The Ascension of christ: Beyond the Resurrection

Luke 25:50-53 Easter and the Ascension of Christ

This entry is part 10 of 10 in the series The Gospel of Luke

This sermon has been posted to Youtube here:

This morning as we look, for the last time, at the Gospel of Luke, we find ourselves looking not at the morning of the resurrection, but a day some forty days later – as Christ is preparing to ascend back to heaven.

But this is a good place to be, because the gospel doesn’t end with the resurrection, it goes on. Jesus did not merely die to save our souls, nor was he only buried to bring about our redemption. Nor was he merely raised because of our justification (Romans 4:25) but the Christ who was raised also ascended to heaven to sit at the Father’s right hand. The ascension of Christ has several important implications for us, including this one: As Christ Ascended so shall we!
Take the time to read: Luke 24:50-53.

Luke 24:50–53 NASB95
And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God.

Because of the Resurrection He is our high priest
The passage begins with Jesus guiding his disciples out to Bethany. While in the book of Acts Luke will summarize the gospel he has just given us, he will also tell us that Jesus was there over a period of forty days before finally ascended.

Acts 1:3 NASB95
To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.

But here in Luke’s gospel we just get the event slightly telescoped together because for now the important point isn’t the forty days of teaching the disciples received, but the ascension of Jesus. We benefit from the disciple’s teaching throughout the rest of the new Testament; but here the ascension of Christ matters.
And it begins with one result of the Resurrection that is realized in the ascension: Jesus serves as our great high priest.
Verse fifty tell us that Jesus lifted up his hands and blessed them. It is a scene that should call to mind the blessing that Aaron gave to the nation of Israel as he first took the role of high priest in Leviticus 9:22.

Leviticus 9:22–23 NASB95
Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he stepped down after making the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings. Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting. When they came out and blessed the people, the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people.

Not only is this important because it happened, but Luke writes about it because we need to recognize that Jesus Christ is our great high priest who has inaugurated his ministry as a merciful and faithful high priest (Heb 2:17-18).

Hebrews 2:17–18 NASB95
Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.

As a good and faithful high priest he is able to both instruct us and to intercede for us.
He also ascended
Look at verse 51…

Luke 24:51 NASB95
While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.

Luke doesn’t spend any time here elaborating on the ascension. He merely states it as a fact. But it is a fact built on earlier prophetic statements by Jesus.

Luke 22:69 NASB95
“But from now on THE SON OF MAN WILL BE SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND of the power OF GOD.”
Luke 24:26 NASB95
 “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”
 Luke is the only gospel writer to describe the ascension though it also is mentioned by John 20:17 where Jesus tells the women not to cling to him because he has not ascended yet.
John 20:17 NASB95
 Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’ ”

And again, Luke also records a little more detail in Acts 1:6-11 as well.

Acts 1:6–11 NASB95
 So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

Taken altogether we could build a moderate picture of what happened, but more importantly for us this morning are the results and lessons of the Ascension of Christ.

Jesus went somewhere.

First: The Ascension teaches us that Jesus went somewhere. Jesus ascended to a location. The incarnation of Jesus added humanity to the Son of God, and he did not shed that humanity when he was resurrected. We have already seen some of the unique characteristics about Jesus’ resurrected body, but it is still a human body limited by space and time, though apparently to a lesser degree.
But notice here that WHILE Jesus was blessing them – indicating more than a brief blessing, but WHILE Jesus was blessing them he was taken up to heaven. Jesus didn’t just disappear. He rose – as Acts indicates and they watched him until a cloud hid him from view. We’re never told whether it was the cloud of God’s glory, or a regular old stack of water vapor but nevertheless there was movement from here to there – which means Jesus was going somewhere at his ascension, he didn’t just disappear into the ether. Neither will we when we are united with Jesus.
We are informed by the Angels in Acts 1 that Jesus will actually come back the same way that he left. So Jesus is somewhere.
The Jewish conception of the creation and of heaven indicates something a little bit different than we might be thinking. In the Jewish mindset our atmosphere is the first sphere of heaven. Then what we call outer-space is the second sphere of heaven. Thus God created the “Heavens” and the earth in Genesis. But then the Jewish mindset also included the place where God dwelt as the third heaven – something we might say was outside of our universe. Thus in 2 Corinthians 12 Paul describes a man as being taken up to the third heaven which he then describes as paradise, and says that man heard “inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.” (see 2 Cor 12:1-4).
I believe their is some value in that model at least because Peter tells us that the earth and heavens will be destroyed with fire.

2 Peter 3:10–13 NASB95
 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

Paradise, where God dwells will not be destroyed, so wherever Jesus went, I submit that it was not within the created heavens and earth, but “farther”.

Jesus Received Glory and Honor

Second The Ascension teaches us that Jesus received glory and honor
In John 17:5 which is part of Jesus’ “great High priestly prayer” before he was crucified, Jesus prayed:

John 17:5 NASB95
 “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

Then in Peter’s sermon in acts 2:33 Peter says that Jesus was “Exalted at the right hand of the Father”, and Paul declared that God has highly exalted Christ. (Phil 2:9).
And we saw recently in our reading of Revelation 5 that the angels are singing glory to Christ even now.

