to life from the death of sin.

So, when Jesus said: “It is finished!” it was the cry of triumph, not defeat.   And on the 3rd day, the Father echoed “It is finished!” when He commanded death to release His Son & the tomb was opened.   Just as when history began at creation when God’s Word shattered the darkness,   so also history had a new beginning when His Word shattered sin & death. Jesus has brought life; and those who believe that Jesus is God & Lord have become new creations.

Jesus came to earth to make himself known, & to work our salvation; then for 40 days after Easter, He taught & convinced His chosen crew that it was now a new time in history.

The only thing that remained was to begin these Last Days, which began at Pentecost.

By Jesus alone, there is peace with God by forgiveness & grace; now the disciples are entrusted with proclaiming that message of salvation. The world was ‘saved’, now it must be won over. Faith comes from hearing THAT Gospel message.

We might be tempted to think that it would’ve been better if Jesus would’ve stayed on the earth like back then; the disciples also thought that would be best.   But, think of what chaos it would be if Jesus was still walking the earth as He did back then. Everyone would be trying to BE where He is; all thinking that He is only about physical healing, multiplying bread, & setting up an earthly kingdom.  But how much clearer could it be, when He said:

My kingdom IS NOT of this world”?   He HAD to go away, so that He could be with us all ~ always. In John 16, He tells the Twelve: “It is for your good that I go away, because if I go I will send the Holy Spirit to You!”

So, which is better: *to see Jesus on the outside, or have His Holy Spirit on the inside? They saw Jesus & were often confused; but when God-the-Holy Spirit came, then they knew the bigger picture & what to do. This is the Spirit who lives, ==not on the outside, or over in Jerusalem, or in Temples made by human hands== but the Spirit who lives inside believers; wherever we are,   whatever our condition.

The Spirit is the 3rd person of God, who makes the Bible a Living Word; thru Baptism the Spirit becomes our Counselor & Comforter; by the Scripture He is the Teacher of the Truth for the whole world.   Be glad that you live in this day & time.   Jesus departure ushered in a brand new era; a special ‘final’ time of fulfillment & the gospel.  Those that lived in the OT time were waiting for God’s promise of the Savior. The focus was on the people of Israel, thru whom God’s Messiah would be born. Their assignment from God was to live with particular ways in order to foreshadow & symbolize the work God’s Savior would do.

And now, YOU live in the NT time; God’s promise of the Savior is fulfilled; the focus is on Christ’s Church, His ministry of the Word & Sacraments, thru which the Gospel is reaching out & inviting souls to the Son of God, the crucified & risen Savior for all. Your assignment is to support His Church, His Gospel ministry, with a holy life that reflects that one Savior & His teachings. So, Jesus still lives with His disciples; He still is leading, teaching, comforting & directing US to serve His kingdom by serving those around us by His Word.

This is why Jesus HAD to go.  By His Ascension, He has accomplished the next phase of His salvation to the world; He has assumed the position of all power & authority over heaven & earth. He is reserving a heavenly place for us, and will return to take us there.

For now, He is overseeing everything for the good of His earthly Church. His Ascension means that we =not only have hope for life after death= but we have certainty right now, that all things must turn out ‘right’ =according to His will=  no matter what else happens.

Jesus is now our Ascended Lord who has promised to intercede for us to the Father.    Our sinful nature still clings to us = it’s the chief enemy against our faith. For our strength, we have the ‘sword of the Spirit’, which is the Word of God, and we have Jesus Himself pleading for us.   *What else do we need?

As Romans 8 says, *If He is for us, who can be against us with any real threat?

We celebrate Easter because it means that ‘He lives’ & has conquers our sin & death; we celebrate Ascension because it means ‘He reigns’ & lives with us to fight our enemies, and to lead us home.   As we walk in this one Christian & apostolic faith, we are shown to be His witnesses so those around us will also know Him, and serve Him.

There’s no one on earth like a mature Christian, who understands what Jesus has promised, & who understands their own place in His kingdom. Because they have the joy of knowing the presence of Jesus, the strength of His Spirit, & a living purpose in His kingdom.

A mature Christian has learned to ‘trust & obey’; so that everything they do, and go-thru, shows that strength & hope of walking with Christ thru this life, and into the next.

His presence is AS REAL as you & I are present today. As Mt.18 says, “Wherever 2 or 3 come together in My name, there I am with them.”   His real presence is to be our very source of daily strength & joy in all that we do; *is that true in your life?

The final thought today about Jesus Ascension instructions is that we have received power to be His witnesses.   The Greek word for ‘witness’ is ‘mar-tur-ais’ or ‘martyr.’

We are martyrs for Him; our life does not belong to ourself, we belong to him, He bought us with a price. So, He says, “you will be my witnesses.” That means that our lives will be spent for Him & His kingdom. And since He is with us, with His Spirit of power & His Words of guidance, in all the things we do that witness will be faithful & good.

The apostles didn’t realize it at the time, but the Ascension Day was a glorious & comforting day; just as important as Easter, but the next phase. They just had to trust & obey; the Lord would accomplish His next work, & they would be His crew for that time & place.

That’s the same for US. You have been chosen by your Lord & Savior as part of His crew for the work of the Church in this time & place. Jesus has not left us; He continues with us,

to direct this part of the kingdom’s work until He returns in all His glory.

There are some things that are still not for us to know. Such as the day & hour of His return; or how many souls around us will respond to His Good News with faith. We don’t need to know;   we have received His Holy Spirit; and we are His witnesses.   We do know that because He Ascended, He lives & reigns over all, and He is with us.

Jesus had to go; yet He remains.   And we are blessed as His crew.      Amen