9 Here we’ve got a Nerf crossbow, from their zombie strike line. Because this is exactly what I want when fighting an army of the undead – a plastic gun that shoots foam darts. Daryl from Walking Dead would be so embarrassed. Nonetheless, this is what I’ve got.
What’s the difference between this (hold it up) and this (cock it back)? One doesn’t really do much, but it has potential. The other releases this power. One has the power built into it. The other explodes that power into life… or in this case, the sound booth.
Now, I want you to remember this as we talk today. We’re gonna come back to in a little bit.
But first, as we do each week, let’s read the whole Apostle’s Creed. A creed is a formal statement of belief of the Church. And this one is the earliest and simplest one we have.
I believe in God,
the Father Almighty
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ,
God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate
was crucified, died, and was buried;
On the third day, he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of Father
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy universal Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
So far in this series, we’ve talked about how God is infinitely powerful Creator and intimately personal Father. Then how Jesus came as the perfect God-Man, fully God and fully human. Last week, we saw how the writers countered some of the common wrong beliefs about Jesus’ death. They affirmed that Jesus was a real person in time & space, that we really died, and he was really buried in a tomb.
This week, we look at the next section: “On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father,”
The first thing you’ll notice is that there are three distinct parts to this section:
- On the third day, he rose again
- He ascended into heaven
- He is seated at the right hand of the Father
These three parts of the Creed cover two big theological concepts: one you probably know about and one you might not know much about. The first phrase refers to Jesus’ resurrection. Even if this is the first time you’ve ever stepped foot into a church, you’ve probably heard of this thing called the resurrection—Jesus coming back to life after being dead. The second and third phrases, these might be a little newer to you. These refer to something called his ascension. This is Jesus’ rising up to return to God. This one, you might be new to you.
There are a few big events in the life of Jesus.
- Jesus’ birth; we celebrate it with Christmas. We set out little nativity scenes.
- Jesus’ death or crucifixion; that’s Good Friday. Maybe you’ve been to a Good Friday service
- Jesus’ resurrection; that’s Easter. B/c nothing celebrates Jesus being alive more than hide the eggs.
All of these are celebrated holidays. You can buy cards at Target for them. But I’ve never seen a “Happy Ascension Day” card. But it’s actually as important, and in some ways, even more important than those other three events. (As an aside, it actually a real holiday in Catholic, Methodist, and Lutheran churches.)
Anyway, we’re going to spend some time today talking about this sorely neglected holiday and the impact it can have on your life. Hint: remember the nerf crossbow.
For each of these—the resurrection and the ascension—I’d like to read you the Bible story and then tease out 1 big theologically practical implication of these events.
First, let’s talk about the resurrection. I want to start with reading the story out of Luke. We’re gonna read Luke 24:1-8. You can follow along with your print bible or app, or it’ll be screen.
1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ”8 Then they remembered his words.
Jesus was no longer dead. God raised him to new life. He didn’t raise him back to life. That’s resuscitation. If you have a heart attack and I do CPR on you, I can bring you back to life. That’s resuscitation. But you’re gonna die again, eventually. But that’s not what happened to Jesus. He was resurrected, which means he was given a new life and he would never die again.
What’s the theological implication of Jesus’ resurrection? There are a lot, but one of the biggest is that Jesus’ resurrection gives us new life. We can share in Jesus’ new life, here and in heaven. One of the best statements of this is from 1 Corinthians 15:21-23. Listen to this:
For since death came through a man (Adam), the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man (Jesus). For as in Adam all die, so in Christ, all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.
Let me explain, When Adam disobeyed God and sinned in the Garden of Eden, the consequence was death—spiritual and physical death. To counter that, Jesus died the death that we deserve because of our sin but was resurrected, thus conquering death once and for all. Jesus, first, then those who believe in him. So, Jesus’ resurrection gives us new life.
In fact, Jesus’ resurrection is so important, in this same passage, Paul says that if Christ hadn’t been raised from the dead, our faith is useless and we are to be pitied more than anyone else.
So, Jesus’ resurrection gives us new life. That’s the first big piece to understand about this section in the Creed. Now, onto the next part… the ascension.
First, let’s just read the story. Then we’ll talk more about it. Now, that last passage was from the end of Luke. The person Luke also wrote the book of Acts, as a continuation of Luke. Think of it as part one and two of one big story. He begins Acts exactly where Luke ended. We’re gonna read Acts 1:1-11. We’re gonna focus in on the ending part, but I wanted to read you the whole story
1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
That was the ascension. I know there’s a lot in there that we’re just going to gloss over. So, if some of the things were a bit confusing, that’s okay. Just roll with me on this one.
Why is this important to life of Jesus and to our life? Here’s why: The resurrection gives us new life. The ascension unleashes the power to live it today. Let me say that again: The resurrection gives us new life. The ascension unleashes the power to live it today.
Where do I get that? There are about six theologically significant things that happened with the ascension. We’re just gonna look at two of them today. Are you cool if we talk a little theology today?
The first has to do with Jesus and his body. Before Jesus, the God-Man, was born (that’s the incarnation that we talked about last week), he was only Spirit. When he was born, the God-Man assumed a physical body. He died in that body, and he was resurrected, but this time in a new glorified, perfect body. And he ascended in a physical body as well. But something fundamentally changed with this new body.
While he was on earth, he was limited by time and space. Jesus could only be in one place at one time. But now, as he ascends, he left our reality. The ascended Jesus is no longer limited by time and space. He can be with anybody, anywhere, at any time. He can be with every one of you simultaneously.
That’s why the New Testament describes him as our heavenly mediator and sympathetic high priest. Now, Jesus can be teaching in China and healing in Ethiopia. Because he ascended, he is interceding for you right now before the Father.
So, because of Jesus’ ascension, we can have power unleashed in our lives because Jesus can ministry to all people in all places at all times.a
Now, there’s a SECOND reason why we can live powerful new lives. Jesus had to ascend in order to send us the Holy Spirit. He said it himself in John 16: “Unless I leave, the Holy Spirit won’t come.” I’m not going to say much about the Holy Spirit because that’s next week’s sermon, but I’ll say this: The Holy Spirit is what gives us personal, intimate relationship with God. If you’re a believer, it is God residing in you, giving you power.
Because of the incarnation, that’s two sources of power:
- Jesus can minister to you anytime, anywhere, any place
- The Holy Spirit who lives inside of you gives you power.
This is why the resurrection AND the ascension matter: The resurrection gives us new life. The ascension unleashes the power to live it today.