Pastor Jonathan Bontke.
You avid card players know how discouraging it is when you throw that ace confident that it will carry the trick and win the game, until the last player throws a measly two but it’s a trump card. Who has the authority, the power, the dominion that can never be trumped? Who has promises that can never be countermanded, contradicted, overruled, trumped?
That’s what Jesus’ ascension to heaven is all about. It’s about no boundaries, no limits. It’s about God demonstrating that no rule, authority, power, dominion or title is or ever will be greater than the power he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms. This month we are celebrating that the promises God has made to us and the hope to which he has called us can never be countermanded, overruled, trumped by a higher power. There is no higher power than our crucified Savior risen from the dead and ascended to heaven.
Ascension is not about the abstract omnipotence of God. It is not about rejoicing that God is all powerful and can do anything he wants and no one can or ever will be able to thwart, or overrule his power. It is about his concrete specific exertion of power in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his own right hand in heaven. The one who was crucified and died for our sins is alive again. The One who took on himself the sins of all people of all times is again holy and perfect and all powerful. The One who suffered hell, who was forsaken by God the Father and cut off completely from God’s presence is now seated at the right hand of God in heaven. The One who became the servant of all and laid down his life for us is now the Lord of all and the head over everything for the church.
The wages of sin is death, but sin and death didn’t get the final word over Jesus. His authority and power is greater than the power of sin and death. Hell and the Devil got to speak at Calvary, but their power could not prevail over the power of God exerted in Christ. Christ is seated in the heavenly realm freed from hell and the power of the Devil. His authority and power is greater than the power of the Devil and stronger than the gates of hell. In the garden Jesus cried out for God’s will to be done not the will of his own human nature. He had authority and power over his own will and in obedience to his Father became the servant and savior of all people.
St. Paul prays, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” We inherit all the riches that Jesus won for us. We inherit freedom from the power of sin, death, the Devil, hell, and our own sinful nature. Jesus’ incomparably great power is for us who believe.
That is what we are celebrating in the Ascension. Sin, death, the Devil, and our own sinful nature always have their say in our lives. Sin tells us that we are not worthy of heaven. Sin says it holds us captive and we can never escape. But then Jesus steps in and he who became sin for us speaks to us from the heavenly realm. Look at me, put your hope in me. I was covered in your sins and suffered and died for you. And now I have ascended to the right hand of God in heaven. Sin doesn’t have the final word. I have authority over sin and I say, “Your sins are forgiven, receive your inheritance.”
What’s the Deal with Ascension?