Revelation 5:12 NASB95
 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”

The Session of Christ

Third: Jesus is seated at the Father’s right hand
This is called the “session” of Christ, because a long time ago, “Session” meant the act of sitting down. It no longer means that but theologians are typically a group slow to accept change. 🙂
But Hebrews 1:3 declares:

Hebrews 1:3 NASB95
 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Among other things the session of Christ means that Jesus has finished his work of also shows the authority of Christ.

“In addition to showing the completion of Christ’s work of redemption, the act of sitting at God’s right hand is an indication that he received authority over the universe.” (Grudem Theology 618).

Both Paul and Peter indicate that the session of Christ demonstrates his authority which he received and spoke about.

Ephesians 1:20–21 NASB95
 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
 1 Peter 3:22 NASB95
 who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.
1 Corinthians 15:25 NASB95
 For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.
 The session of Christ also points towards our receiving the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:33 NASB95
 “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.
 The session of Christ therefore is his active rule over the universe in glory for the Church.
 Even now, Hebrews 7:25 tells us that Jesus is interceding with the Father for you.

Hebrews 7:25 NASB95
 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

For my money, this reason alone is reason enough for us to rejoice in the ascension of Jesus.
Our future is Affirmed
Fourth: The ascension of Jesus affirms our own future.
The ascension of Christ foreshadows the day when we will join him.

 1 Thessalonians 4:17 NASB95
 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

Remember the familiar and comforting words Jesus spoke to his disciples in John’s gospel when he said that he was going to prepare a place for them and for us…

John 14:2–3 NASB95
 “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

While on Easter morning we rightly focus on the glorious truth that Jesus defeated death for us, that was only the beginning of his continued work in the church; which is largely inaugurated by his ascension. Our Lord went where we who trust in Him will one day follow, a place from which he sits at the Father’s right hand receiving both Glory and Honor and from which he rules now, and from which he promises to return and claim us for his own, forever.

Responding With Worship

Looking now at verse 52 the Resurrection and ascension of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has many theological implications. And coming from all of these is this one result: Worship.
The disciples return to Jerusalem in verse 42 after worshipping Jesus.
What else are we to do but respond to the risen and ascended savior who has died so that we might live and now lives that we might ascend to be with Him but to respond with Worship born of both Joy and love?
By the way just before the ascension it is a small but precious grace to us that Matthew 28:17 records their worship intermingled with doubt…

 Matthew 28:17 NASB95
 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.

The Lord knows and understands our weaknesses and yet he graciously points us towards something more wonderful: Assurance. Remember how the overall theme of Luke’s gospel is so that you might be assured, and your faith might be built. God knows the frailty of our hearts and minds.
Since this is true do not let this simple truth go past you: Jesus was worshipped by the disciples who all their lives had learned but one solitary overarching lesson: ONLY GOD IS TO BE WORSHIPED. Worship is entirely wrong and unfitting for anyone less than God. But they worship Jesus and thus affirm for our hearts that he is God in the flesh.
For the disciples then, even as Matthew informs us, they struggled with comprehension they knew this one thing to be true: Jesus Christ is in fact God. As God the Crucified, Buried, Resurrected, and now Ascended, and returning Savior is worthy of worship, praise, adoration, and our exultation.
No doctrine of Jesus is complete or accurate if it does not highly exalt Jesus as God in the flesh.

Responding With Joy

The final result for Luke of the ascension of Christ and knowing Jesus as Lord is Joy.
Not every day is free from trouble, in fact not many days are free of trouble; but every day the Lord Jesus is the God who has come near to save you and to make you his own forever.
Every day the resurrected Savior sits at the Father’s right hand interceding for you, and waiting the Father’s command to come get you! I can almost imagine our Lord sitting on the edge of the throne awaiting that precious moment.
Ephesians 5 tells us that He, our God and Savior, washes you his church with the water of the Word of God so that you might be cleansed and perfect and by his blood be a fitting and marvelous gift for himself without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.
Here is a truth to consider as you contemplate what it means to be a follower of Jesus: He anticipates with eagerness the moment you are unified with Him.
Joy, enduring Joy that outlasts the small and momentary troubles of this life is appropriate when we consider that the ascension of Christ is only a pause until he comes back for you in power and great glory.
The book ends with verse 53.

 Luke 24:53 NASB95
 and were continually in the temple praising God.

In the very beginning of the book, the first chapter found the people standing in the temple worshipping in expectation for the sacrifice being made inside on their behalf. The book ends with the disciples staying in the temple worshiping in response to the sacrifice made on their behalf. Worship, lifelong worship is the fitting result of the gospel. Through our ups and downs, in our waiting and anticipation, in the midst of our trials as well as our victories God has sent a redeemer.
The end of the gospel is worship. If you’re not worshipping, you are not living in the gospel.