Luke 24:44-52 (7th Sunday of Easter—Series C)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
May 16, 2010
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Ascension Day Gospel from Luke 24:
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.
“I’m sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” What anticipation these words from Jesus must have created in the eleven apostles! Jesus was going to send them the Father’s promised power. They wait in Jerusalem for this great gift. It’s like a child waiting for a present. Her dad promised her a new bike. She waits with joy, excitement, and anticipation for the day when the promise will be fulfilled. And when that day comes, she joyfully puts on her helmet and rides off to show her friends the new bike, to tell them how her dad kept his promise.
As they waited, the apostles were continually in the temple blessing God. They were filled with great joy as they worshiped Jesus as the Son of God, their Savior and Lord. With great joy they awaited the Father’s promised gift—the Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit would come upon the apostles and clothe them with the very power from on high to accomplish the work Jesus had given them to do—to be witnesses to the world that the Christ did suffer and on the third day rise again. They would be witnesses that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in Jesus’ name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
In the Upper Room, on the night in which He was betrayed, Jesus told His disciples, “”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:15-17) A little later our Lord said, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:25-26)
Jesus had now prepared His disciples, His Church, for the gift of the Holy Spirit. The work of salvation had been accomplished for the whole world. Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world winning complete forgiveness for you and me and for all peole. He rose again from the dead forever defeating the power of death. For forty days after His resurrection Jesus appeared to His disciples, proving that He is indeed the risen Son of God, the promised Savior. He opened their minds to understand the things written about Him in the Old Testament—that Jesus did fulfill everything written concerning Him in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms. The Scriptures have been fulfilled. “It is finished,” Christ cried from the cross. Forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation have been purchased by His death and the shedding of His holy, precious blood.
Now Jesus must go away into heaven again. He must ascend to His Father and sit at the right hand of majesty and glory and power. Jesus must do this so that He can be present with His disciples, present with His church, through the Holy Spirit. Before Jesus led His followers to Gethsemane He said, “But now I am going to Him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:6-7)
The Holy Spirit could not begin His work of applying Christ’s redemption to us until Christ Himself had accomplished it. The crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension had to take place so that Jesus could send the Spirit to us, to His disciples, clothing us with power from on high. Mistakenly, we sometimes think that Jesus’ physical absence places us at a disadvantage. Not so! Our risen and ascended Lord and Savior IS present with us through the presence of the Holy Spirit, the promise of the Father, who works among us through God’s Word and Sacraments.
So the apostles waited for this wonderful gift of God the Holy Spirit Himself to be poured into their hearts. They waited 10 days after Jesus ascended into heaven. They waited in the Temple, praising God, praying, worshipping Jesus with great joy. They waited until the Day of Pentecost, which we celebrate next Sunday, when our Lord poured out the promised Holy Spirit on the chosen disciples.
I think it must have been “wicked awesome” (to put it in New England jargon) to be the disciples in those days between Ascension and Pentecost. How wonderful it would have been to continually be in God’s House, worshipping and blessing God. How fantastic would it have been to be gathered together continually for prayer, for reading and meditating on the Scriptures that Jesus had opened your hearts and minds to understand! However, the ten-day “in between” time from the Ascension to Pentecost was just a small break in the action, a time to be in the Temple for prayer and God’s blessing. The disciples could not remain there. Filled with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, the apostles were clothed with power from on high. They were empowered by God the Holy Spirit Himself to be Christ’s witnesses, beginning from Jerusalem! The message of Jesus’ death for the sins of the world, the message of His resurrection on Easter, the message that He has ascended in glory to the Father so that He might send His Spirit into our hearts so that we can believe in Jesus and, by grace through faith, enter heaven to the place Jesus has prepared for us MUST be shared! They couldn’t just stay in the Temple. They couldn’t just stay in the Upper Room. They couldn’t just stay in Jerusalem. It all began there, but quickly moved out of the holy city into the world so that all people might hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, be turned from their sin and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, confess Jesus as Lord and God. Remember the past two Sundays, how God the Holy Spirit also came upon the Gentiles as well as the Jews! Christ is the Savior for the world!
As the world’s Savior, Jesus has equipped His Church, His disciples—you and me—for our witness to Him with the Holy Spirit whom He provides. Jesus Christ is the very heart and center of the Word of God and He has given us a mission to the nations through the Holy Spirit’s power. Christ has ascended and will come again to judge the living and the dead. The world needs to know about the risen and ascended Lord who died and rose again winning forgiveness and eternal life for everybody. So our ascended Lord Jesus has poured out the Holy Spirit into our hearts, equipping each one of us to out into the world, into our community.
We cannot, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, keep to ourselves here in this Temple when Jesus is equipping us to go! We cannot accept the fact that Jesus is risen and then deny the mission on which our risen Lord sends us: “In your going, make disciples of all nations by baptizing them and teaching them all the I have commanded you.” “You are witnesses of these things,” Jesus tells us. We are witnesses of the death of Jesus for the sins of the world. We are witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus as He overcame death and the devil. We are witnesses of the Holy Spirit whom we have received in Holy Baptism. I am a witness! You are witnesses! Are you and I just going to sit here and do nothing?
You and I have received the promised gift of the Holy Spirit from our Risen and Ascended Lord. Like the child with a new bike, we can’t wait to go tell our friends about God’s gift of Himself given to us—the Father who now calls us children, His only Son who redeemed and saved us from sin and death, the Holy Spirit who brings us to know Christ and confess Him with our hearts and mouths! There is no more waiting. We have been clothed with the power from on high! As Luther once said, “It’s as if He would say, ‘I’ll place armor on you that will withstand every shot.’”
In the power of the Holy Spirit, we therefore worship our Triune God and Savior with great joy. And with great joy, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we go out and share Jesus with our friends, with our neighbors. We share Jesus with the clients at the Food Shelf. We share Jesus with the server in the restaurant. We share Jesus with the person next to us in line at Costco! We share Jesus with our friends from school, with our co-workers, with the hairdresser. We share Jesus Christ wherever we are and to whoever we can!
You and I are witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ who share our faith because the Holy Spirit has equipped and readied us to do so. In the Spirit’s power, pray that we might become a congregation of witnesses, a congregation of Christians who boldly share Jesus because we have been equipped by God Himself to do His work and fulfill His mission to the world. God grant this for Jesus’ sake. Amen.