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Observation of the Ascension of Our Lord

Acts 1:1–11; Luke 24:44–53

James T. Batchelor

Easter 7, series B
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, May 17, 2015 

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Portions of this sermon excerpted from Fickenscher, Carl C. Book II: The Story Continues. Concordia Pulpit Resources, Volume 19, Part 2, Series B (2009) St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House

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The summer movie season is upon us and, once again, there are sequels.  The Avengers, Jurassic Park, Pitch Perfect, and many other movies have sequels coming out this summer.  Of course, books have come in sequels for centuries: Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn; Little Men & Little Women; Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass; The Iliad & The Odyssey The list goes on and on.

Today, we are looking at one of the sequels that we find in the Bible.  1In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. (Acts 1:12) The book of Acts is the second installment of the books that Luke wrote for his patron Theophilus. 

The Gospel you heard this morning comes from the first book of Luke, his gospel account.  We heard from his second book as he continues to record the work that Jesus continued to do through His church.  We just heard Jesus Himself give the outline of Lukes sequel: You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

In some cases, a sequel can stand alone.  It doesnt make a whole lot of difference if you have read or seen the previous books or movies.  Other times, the sequel assumes you know about its predecessors, and you miss out on a lot if you dont.  Acts is like that.  You cannot understand Acts if you are not familiar with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of Luke gives a record of what Jesus began to do and teachthat is, the essential facts.  Without the Gospel of Luke, Acts makes no sense.  We wouldnt know the characters in ActsJesus, Peter, and the rest.  More important, without the Gospel, there could have been no Acts.

Lukes account of the Gospel tells about Jesus.  Jesus actions, especially his death and resurrection, have earned salvation for us.  Jesus death means we have forgiveness of all sins.  Jesus resurrection assures us of eternal life.  Jesus teachings in Luke explain the truths of the kingdom of God, that by grace God rules in the hearts of all who believe, that God actually makes us kings.  As you read Acts, you can see that Luke assumes we know and believe all of this.

The whole point of Acts is the proclamation of the Gospel account.  Without Jesus teachings, there would be no Word to proclaim. Without Jesus suffering and death, thered be no reason to speak. Without Jesus resurrection, thered be no hope; the story would be over.

On the other hand, the events recorded in Acts are also essential for salvation.  Lukes Gospel account proclaims Jesus and His salvation, but that would do us no good if we did not know about it.  As the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write: How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? (Romans 10:1415) Without the proclamation of the Gospel as recorded in the book of Acts, the knowledge of salvation through Jesus Christ would have been lost.

The Holy Spirit inspired Luke to connect his two books with accounts of the ascension.  His first book ends with a light mention of the ascension.  Then the second book begins by filling in more of the details concerning the ascension.  Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. (Acts 1:9) They could no longer see Him, but the rest of the book makes it very sure that He was still with them.  He watched over them and sent the Holy Spirit to guide them in the truth.

Jesus has ascended and we can no longer see Him.  Never the less, we have His promises: Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20) I will not leave you or forsake you. (Joshua 1:5) We know that although we cannot see Him, He is with us.  He is with us in a new mysterious way for He said, This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. AND This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (Luke 22:1920)

Our Sunday morning Bible class recently finished reading through the Book of Acts.  When we came to the end, it sort of just stopped.  It didnt bring everything to a nice conclusion.  That is because the book of Acts is not finished.  Jesus continues to work in us.  We are baptized using the water and the word just as the believers in Acts were baptized.  Although the water of baptism has dried, the work of baptism continues in us.  As baptized children of God, the Holy Spirit continues to keep us strong in the faith.  He brings us to confession and gives us the forgiveness of sins.  He encourages us toward good works.  We are the ongoing story of the book of Acts.

By the Holy Spirits power, we continue Jesus work and teachings as we proclaim his Gospel to the world.  What did Jesus say before He ascended? You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8) Is the work of Acts complete?  Has the ends of the earth heard the witness of the Apostles?  Have all the people of Hoopeston heard the witness of the Apostles?  We still have the words of the Apostles their witness.  We can carry that witness to our family and friends.  We can even share that witness with each other as we study that witness together.

We have the confidence to confess what the disciples witnessed for Jesus is still with us.  The disciples saw Jesus leave, but he was really going away in order to be with them.  At the ascension, Jesus took his seat at the right hand of Gods power, but thats not a distant place at all.  In fact, its not really a place.  It means that Jesus constantly exercises His power for us.  He is now everywhere, always with usnot just his divine nature, but his human nature too. Jesustrue God and true manis right here with us.  But since hes at the right hand of Gods power, exercising Gods power, hes also praying for us, guiding us, protecting us.  Jesus continues to write us into the ongoing book of Acts.

Eventually, the book of Acts will come to a proper conclusion.  On the Last Day, time and the universe will come to an end as we know it.  A new sequel will begin.  While they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11and said, Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven. (Acts 1:1011) On that day when Jesus returns, a new eternal sequel will begin.

Jesus gave John a vision of the new eternal sequel and John wrote, Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. (Revelation 21:1) He also wrote, I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:34) Jesus has ascended into heaven as our forerunner, with the promise to return and take us there. When He comes, the new eternal sequel will begin.

But thats another story.  Amen

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