“While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worship-ed him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God” Luke 24:51-53. Jesus’ ascension teaches us about death—that it’s not an ending for the Christian but a change of ad-dress, that we don’t need to find the physical strength to get there but are carried, and that a loved one going there should bring us great joy as it is gain. His ascension caps the gospel and answers the question about where Jesus is today. Enacted at the incarnation, the Word becoming flesh allowed God to be our example and sacrifice with the promise that if we also die with Him that we will also rise with Him and go to be with Him one day as well. Christians have a ready response to the skeptic who asks us where our living Savior is today. Finally, Jesus’ ascension gives us great advantage. Not only is He now our high priest and intercessor at the right hand of the Father, but unless He went away the Counselor could not be ours. That’s enough to give His followers reason for great joy and continually bless God in the temple of the Holy Spirit as we walk as He did.
“… Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen …” Luke 24:5-6. No other event in human history can compare to this. The resurrection is not just a Bible story but thee revelation of all that God had sought to do since the foundation of the world, since He first alluded to Eve of a seed that would crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15). All genealogies, people, and events recorded up to this point were written so we might understand the salvation history of a loving God who restored sinful mankind into a right relationship with Him. Finally—that which the prophets of old had longed to look into is now known. The serpent striking Jesus’ heel was the cross, but rather than a killing blow, it became the climax to the resolu-tion: the resurrection! There are no living to be found among the dead, yet we’ll search for anyone or anything to bring us immortality. We forget that no other name but His has been given us under heaven for salvation. He has done it! He has conquered death! And He has made a way for us to have eternal life with Him! That’s why the gospel is good news. He is not here, but has risen. So can you be! Do you share in His resurrection?
“Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God” Acts 15:19. The church in Antioch had a problem: conversion growth from the community around them occurred as the lost were obeying the gospel in great numbers but didn’t much act like the church they had always known. But, after all, how could these “unchurched” gentiles be expected to know the traditions and laws for something they had never been a part of before? Up to this point, the church had been like their community because a lot of baby-to-believer and transfer growth had made many “churched” disciples, but God had made a change that opened a door for the unchurched to become His followers too. They welcomed them in because they knew that a church that no longer looked like its community would soon die, but shouldn’t the community coming in be made to look like the church they were coming into? The advice they sought told them not to trouble the unchurched who have obeyed the unchanged gospel but to teach them to not put anything before God and not become like the world once again that they’ve just escaped. How can we not trouble the lost in our community?
“The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment” Luke 23:55-56. We of course know the next chapter. Perhaps our eyes, in reading this, have skipped to the next few verses without really thinking about how the people living that day of rest after the crucifixion felt. The expectation was great. Their Lord, Master, and Teacher they believed to be the Messiah was finally entering the holy city and the temple! People were laying down palm branches and hailing Him as the son of David. He always seemed to gain the upper hand over those who were in power. But now He was … dead? All their hopes and visions and expectations of the Messiah were ended by the very ones they had thought He would overthrow. How could that happen? Where’s the restoration of Israel? What life could they have now? Death is final. There’s only spices to prepare to put on a body in a borrowed tomb. Only potential cut short that they could talk about. Only former lives to resume. Only rest. Do you live Saturday or Sunday?
“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by his wounds we are healed” Isaiah 53:5. If Gethsemane was the olive press, then Golgotha was the destroyer. The blood that began to flow in the garden ran freely from His pierced body on the cross. Our sins were punished in His flesh that hung upon the tree. He was lifted up and so took our place in death becoming a curse for us by lifting the curse from us. His wounds, which were meant to be ours, healed us. In the incarnation, the second person of the Godhead was made like us in every way to bring us to the crucifixion. Having perfectly submitted as a man to His Father at Gethsemane, God could be killed at Calvary—for you, for me. Here’s where the work of salvation was done … in submission. “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness …” Titus 3:5. And so when we submit to death of our old selves in baptism, we are united with the crushing for our iniquities that Jesus endured for us so that we might live in submission to His will for our lives. Have you submitted to His destruction in baptism to live for His will?