O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
The Journey Home
"The Journey Home"
Based on Luke 24:44-53 and Acts 1:1-11
Preached on May 17, 2012 - The Ascension of our Lord
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Fellow baptized saints, have you ever heard the expression, "life is a journey?" It seems that more and more people are describing life this way. A journey. I suppose it's no surprise, for Christians have always said this, in fact, even in the book of Acts, Christianity is called The Way. But to simply call life a journey does it no justice -where are we going and what is the way? These difficult questions have led some to claim that the destination doesn't matter - only the journey - but the angels from our text would disagree. They would look at Christ's journey and see that for our crucified, risen and ascended Lord, both the journey and the destination are important. In fact, if the destination did not matter - then we would not be here this evening - we would not care that Jesus ascended into heaven, that He returned to take His rightful place on the throne. But He has as we boldly proclaim.
Now the beautiful thing for Christians is that Christ's journey is your journey. His life is Your life. The life Christ lived means more to you than your own life - for He is the Way. You are not the way. So when we say life is a journey, we are talking about our journey as disciples with Christ. We are talking about a journey with the suffering Lord to the inheritance of His glory. Christ has travelled the way. He has laid Himself out upon it, shed His blood all over it, He has even become it, so that He can be with you at every point along it. Whether it is descending into the darkest depths of death itself, or ascending into the highest heavenly realms and the joys of eternal life, Christ is with you, for He is the ruler of it all. He has publicly fulfilled all things.
St. Luke pictured Jesus' entire life as a journey in his gospel. His journey began when He came down from heaven to earth and became man on Christmas. It continued down through the crucifixion into the earth on Good Friday. However, it did not end there, but He rose from the grave, triumphant over death on Easter morning. Finally, as a final leg to His journey, Christ ascended into heaven to assume the position of all authority in heaven and on earth at the right hand of His Father, not only as the Son of God, but now also as the Son of Man - born, died, raised, and reigning for all eternity. Brothers and sisters in Christ, Christ's journey is your journey. In Him you too will rise, ascend and reign for all eternity, not only as the children of man, but also as the children of God.
The children of God you say? Well, if we are the children of God, I must've been cut out of the will, because the benefits sure aren't making it to me. Life is hard. Sure its a journey, but its hard. If we truly are the children of God, why is life so hard? Brothers and sisters in Christ, Christ's journey is your journey. It was not easy for Christ either. We have to be realistic about what part of the journey we are on. Jesus lived a life of humility and service. He waited patiently to be glorified, and set His mind on heavenly things. He was the Son of God, yet the benefits sure weren't making it to Him either. Jesus knows how hard your life is, in fact, even that day He ascended He knew how hard it would be, so He put some special things in order for you in His last minutes on earth. Special words to bring you some of the benefits of being a child of God.
Our text says, "Then He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands He blessed them. While He blessed them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven." Picture it, how did Jesus leave His disciples? With His hands lifted up in blessing. He has not ended this blessing, but it continues even to this day. Christ truly blesses you when you hear His Word of blessing. He promises that His face shines upon you, that He looks upon you with favour. He knows the journey that lies ahead for you, and He promises that you will be blessed along the way, that you will make it to heaven.
But how is it that you hear such a magnificent blessing? How does it come to you? Through another amazing gift Christ gave in His last minutes on earth. Our text says, "repentance and the forgiveness of sins shall be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things." Christ had chosen His apostles to follow Him and witness His journey. Now they would carry out His ministry to all the world. How do you hear Christ's eternal blessing? Through His called pastors whom He sends to speak it for Him. Christ wants the benefits of His journey to be yours, so He sends men to preach His Word. He speaks through preaching to make His journey real in the lives of His children.
And this is where we can start to say Christ's journey is my journey, for immediately after He ascended into heaven our text says, "They worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy." What does they worshipped Him mean, except that they finally believed in Him? They finally realized who He really is and understood that His entire journey had been for them. Christ had worked faith in the hearts of His disciples. He was drawing them to Himself so their feet might journey along the way He had forged for them. As the Scriptures say, "The righteous shall live by faith." Christ's journey is my journey.
But faith was not the only benefit that Christ worked in them through His Word. If faith was the drawing factor, joy was the driving factor. For as our text says, they "returned to Jerusalem with great joy." The only other time St. Luke used this expression was at Jesus' birth. The joy that Christ works in us through faith is the kind of joy that heaven and earth shared when the Son of God was born as a man. It is a joy of what lies at the end of the journey. It is a joy that rests in the promises of our great Redeemer. It is a joy of immense humility.
When I was nearly finished writing this sermon, I realized the author of the Hebrews had been able to say the exact same thing in two verses. Listen to this:
"Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
Christ's journey is your journey. He has blazed the trail to heaven for you. He has spoken His promises to you. He has drawn your eyes to Him, and He has offered you a joy that will never end. "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you."
In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr