The Details Add Up – Ascension Day (Observed)
The Details Add Up
Ascension Day (Observed) T Luke 24:44-53
A bunch of little details form a more magnificent, unified picture. It’s true just about anywhere you go in life. For example, Rachel’s cousin used to work for MARS candy company. He’s high up in the company – He’s worked in Nashville, Fayetteville, and even China! And what did they pay him the big bucks to do? To work on the details. Because the details made the company lots of money! He would spend so much time going through sociological and psychological patterns of people, so as to find the perfect place in stores like Walmart, to put their product, thus increasing the likelihood of someone buying it! The placement of MARS candy products may be an overlooked detail by some, but these small details are what make their candy the most recognizable of all. The details made them famous. Because those details ultimately expanded the bigger picture.
The details of Jesus life form a bigger picture of what He’s done for us. The littlest details that may go overlooked help give the bigger picture a lot more meaning and beauty. Ascension Day is one of those little details in Jesus’s life – it’s really only given a few verses in the historical narrative of Scripture. SO, it’s easy to gloss over. However, without Jesus’ Ascension, we don’t get the whole story. If we didn’t know of Christ’s Ascension, there would be a huge puzzle piece missing from the beautiful picture of Christ’s redemption of all mankind. For at the Ascension, we see the culmination of Christ’s saving work – our whole human nature – mind, spirit, and BODY – find reconciliation with our Heavenly Father. Our corrupt human nature, though it will die, is given life through Christ. And Christ’s bodily ascension is proof positive of that. For our bodies will one day follow Jesus, and become reconciled with our Heavenly Father.
The purpose and work of Jesus coming to earth centered around His payment of mankind’s sin on the cross. The entire scriptures center around telling this story of Jesus. The God-man Himself said it. Luke wrote, “Then [Jesus] opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.”
All of Jesus life showed His saving work for mankind! This is why Jesus healed the blind, sick, and lame. This is why He raised Jairus’ daughter and Lazarus from the dead! This is why He continually and incessantly battled against the hard-hearted Pharisees who wouldn’t repent of their sins and follow Jesus! Every little detail in the Gospels show us something. It doesn’t just show us that Jesus is kind, and we should imitate Him. That may be true, but as Jesus says, that’s not the primary purpose of the Scriptures. All these details when put together show us the truth: sinful man needs saving.
And as Jesus went all throughout His life, there wasn’t one person that Jesus didn’t desire to minister to. Sure, some rejected Jesus. But Jesus didn’t do these miraculous deeds to show Himself to be a nice guy. He did it to reveal Himself as the Savior of the world.
As sinful human beings today, we also need saving from this very same Jesus. Why? Because we’re sinners. All the little details of our lives when they add up don’t make a particularly good big picture. At least, not to the standard that God the Father demands. Sure, maybe you’ve never murdered anyone or stolen anything. But all the evil thoughts, hatred in our hearts, and impure motives – all those little details show one thing: we fall completely short of the bigger picture of what God demands from us. For such unbelief, there’s punishment to pay – ultimately ending in eternal death.
But again, this is why Christ came – to reveal Himself as a Savior to those dead in their sins. Thanks be to God then, that Jesus sent out the disciples and other messengers of the Gospel to reveal the saving benefits of Christ our Lord! For since Christ died and rose from the dead, Jesus sent out the witnesses of those things, to go out into all the world and proclaim Jesus’ name! Luke wrote, “and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”
The message that is to be proclaimed to all the world revolves around the cross of Jesus. For God hates our sins. Since He is a just God, He demands punishment for them. But instead of that punishment being taken out upon us, and instead of that punishment of OUR sin being placed upon a sacrificial animal like a goat or bull from the Old Testament, that punishment was placed on the Father’s own only-begotten Son Jesus. Though He was sinless, He took the sin of not just you and me, but of the WHOLE WORLD upon Himself! And through His death, God’s wrath and anger on all of our sins was satisfied!
Through confessing our sinfulness and our desire for the holy blood of the God-man to cleanse us, we receive a fervent trust in God, which receives the benefits of Christ’s work on the cross. Through this repentance, sinners no longer seek to willingly engage in their sins. Rather, they seek refuge in Christ, who cloaks Himself over sinners, like a hen covers her chicks. Thus, in the refuge of our Savior, we poor miserable sinners live by God’s grace. For we are simultaneously saint and sinner.
This is what all the little details from Jesus’ ministry show us – that He’s come to save a sinner like you. In faith we respond in repentance, shunning our wicked ways, and following Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life. For no one comes to Father except through Him.
But repentance and forgiveness are not the end of what Christ has for us. The cross isn’t the end of what Jesus came to do for us or to show us. We are given new life in the forgiveness of sins. But the culmination of this new life is seen in Jesus’ Ascension into heaven. Before Christ, Luke records that Jesus, “lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.”
There’s something particularly fascinating about this event. And I’ll ask this question to let you mull over in your heads – “What does the Ascension teach us about who Jesus is today? Is he still in flesh and blood today?” If one were to be faithful to the biblical text, you’d have to say…. YES! Absolutely, yes!! And how glorious and magnificent is this small detail! Our own sinful nature and flesh are corrupt and sinful! Because of this, we’ll one day die! Yet Jesus, who embodies all humanity into Himself, shows that our risen flesh is capable of life with God in heaven. For His flesh sits at God’s right hand in HEAVEN! RIGHT NOW! And so, at the last day, our bodies will also rise from the dead and be with God the Father in complete wholeness – we won’t just be disembodied souls with God the Father. Rather, we’ll be with Him in mind, soul, and BODY. This is what our brother and Savior Jesus shows with His BODILY, flesh and blood ascension! Through His bodily ascension, He’s opened all bodies here below to be participants with the Divine Life! Pentecost Sunday is not far from now, but that confirms that God in heaven seeks to be with His flesh and blood people again. For through the Spirit, we participate in the things of heaven. That’s why is important to confess that Jesus ascended bodily into heaven. It’s a small detail, but it adds so much to the bigger picture and implication to us with bodies here below. It’s not as if Jesus unzipped His flesh suit before going into heaven. He went up into heaven with a body to show the culmination of a Christian life lived through Christ. So that those who live by faith will with their flesh and blood, be in heaven with the Father too.
As a quick side-note, this is why Lutherans believe what they do about the Sacrament of the Altar, that Jesus body and blood given in the Sacrament isn’t a metaphor. One, because Christ said This IS my body, This IS my blood. But also two, Christ ascended into heaven with a body! And we cannot divide the human and divine natures of Christ because Christ Himself did not when He ascended into heaven with a BODY!
So the Ascension of Jesus shows us that God’s saving work on us isn’t just that He forgives our sins – that is, a gift FROM God. But God shares His own life us. He makes us participants of His divine nature by grace – for in Christ, God and man are perfectly united. By faith, our lives of sin are not hidden in the human body of Christ, who is with the Father in heaven. This little, small detail of Jesus’ life shows the culmination of God’s work for sinners. For through the cross, He reconciles all mankind back to Himself. And when repentance of sins and forgiveness is given, we can be comforted with the promise that we will dwell bodily with God the Father, and with Christ our brother, at the Last Day.