Going Home

Before the days of modern navigational aids, a traveler made the Atlantic crossing in a boat equipped with two compasses. One was fixed to the deck where the man at the wheel could see it. The other compass was fastened up on one of the masts, and often a sailor would be seen climbing up to inspect it.

The passenger asked the captain, “Why do you have two compasses?”

“This is an iron vessel,” replied the captain, “and the compass on the deck is often affected by its surroundings. Such is not the case with the compass at the masthead. That one is above the influence. We steer by the compass above. As Christians, where is our compass? It is on the earth, or is it on thing above?

From the prophecies of a coming savior, to the birth of our Lord, to the death and resurrection, we celebrate these events, but we don’t give the same attention to the ascension of our Lord. For 40 days, Jesus walked the earth after his resurrection. For 40 days, he witnessed to many and showed himself to his followers. God showed that Jesus fulfilled the scriptures by allowing Jesus to walk, talk and be with others for 40 days.

He talked with his disciples during this period, after the resurrection, giving them directions of what to do next and starting to breathe on them the Holy Spirit and giving them his peace. In Mathew 28, that we read this morning, Jesus gave a direct command to his disciples. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy  Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

At this point, the disciples had seen numerous miracles, and he was preparing them for the things to come. He used this time to build them up and commission them to go out to tell others about the way to eternal life. Jesus had no intention of remaining on the earth this way, and he told his disciples this. When the time was right, he was going back to his father and let the disciples carry on his ministry. The ascension ended Jesus’ ministry on earth and began his heavenly Kingship. The ascension demonstrated that Jesus is still alive and still at work with his Father.

The ascended Lord Jesus sends his Holy Spirit to help his people. Jesus told his disciples, “I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)

God promised in Joel 2:28, “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh,” and this promise is fulfilled by the heavenly Lord Jesus. The ascended Lord sent the Spirit to be present with his people (John 14:16) to empower them for worldwide mission (Acts 1:8; 4:31) and to transform believers to live new lives reflecting the King in heaven. This is what we will celebrate in two weeks on Pentecost Sunday – which is the giving of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church.

God’s kingdom now has a true King of the world. According to the Apostles’ Creed, he “ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” Jesus is taken up to heaven in a cloud, and Stephen, in Acts, declares that he sees the Son of man standing at the right hand of God. These texts suggest a fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel 7:13-14.

At Jesus’ ascension, Jesus sat down with his Father on his throne, where he receives unending praise. Jesus will reign at God’s right hand until all enemies are subdued. Thus, God’s kingdom has begun with the enthronement of Jesus, who now sits on heaven’s throne and will return on day, his second coming. The time and day are unknown.

In John 16:28 it says, “I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” Jesus was clear with his disciples that he would be leaving this earth and would not be with them physically. Jesus said to Mary at the resurrection, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and to your Father, to my God and to your God.” (John 20:17)

Jesus was “going home” at the ascension and returning to his Father. Jesus fully accomplished his mission and glorified the Father on earth, and at Jesus’ ascension, the Father glorifies the Son in heaven. John 17:4-5, Jesus says, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”

Jesus’ homecoming to his Father prepares the way for our homecoming to be with Jesus forever. John 14:2-4 says, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” Someday, we will be going home to be with our Lord.

The ascended Jesus is also our heavenly mediator and high priest. Jesus sympathizes with our struggles and promises to do whatever we ask in his name. Hebrews 4:14-15 says, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of G od, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.”

Jesus is the mediator between God and humans. 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.”

Jesus’ death and resurrection secure our forgiveness, justification, and reconciliation with God. Jesus is in heaven interceding for his people – he is our advocate. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, his work was limited geographically, but now he is at work everywhere and able to hear and respond t our prayers. He knows our hearts and our needs, and he knows how we can serve him. In John 14:12 Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.”

In Acts 1:11 two angels explain to the disciples, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Jesus’ heavenly reign will one day be fully realized on earth, for Jesus will come again. The angels who spoke gave us a promise that Jesus would again come. His coming would not be in a vision or a dream but would be a physical appearance. He will come back in another unexpected way, just as he left in an unexpected way.

His ascension was for only his disciples and not for the crowds of Jerusalem. Jesus left the world into a cloud and one day will return in the clouds. 1 Thessalonians 5:2 says, “For you know very well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.” Just as the disciples didn’t know when Jesus was going to leave them, we don’t know when Jesus will return, so we need to be ready for him and prepared in our hearts to serve him and live for him.

Matthew 24:43 says, “But understand this: if the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.” The second coming of Jesus is represented by the coming of the thief in the night. This is not to be understood in a bad sense, in which Satan is called one who comes to kill and destroy, but this only reflects the manner of Christ’s coming, which is like that of a thief, secretly, suddenly, and unaware.

Everyone needs to consider life knowing Christ. Everyone, especially during this pandemic, needs to consider living their life for Christ and being ready to meet him either now facing life and death or in the second coming. We are in a time of active waiting for his return, and we should be ready, our lights burning to greet him, our houses in order for his coming.

There is a story about a young lady who was getting ready for a blind date. Wanting to make a good first impression, she had taken the day off from work. She cleaned her apartment; she went out that afternoon to have her hair done and get a manicure. When she got home, she put on her best dress and was ready for her date’s arrival. The time came and went, but her date did not knock on the door. After waiting over an hour, she realized that she had been stood up. She took off her dress, let down her hair, put on her pajamas, and sat down to watch TV. Sometime later, there was a knock at the door; it was her date. He looked at her surprised and said, “What! I gave you two extra hours and you’re still not ready to go?”

Jesus has given us many extra hours, but he is coming. Does your life reveal that you are ready for his return? When Jesus was celebrating the Lord’s Supper, he said, “Do this in remembrance of me until I come again.”

Do you believe that Jesus ascended into heaven to be with his Father? The waiting began many years ago with the ascension of Jesus into his heavenly kingdom. He left because his earthly ministry was over. His heavenly job had begun. Jesus was excited – he was going home. Believers, that same heavenly home is waiting for us just as we wait for the coming of our savior. Be prepared for his second coming for he will arrive when we least expect it.

Remember that Jesus is presently reigning as King and remains active and engaged in our world and our lives. Therefore, live boldly, confidently as servants of the exalted King of haven. During this pandemic remember that Jesus knows your struggles for he has endured great suffering and is also the most merciful and sympathetic counselor and mediator. Take to your ascended Lord your cares, anxieties, fears, and joys. He hears your prayers and knows your heart.

Finally, have hope in your future. Both here on earth and in heaven, we will be with our King forever when we believe in him. In order to win the Christian race, we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who “sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:20)

Revelation 5:13 – “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power forever and ever.”

The ascension draws our hearts away from earthly things and causes our hearts to desire more heavenly things and helps us focus our hopes, desires, and fellowship on Jesus, the One who sits at the right hand of the heavenly Father.

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