Jesus Christ Returns to the Father, Part II, Mark 16:19-20
It is the tradition of our church to celebrate the day of remembrance of our Lordís resurrection known to us as Easter.
This year Easter will be on Sunday, April 5th.
But there is also in many denominational churches a remembrance of our Lordís Ascension and that day is called The Feast of the Ascension, Ascension Thursday, or Holy Thursday, or simply Ascension Day.
Ascension Day is traditionally celebrated on the fortieth day following the Sunday celebration of Easter and because of this period being 4 weeks and five days Ascension Day always falls on a Thursday.
This year it will be on May 14.
It is a day of celebration of Christís exaltation for while on Earth he was a servant and now in heaven he is the ruler and Lord of all.
On this day he entered heaven as our representative before the Father, for he had completed his work of salvation for which He was sent and now guarantees the eventual glorification of all who believe on Him.
It is because of the ascension of Jesus Christ into the presence of God that all that he accomplished on Earth will count for us in heaven with God.
Without His ascension, there would be no true access to God, no fullness or full measure of the Spirit, and no great salvation.
The ascension is a link in the chain of salvation as essential as Jesusís life, death, and resurrection.
And the ascension has something powerful to say about the human body:
Upon these things lies our great hope.
For just as Jesus went into heaven, so will all those who put their faith in Him.
Those who are dead will rise first; those who are living will be caught up to meet Him in the air, according to the Apostle Paulís letter to the church at Thessalonica.
Those who believe the word of God which says, This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven, have on their lips Even so, "Come Lord JesusĒ.
So we continue our lesson about this momentous event by reading the last two verses of the Gospel of Mark.
Mark 16:19-20, So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
Now there are several things of note about the ascension and exaltation of Jesus Christ.
First the ascension was a bodily ascension and it was a visible and public ascension.
The ascension is the account of a body moving from earth to heaven.
It is the release of the body from the bounds of Earth.
It is not an exodus or an escape from the bodily realm, but the entry in all our physical-ness, into heaven, the dwelling place of God.
The ascension of Christ in a body fit for heaven is the ultimate confirmation of eternal bodily existence.
The Son of God himself has a body and he will have that body as a permanent presence in heaven.
Jesus Christ appeared to the disciples bodily for he allowed them to handle him.
John 20:27, Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
Jesus is called the first fruit which indicates that there is later fruit.
We who are His are the later fruit and we too will rise bodily following the pattern given by Jesus at his ascension.
John knew this as he wrote in I John 3:2, Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
And also from the Apostle Paulís letter to the Corinthians in I Cor. 15:42-44, So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
And I Cor 15:48-52, As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. 50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
At the ascension of Christ He was clothed in his resurrection body and we too will be so clothed.
He was recognizable.
This was the same Christ with whom they had walked the earth, the same Christ who had healed the sick, the same Christ who had power over demons, the same Christ whom Peter met on the water.
This was the same Christ who had instructed them for 40 days as to their new assignment and they knew him in his new body intimately.
And they now looked upon their friend as he departed to the Father bodily but with the promise that his spirit would be sent to comfort them and guide them.
Secondly the risen Christ, the ascended Christ passed through the heavens.
Ephesians 4:8-10, Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
Filling all things indicates his universal authority.
He overcame all the evil principalities and powers that inhabit the heavens.
Filling all things means he marched victorious over the rulers of the darkness of this world and spiritual wickedness in high places.
He took the position of high priest going boldly into the Holy of Holies.
Hebrews 2:17, Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
Thirdly He took His place at the right hand of the Father.
Jesus was clear in telling his disciples from where he came and to where he must go.
John 16:28, I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.
Think about Jesus coming home to the Father.
Think about the soldiers coming home from the wars.
And especially the ones wounded and scarred from the battle.
This was Christ coming home with battle wounds in both feet and both hands and his side thrust through by Roman spear.
This was Jesus coming home after fighting the battle, after accomplishing his mission, and glorifying the Father on earth and at his ascension the Father glorifying the Son in Heaven.
This was the prayer of Jesus Christ now answered as he ascended to the Father as recorded by John.
John 17:1-5, These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: 2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. 3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. 4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
The Angels could sing as Jesus entered the halls of heaven!
The strife is o'er, the battle done; the victory of life is won; the song of triumph has begun: Alleluia!
Can you imagine any sweeter reunion than this?
Certainly we too will have a homecoming when we see Jesus who now sits on the right hand of God.
Now Luke in Acts 1:1,2 wrote, The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 Until the day in which he was taken upÖ.
Now notice that small word in verse 1 ďbeganĒ.
Jesus in his 33 years has accomplished great and mighty things but this word ďbeganĒ indicates that His work is not over and his ascension does not tell us of the end of his work but the continuation of his work as Lord and King.
Dr. Lukeís second book is about the Acts of the risen Lord Jesus which are now worked from heaven, through His people, in the strength of the Holy Spirit, which he promised them for the accomplishment of Godís purposes.
His mission on earth complete, he ascended to the throne of heaven and sat down at the right hand of the Father but in that sitting his work continues.
Paul tells of this in Ephesians 1:19,20, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.
We know that the right hand man or the right hand woman is the most trusted.
The right hand is usually the hand of strength and power.
The position at the right hand of God is only reserved for the one with all power and authority of the Father.
Jesus only has to lean to Godís ear to intercede and mediate on your behalf.
No appointment is needed nor are there any waiting lines.
We always have the ear of God through Christ, his right hand man in the glory for He occupies the place of highest power and richest blessing.
The Apostle Paul spoke of this to the Philippians in 2:6-11,
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
It was indeed expedient for Christ to go away, to go to the Father, to sit at His right hand for through him we now have confident access to the throne of Godís grace.
His ascension to the Father and the exaltation of the Father also means that he has been made the Head of the Church.
He is the head and we are the body and as the physical body is in all things subject to its head so too is the church in all things subject to Christ.
That in all things he might have the preeminence.
The Word of God is the head and the body is to function in obedience to the Word of God.
Martin Luther wrote: In his life, Christ is an example, showing us how to live; in his death, he is a sacrifice, satisfying our sins; in his resurrection, a conqueror; in his ascension, a king; in his intercession, a high priest.
In ascending on high to sit on the throne Jesus took his place as king.
His rising above all on the earth was a symbol of his rule.
Jesusí final withdrawal from human sight, to rule till he returns in judgment, was presented to the disciplesí awe-filled eyes as a going up into heaven to reign in Glory for evermore.
And the promise of a returning king was given to the disciples by the angels.
The risen Christ now sitting at the right hand of God interceding on our behalf, ruling as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords will return to establish His Kingdom for all eternity.
He has commanded his disciples to go into all the world and preach the Good News that Jesus Christ shed his own blood and died paying the price for all sins and rose again on high to sit on the throne of God.
We are given the responsibility of populating the kingdom that when Jesus comes to rule and reign the harvest truly will be plenteous.
Yes, we are to be awe struck by these events but we are to be found busy about our Fatherís business.
The disciples were lightly rebuked as they gazed up in the sky and this is to be a reminder to us that there is work to be done.
Men all over the world are looking for answers to the worldís dilemmas but they always look in the wrong places.
All they apply are Band-Aids and temporary solutions which only cover up the reality of their awful and depraved condition before God.
All things the world has are simply whited sepulchers which appear on the outside light and bright but inside are full of dead menís bones.
The world desperately needs the message that Christ is the answer to every need of man for He and He alone is the victor over sin and death.
He has given us the Gospel which is the power of God unto salvation for there is no substitute for the Good News of Christ.
People are in bondage to sin, and in the grip of hopelessness and despair, and only the message that Jesus Christ has risen victorious over everything that is contrary to God will bring them peace with God.
Jesus is coming to earth again; what if it were today?
Even so, "Come Lord JesusĒ.