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A Sermon Preached at the ACK St. James Church – Buruburu during the Ascension Day on Thursday 25th May, 2017.
- Psalm 47
- Acts 1:1-11
- Ephesians 1:15-23
- Luke 24:44-53
Ascension of Christ marks Christ’s last day of His physical presence on the earth and it does not mark the end of His ministry on earth but just the beginning. Ascension Day is the 40th day after Christ’s resurrection from the grave. It is a Christian holiday that commemorates Jesus Christ’s ascension into heaven in a bodily form. Ascension Day marks the end of the Easter season and occurs ten days before Pentecost Day.
For Christians, the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ is an important event because if Christ did not ascend into heaven, there would be Christianity as the Holy Spirit would not have come. From the lectionary texts for the Holy Communion today, the Ascension Day helps affirm three important doctrines of the Christian faith:
- The Doctrine of Resurrection – The Resurrection of Christ
Resurrection is one of the foundations of the Christian doctrine. Any Christian denomination which does not believe in the physical or bodily resurrection of Christ is but a cult. If Christianity did not believe in the resurrection of Christ, then there will be no difference from other religions. Christianity is a ‘living’ religion because we believe in and worship the living Christ. Luke in his first book; that is the gospel of Luke records the conversation which Jesus had with His disciples after resurrection.
Luke 24:44- “44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.”
In his second book, which he wrote to one Theophilus, Luke again goes on to affirm the doctrine of resurrection:
Acts 1:3 “After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”
For Luke, Jesus resurrected and He confirmed His resurrection for a period of 40 days when he performed miracles and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive.
However, the resurrection was not just Christ’s own activity, it was God the Father’s activity. God raised Christ from the grave:
Therefore, the Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ is an affirmation of the Christian doctrine of resurrection.
- The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit – The Promised Holy Spirit
One of the backbones of the Christian doctrines is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. We believe in the Holy Spirit as the third Person of the Triune God – as God and part of the Trinity.
In His farewell speech to His disciples, Luke in his first book reports that, Jesus reminded His disciples that:
Luke 24:49 “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
According to Jesus:
- The Holy Spirit is God the Father’s promise to His people
The Holy Spirit has been promised to Christians as a gift from God. It is God the Father’s good pleasure to fill His children with the Holy Spirit.
- The Holy Spirit is sent by Jesus Christ
- The Holy Spirit comes to continue the ministry and work of Jesus Christ.
- The Holy Spirit affirms the spiritual presence of Christ with the saints.
- The Holy Spirit empowers believers to be Christ’s witnesses \ missioners
The disciples were directed by Christ, to stay in Jerusalem until they are clothed with power from high; unless they are filled with the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit fills God’s people to empower them for God’s ministry on earth.
Acts 1:4, 5, and 8 “4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit… 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
- The Doctrine of Glorification – The Glorified Christ
Finally, Luke reports that:
Luke 24:50-53 “50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.”
Acts 11:9-11 “9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
We must read Luke 24:50-53 together with Acts 1:9-11 in order to harmonise the story of the Ascension event. Reading Luke 24:50-53 alone might leave us at a loss especially Luke 24:52, “Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” Why would the disciple return to Jerusalem with great joy instead of being sorrowful that they would not see their Master again?
It is when we read Acts 1:10 &11, that we can realise the disciples’ cause for joy: “10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Ahaaa, it is the comforting words from the two men dressed in white that gave the disciples hope that Jesus who has ascended into heaven will come again or they will see Him again.
Paul, in his epistle to the Ephesians, picks over from where Luke left his narrative of the Ascension of Christ and takes us to heaven where Christ finally arrived. The Ascension of Christ, led Him to be reunited with God the glorious Father.
For Paul, the resurrection of Christ was part of the glorification agenda. The resurrection was God’s activity; it is God who raised Christ from the dead:
Ephesians 1:19-20 “9 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…”
The Ascension of Christ is the event which leads to Christ’s return to His original place in the Trinity before He took the human nature. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul captures this well in the Christological Hymn:
Philippians 2:5-11 “5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature 5 God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature 6 of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death —even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
And, at the glorification, Paul tells us that God the glorious Father:
Ephesians 1:20b-23 “…seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
The glorification of Christ; the return of Christ to original glory He had with God the Father and God the Spirit calls for praise and worship to God.
The Psalmist in Psalm 47 has captured the mood of the praise and worship required to God our glorious Father:
Psalm 47:1-9 “1 Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. 2 How awesome is the LORD Most High, the great King over all the earth! 3 He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet. 4 He chose our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom he loved.
5 God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets. 6 Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. 7 For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise. 8 God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne. 9 The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; he is greatly exalted.”
The Ascension of Jesus Christ is a powerful event the captures the foundation of the Christian doctrine. The doctrine of Trinity is the focal point of all the Christian doctrines. Ascension inaugurates the Pentecost – the coming of the Holy Spirit; Ascension enthrones the risen Christ as preeminent over all the earth. The Ascension story brings in humanity to join the eschatological dance and hope.
Ascension Day – 2017
The Rev. Simon J. Oriedo
Curate at ACK St. James’ Buruburu
P.O. Box 14814 – 00100, Nairobi Kenya
Mobile: +254 – 722 838 023 / 772 838 023 / 735 62 11 72 / 752660620