Readings: John 17:20-26; Luke 24:44-53
I love this cartoon. It shows up every year somewhere.
You’ll only really appreciate it fully if you’ve had a child with ADD grow up in your house.
I suspect the whole church may have Ascension Deficit Disorder.
- We’re often missing it.
- Missing the point.
- Not seeing clearly how significant the Ascension is.
Thursday – Ascension Day – came and went – I mistakenly thought someone might pop in at church to pray sometime through the morning.
We miss the point of Jesus being Messiah King.
We had our Messy Church evening on Friday and looked at the 10 commandments. And we tried to get the kids tell us what mom’s ten big rules were, and what dad’s were. You know the drill for mom – make your bed, clean your teeth, go to the toilet before you go to bed. And dad’s rules – which include switch off that TV and less computer time please.
I suggested that the most important rule for dads to teach their kids is simply this: LOVE YOUR MOM. And of course God’s ten big rules include HONOUR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.
Jesus’ big rule is actually this – I AM MESSIAH KING. He is the “I am”. Look to me!
The whole of the Bible – all of life – everything that we do that has any meaning at all – has to be seen through that lens.
It’s like going to Specsavers. When you get these glasses on – it all makes total sense.
In Luke 24 (and I think you should read the whole of this chapter) – in all the engagements with the disciples after the resurrection – especially the Emmaus walk – there is an attention deficit problem. That’s why he says to them in verse 25:
“How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Luk 24:26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” Luk 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (It’s quite direct – and not very pastoral!).
Note that he speaks about himself here as the Christ – the Messiah – which means the King.
Here he says that the whole Bible is really about him.
- When you start at creation – you have to recognise John 1 – that nothing was made that was not made through Jesus.
- If you look at Moses – you have to see that Jesus is the perfect law giver.
- If you look at any of the prophets – Jesus surpasses them all in clarity of message as he speaks God’s word – because he is the Word of God supreme.
- If you look at any of the Old Testament characters – they are pointing to Jesus. Joshua shares his name but Jesus really brings us to the promised land. Joseph forgives his brothers – but Jesus forgives us all.
In fact, John Calvin’s most profound and moving writing has to be what he pens about “Christ in All the Scriptures, Christ for All Our Needs” in a preface to a translation of the New Testament in 1535. He puts it like this:
For, this is eternal life; to know one, only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent, whom he has established as the beginning, the middle, and the end of our salvation.
He [Christ] is Isaac, the beloved Son of the Father who was offered as a sacrifice, but nevertheless did not succumb to the power of death.
He is Jacob the watchful shepherd, who has such great care for the sheep which he guards.
He is the good and compassionate brother Joseph, who in his glory was not ashamed to acknowledge his brothers, however lowly and abject their condition.
He is the great sacrificer and bishop Melchizedek, who has offered an eternal sacrifice once for all.
He is the sovereign lawgiver Moses, writing his law on the tables of our hearts by his Spirit.
He is the faithful captain and guide Joshua, to lead us to the Promised Land.
He is the victorious and noble king David, bringing by his hand all rebellious power to subjection.
He is the magnificent and triumphant king Solomon, governing his kingdom in peace and prosperity.
He is the strong and powerful Samson, who by his death has overwhelmed all his enemies.
He goes on to say:
If follows that every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone. For, he was sold, to buy us back; captive, to deliver us; condemned, to absolve us; he was made a curse for our blessing, sin offering for our righteousness; marred that we may be made fair; he died for Our life; so that by him fury is made gentle, wrath appeased, darkness turned into light, fear reassured, despisal despised, debt cancelled, labour lightened, sadness made merry, misfortune made fortunate, difficulty easy, disorder ordered, division united, ignominy ennobled, rebellion subjected, intimidation intimidated, ambush uncovered, assaults assailed, force forced back, combat combated, war warred against, vengeance avenged, torment tormented, damnation damned, the abyss sunk into the abyss, hell transfixed, death dead, mortality made immortal.
Isn’t that brilliant!
You have to begin to see the victorious Christ – the Messiah King – at His ascension.
When you see the ascension – you see the resurrection. You see the resurrection – you see the cross. You see the cross – and you see human sin. You see human sin and you see the fall of man. You see that and you understand the mess of the world and the need for hope. See that – and you see the need for a Saviour – one who can rescue us. Then you end up back at Christmas – with the birth of Jeshua – meaning “God saves”. You see that and you see people in relationship with God. You see that – and you see the point of life. You see the relationship people can have with God – and you see a better world where people get on and love like Jesus did.
And when you see that – you give thanks to God and worship the risen ascended Jesus – and not something else. All glory goes to Jesus! Not unto us! And it puts the ten commandments into perspective too – One God only, no idols, keeping His name holy – and keeping His day – this is all for Jesus too.
It’s all about Messiah – King Jesus.
He’s done all this – and he is the One who has to be at the centre of our lives.
Tim Keller – an American preacher in New York – talks about the deficit we have in our thinking about Christ the King in this way.
He tells the story of a British preacher John Guest who ends up living in American and visits Philadelphia and a revolutionary war museum – where he sees a sign that made him realise he really was in a different country.
It was from the time of the American revolution and on the wall in a pub or tavern. And it said this: “We serve no sovereign here”.
Keller goes on to say that democracy – and American democracy has got to be the most fascinating type in the world – has been described by C S Lewis as medicine and not food.
In Britain and Europe – and indeed the dominions like New Zealand where we are, Australia – and Canada – people still understand what it means to serve to a sovereign. In Asia people would see the benefit of respecting authority.
But not in America. America has sold us the idea of individual freedom more than any other power or philosophy. We all believe we have the right to veto everything.
If democracy is medicine and not food – what really feeds us?
Jesus hints at what really satisfies: John 4:34 – “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.
C S Lewis suggests that we were made to be ruled. And if we don’t acknowledge Jesus as King (as Tim Keller puts it) we will serve somebody. Or something. Human nature is such that If it doesn’t get food it will gobble poison. Keller suggests simply:
- Obey him – treat Him as King.
- Trust him – faith means trust at a basic level.
- Rely on Him – prayer if anything is talking to him about our need of his help and support and purpose. Don’t say you believe in Him and depend on your career – or your family – or your stuff – to give you worth and meaning in life.
- Treat him as a king in prayer; expect much – John Newton has a hymn that captures this well: Thou art coming to a King, Large petitions with thee bring; For His grace and power are such, None can ever ask too much; None can ever ask too much.
In the light of this, Jesus’ departing words make sense. Listen again:
Luk 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you–that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Luk 24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, Luk 24:46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, Luk 24:47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
The whole Bible story – salvation history as we know it since the story of Adam and Eve where God is a missional God looking for Adam – is about Jesus the Messiah King. It all points to him and focusses on Him. And it will end with Him too when he comes again.
And the disciples clearly had their work cut out for them – telling this story. So Jesus says:
Luk 24:48 You are witnesses of these things. Luk 24:49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Luk 24:50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. Luk 24:51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. Luk 24:52 And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; Luk 24:53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
The story of Luke goes on in volume 2 – what we know as the book of Acts. They are to wait those long ten days for the promised Holy Spirit. We’ll be here Tuesday and next Sunday to consider that.
But for today – take this home. The gospel ends with them worshipping Him – bowing to a Sovereign King. And this King who is so reliable and worth serving and obeying – is doing what He always does – we see him in verse 50 and 51 – blessing them.
Let Him bless you as you take Him anew as Messiah King.