The Ascension of Our Lord, May 13, 2021
Text: Acts 1:1–11
Theme: Jesus is enough!
Other Lessons: Psalm 47; Ephesians 1:15–23; Luke 24:44–53
1. In the Name of the Father…Amen.
1. The first reading from Acts serves as our sermon text for this morning.
1. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us pray: – O, the bitter shame and sorrow,
That a time could ever be
When I let the Savior’s pity
Plead in vain, and proudly answered,
“All of self, and none of Thee!”1
Yet He found me; I beheld Him
Bleeding on th’ accursèd tree,
Heard Him pray, “Forgive them, Father!”
And my wistful heart said faintly—
“Some of self, and some of Thee!”
1. Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God the Father through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. Our parish used to have a Christian day school here at this location, and often when a child going into kindergarten was enrolled here, the child would go through a separation phase with his or her parents. 1. That typically means the child cries for days until becoming accustomed to being in kindergarten and also learning that the parents always return for pickup at the end of the day. 2. Parents come back because they love their children!
1. Jesus likewise loves us, and although he has ascended to his Father, he has promised to take us to the place he has prepared for us in his Father’s house. 1. We may cry while we’re here—for all sorts of reasons this sinful world throws at us—but we can rest assured that in his love for us, Jesus will return for us (Acts 1:11).
1. In this season of trouble, we ask, “Haven’t we suffered enough pain? Where is the good the Lord has promised to us?
1. The young couple had spent the last forty weeks in such excitement waiting for the birth of their first child. 1. The nursery was decorated, and the baby shower had been held. 2. Both parents enjoyed week after week hearing their friends in church commenting on how her stomach was growing as God was busy knitting together this precious child. 3. Now, at their due date, all that needed to happen was for their new bundle of joy to be born. 4. But then the unthinkable happens. 1. The mom-to-be notices that her child has stopped moving in her womb. 2. A trip to the emergency room brings them to their knees when the physician tells them that no heartbeat can be found. 3. Their unquenchable joy and anticipation quickly have become unspeakable suffering and sorrow. 4. They ask: 1. “How can this happen? 2. Why now? 3. Isn’t it enough that we’ve waited so patiently? 4. And the hardest question of all to answer: Where is God in all of this?”
1. On the other side of the country, a “seasoned” couple gets ready to celebrate their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary. 1. The children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren would all be coming home to make their joy complete. 2. The guest bedrooms have been prepared. 3. The food has been ordered and paid for. 4. The pastor has been invited to come give them a blessing at the celebration. 5. Just a few more days and they would start making the trips up to the airport to bring the family home. 6. But then the unthinkable happens. 1. Two days before the anniversary, the bride of sixty-five years awakens to find that her husband—the love of her life—died in his sleep. 2. Their unquenchable joy and anticipation have become unspeakable sorrow. 3. The bride and so many of the family ask: 1. “How can this happen? 2. Why now? 3. Isn’t it enough that we’ve waited so patiently? 4. Where is God in all of this?”
1. In times of tragedy, it may seem that Jesus’ resurrection isn’t enough—but only a setup for betrayal, leaving us again by ascending back to heaven.
1. We as Christians, who are saved entirely by grace through faith outside of any works, are so richly blessed by our God. 1. Yet of course we continue to live here in this sinful world: 1. A world full of trouble. 2. Disease. 3. Uneasiness 4. Stress 5. Crime 6. Fear 7. Mourning 8. Depression 9. And if all that were not enough, even death.
1. How easy it is for us as Christians: 1. In the good times: 1. To allow the words of the author of Hebrews to echo in our hearts: 1. “For he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5–6). 2. But in times of great human sorrow and tragedy, how is it that those same words of God can seem like a cruel betrayal? 1. Do we find ourselves like Jesus’ disciples at his ascension, staring into the sky, wondering what just happened, and perhaps asking: 1. “Isn’t it enough that we’ve suffered so? 2. Where is God in all of this?”
1. The disciples had been through so much with the Savior. 1. They’d witnessed the first of his many miracles: 1. turning water into wine, 2. and then his healing lepers with his word, 3. calming storms and seas, 4. walking on water, 5. raising the dead. 6. They were there—albeit hiding in the shadows—during Jesus’ Passion. 7. The horror and shock to learn that their beloved master was dead. 8. Dead, dead, dead! 2. And then the great fulfillment of Jesus’ promise on that glorious third day. 1. He is not dead, but risen from the dead! 2. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! 3. They were thinking: 1. “Jesus really is who he said he is, and he did what he said he’d do! 2. Now things are in order! 3. Now that we really know Jesus, now that he’s resurrected and alive, things will finally be good for us!”
1. And so they ask him: 1. “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). 2. In other words: 1. “Jesus, will you now get rid of these Roman occupiers? 2. Will you finally shut the mouths of these Pharisees who hound us day and night? 3. We’ve surely been through enough! 4. Now life will finally get better, right?”
1. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, are we any different from Jesus’ disciples? 1. Now that we are Christians, our lives should be better. 2. Jesus will never leave us or forsake us, so this world can no longer inflict its cruelty on us, right? 1. The expectant parents and the bride of sixty-five years who just lost her husband may answer differently. 2. The woman who has been suffering for years with the pain of advancing diabetes ravaging her body and causing her to endure another amputation may answer differently. 3. Jesus’ disciples, after forty glorious post-resurrection days, but then: 1. “as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (verse 9), might answer differently: 2. “Jesus, you’re leaving us again? 3. Wasn’t once enough?” 4. “God, where are you in all of this? 5. I know you died on the cross for my sins and rose again to bring me eternal life. 6. But earthly life—this time right now—it’s hard for me!”
1. And Jesus doesn’t answer directly: 1. “It is not for you to know times or seasons” (verse 7).
1. But already now, Jesus’ death, resurrection, and even ascension is the fulfillment of God’s promises.
1. Jesus Is Enough . . . for This Time and Season and the Next. 1. I don’t have to tell you that this temporal life, this time and season, is difficult, because each of us has suffered in one way or another. 1. We each have faced tragedies in our lives. 2. Our challenge as Christians, however, is to remember—and apply to the here and now—what the disciples heard as Jesus was lifted into the cloud: 1. “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (verse 11). 2. Is that not just for another time?
1. The answer is a big fat No. 1. In his final moments with the disciples, Jesus is telling them to let go of the past and to stop worrying about the future. 2. Already now, Jesus’ death, resurrection, and even his ascension is the fulfillment of God’s promises. 3. Yes, already now. 4. From the fall of man, when our first parents plunged humanity into the sin and death of breaking God’s Law, God promised Good News—the Gospel—of sending a Savior to fix our brokenness. 5. Jesus is that Savior. 6. And his saving work has now been accomplished. 7. Yes, Jesus Is Enough . . . for This Time and Season and the Next.
1. Therefore, because of Jesus, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are already with us now.
1. The Father reminds us: 1. “Isn’t it enough for you that the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among you?” 2. The same Word that spoke our world—and each one of us—into existence became flesh and lived with us on earth, died for us, and rose again on our behalf!
1. And that same Word speaks these same words to us in our times and seasons of suffering and sorrow: 1. “You will receive”—have now received!—“power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (verse 8).
1. Jesus, in all of his sufficiency for our lives, reminds us: 1. “Isn’t it enough that the Word become flesh is with you daily and in every moment right now through the power of the Holy Spirit? 2. Isn’t it enough that the all-availing sacrifice of my body and blood on the cross has forgiven your sins and secured your future, promising the day when you will never again know pain, suffering, sorrowing, mourning, or death?” 2. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection allow us to shift our focus from our earthly existence with all of its troubles: 1. COVID and the fear and anxiety it brings. 2. Violence in the streets. 3. People not coming back to church as we would like.
1. By his life, death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus gives us something much better to focus: 1. Our heavenly glory! 2. And he gives us the Means of Grace to do so! 3. By Jesus, for Jesus, through Jesus, with Jesus, God has triumphed over the troubles of this world and points us to a glorious future with Christ. 4. Therefore, Jesus is enough!
1. And knowing that we are waiting for Jesus’ return here in this earthly setting, far from leaving us alone, he gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. 1. Not only so, but Jesus comes to us through his Word, through our Baptism, and in the most real and true way through the bread and the wine, sustaining us with his body and blood. 2. God Incarnate intimately with us here today! 3. Already now! Jesus is enough!
1. And Jesus will return to take us to the place he has prepared for the next season.
1. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, just as Jesus ascended into heaven as God Incarnate, the Word made flesh, he will come again in the same manner: 1. The Word made flesh.
1. He will fulfill his promise to take us to the place he has prepared for us: 1. for the next season, eternity. 2. We have this promise in the best of days and the worst of days, and we have his holy presence as the fulfilment of this promise. 3. “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way” (verse 11).
1. There’s the story of a mother who would bring her young son each morning to preschool, kiss him good-bye, and tell him, “I’m leaving you in good hands.” 1. Years later, as the mother became aged and dementia took its toll on her, the son, now a middle-aged man, took his dear mother to a nursing home. 2. As he said good-bye, he kissed her and told her, “I’m leaving you in good hands.” 3. The mother, who could barely remember a conversation she had just five minutes earlier, began to weep as she remembered those same words that she’d uttered to him so many years ago.
1. When Jesus ascended back to heaven so many years ago, he left us in good hands, for he sent his Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). 1. That’s as true for us after countless generations as it was when he made the promise to our first forebears of believers.
1. Of what I remember in German class in high school and college (which is not much), there is one phrase I will never forget: 1. Genug ist genug (enough is enough)
1. Guess what? Jesus ist genug for us today, tomorrow, and forever. Amen.
1. Let pray: – Day by day His tender mercy,
Healing, helping, full and free,
Sweet and strong, and, ah! so patient,
Brought me lower, while I whispered,
“Less of self, and more of Thee!”
Higher than the highest heavens,
Deeper than the deepest sea,
Lord, Thy love at last hath conquered:
Grant me now my supplication—
“None of self, and all of Thee!”
1. Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)
1. Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.
1. The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
1. In the Name of the Father…Amen.