O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Carried into heaven to be with you
Carried into heaven to be with you
Based on Luke 24:44-53
Preached on May 29, 2014
Click on the Play button
to listen to the Sermon.
Fellow baptized saints, the Lord gives the Law, the prophets and the Psalms. More than that, He gives light to read them. He opens them. He bestows a mystery and a code more profound than that imagined by Dan Brown. "All the Scriptures," He says, "concern Me."
What was the mind of Moses, the hope of Elijah, the sight of Isaiah? That the Christ, God's own Messiah, the One anointed as the Saviour, should suffer and die and on the third day rise again from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the Gentiles, beginning at Jerusalem.
The Gospel began, as it always does, with the preaching of repentance. John stood in the wild place and exposed the dark hearts of men by the Word of God that they would turn from their sins and throw themselves upon God's mercy. Now the Gospel begun is complete. He has fulfilled the Gospel in His suffering. He has ended the Father's wrath, hell's demands, Satan's accusations, and the cry of justice against us. There is good news for men because Jesus died; because Jesus became sin and a curse, a worm and no man; because our sins have been pushed into Him, and He pushed off the edge into Gehenna in our place. It is finished. It is done. It is over, perfect, complete, and there is peace for the angels to announce to the shepherds.
Now that the sacrifice long foretold is complete, the Christ solemnly and emphatically insists that repentance is the great fact of New Testament preaching. The Church is to "open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God." And with this repentance, the forgiveness of sins in Christ is also ever to be preached. In the forgiveness of sins, men are made to see and hear and read the Holy Scriptures, to know God in the Christ as the fulfillment and purpose of all creation. Thus the Scriptures were opened to them and thus the Scriptures, by grace, are opened to us.
God's will is constant. Fallen men need a preaching of repentance, an exposure of our complicity and selfishness, a warning of impending death, and an invitation. You are not God. You do not make the rules. You have not behaved in ways honourable or just or good. You have looked the other way. You have cheated. You are a traitor to your own cause, in league with demons, a pervert, a deviant, a boaster, a liar, a flatterer, a hypocrite, a bureaucrat. Repent. Submit. Stop making excuses. Do not seek to have your sins justified but seek instead to have them forgiven, removed, and counted against Him, that His good works might be counted to you.
The Lord doesn't justify sins. He doesn't wink and nod. He doesn't understand or simply realize that to be human is to be a sinner. Because it isn't true. He is a human and He didn't sin. What He does is declare sinners to be just for His sake, as the beneficiaries of His sacrifice, substitute and ransom.
God has sent His Christ for you. He is historical. He lived in the time of Pontius Pilate. He is incarnate, born of the Virgin May, bone of our bones, one of us, flesh for hell's roasting fires. He has suffered, been mocked by soldiers and priests, rejected by family and friends, betrayed by disciples, crucified, executed as the King of the Jews, and is risen from the dead.
Most shocking and unexpected of all His mercy is that He is not angry. He does not hold a grudge. He walks into the upper room and they are reasonably afraid, but He comes speaking peace and breathing out His Spirit.
All this He has done for you. He has been sent by His Father not only for sins, not only for His Father's will, not only to defeat the devil and show who is really good, but He has been sent also for you – to rescue you, to pull you out of the flames of judgment, to redeem you for Himself, to forgive your sins. He could be angry, but He isn't. Nor is He indulgent. He simply is grace incarnate, grace in the flesh, the victor over death, our champion and hero.
Forty-three days after it was finished, He lifted up His pierced hands and blessed them. And while He was blessing them, He rose into the air and was engulfed by a cloud so that they could behold Him no more with their eyes. Among the appearances of our risen Lord in those forty days, this was distinct. As at other times, He apparently came forth suddenly from the invisible world, but He did not, as on former occasions, suddenly vanish from sight, as if He might shortly return as He had done before. This time He withdrew in a different way; as they watched He rose up into the air. In this way He indicated that He was no longer with them and therefore those occasional and supernatural appearances, given to them since the resurrection were now at an end.
Yet they were not sad, for we read, "And they worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy."
They knew that this was not the little while as before the cross, nor was it the little while since the resurrection. They knew that though their eyes might not see Him, they would now enjoy His blessed presence forever. For His ascension was not simply the physical movement from earth to heaven; rather, His ascension indicated a change of state. His humiliation was over. No longer does He deny Himself, as a man, His divine rights and powers. He is still a man, still one of us, but now, as a man, He fully exercises all His divine attributes. Even as the flames of hell have lost all claim to us, so also can they no longer roast Him. He is no more confined, as a man, by physical space, or subject to hunger or pain. He, as a man, is glorified, and thus opens up heaven for all humanity and especially for those who believe.
That is why the apostles have great joy. They have the Christ in His sacramental presence. In His sacramental presence they have Him closer than they had Him in His humiliation. They have the Scriptures opened to them and the gift and promise of the Father in the Holy Spirit. We have the same. The ascended Christ is with us always, in the baptizing, in the teaching, and in the breaking of the bread. He is present to the end of time, as recorded by St. Matthew, in the apostolic ministry.
Thus do they naturally go to the temple, to church, to continue the work of Moses and Jesus, to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus' name in the shadow of the torn veil. There they point to the mercy seat, no longer hovering over the ark but now in the risen body and blood of Christ, given to His children to eat and to drink. The temple divisions between male and female, Jew and Gentile, have been torn in two. The temple guards have been rendered silent. Jesus lives and is for us in His body and blood. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr