Revised Common Lectionary: Ascension of the Lord
- Jesus is taken up into heaven. The Holy Spirit is given to us.
We read, in John 7:39, that ‘the Spirit’ would not be ‘given’ until Jesus was ‘glorified.’
Now, as Jesus was about to be ‘taken up... into heaven’, He tells His apostles, ‘the Holy Spirit’ will ‘come upon you’ (Acts 1:11, 8).
He gives them His Word of promise: ‘I send the promise of my Father upon you’.
He gives them His Word of command: ‘stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high’ (Luke 24:49).
They wait upon the coming of the Holy Spirit. They cannot fill themselves with the Spirit. They can only ‘be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18).
Waiting for the Spirit, the apostles ‘devote themselves to prayer’ (Acts 1:14).
They do not earn the Holy Spirit as a reward for spending much time in prayer. Waiting on God, their strength is renewed as they receive God’s gift (Isaiah 40:31; Luke 11:13).
- Jesus is taken up into heaven. May His Name be exalted in all the earth.
‘Be still, and know that I am God ... Shout to God with loud songs of joy’ (Psalms 46:10; 47:2). In our worship, there is to be both quiet trust and loud praise.
We read the great words: ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’ (Psalm 46:1). God’s Word brings peace - ‘in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength’.
We must not keep God’s blessing to ourselves. We must share it with joy - ‘Sing to the Lord...let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare His praise in the coastlands’ (Isaiah 30:15; 42:10-12).
The Lord is to be ‘exalted among the nations’. He is not only ‘our King’. He is ‘the King of all the earth’ (Psalms 46:10; 47:6-7). ‘Father (Jesus/Spirit), we love You. We worship and adore You. Glorify Your Name in all the earth’ (Mission Praise, 142).
‘You, O Lord, are exalted for ever... The Lord reigns, He is robed in majesty...’ (Psalms 92:8; 93:1-2).
The Lord is ‘exalted’. We are to exalt Him in our worship. He is not exalted because we exalt Him. We exalt Him because He is exalted. He is ‘exalted far above all gods’. That is why we sing, ‘I exalt Thee, O Lord’.
‘He is exalted, the King is exalted on high’ - This is the truth concerning the Lord.
‘I will praise Him’- This is our response to His truth.
We sing, ‘Jesus, we enthrone You, we proclaim You our King’.
This is our response to the eternal truth concerning our Saviour: ‘The Lord is enthroned as King for ever’.
‘From all eternity’, the Lord is ‘robed in majesty’. Let us respond to His majesty. Let us ‘magnify’ the Lord - ‘O Lord our God, how majestic is Thy Name’ (Psalms 97:9; 29:10; Mission Praise, 158, 217, 388, 507).
How great Thou art – great in power, great in love: ‘The Lord is high above all nations... Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high?... Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, who turns the hard rock into springs of water’(Psalm 113:4-5; Psalm 114:7-8). The Lord is greater than we could ever imagine. There is no greatness like the greatness of the Lord. All human greatness cannot even begin to compare with the greatness of God. His greatness is not only the greatness of His power. It is also the greatness of His love. When we sing, ‘How great Thou art’, we sing not only of His power - ‘Thy power throughout the universe displayed’. We sing also of His love - ‘And when I think that God His Son not sparing, sent Him to die - I scarce can take it in, that on the Cross my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin...’(Mission Praise, 506).
- Jesus is taken up into heaven. He will come again with power and great glory.
‘There before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven... His Kingdom is one that will never be destroyed’ (Daniel 7:13-14).
These words point us to Christ’s description of His Second Coming, the Coming of His Kingdom: ‘They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory’ (Matthew 24:30).
In Revelation 1:7, we have another echo of Daniel’s ‘vision’: ‘Look, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him’. ‘Lo! He comes, with clouds descending... Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee, high on Thine eternal throne; Saviour, take the power and glory, claim the Kingdom for Thine own. O come quickly! O come quickly! O come quickly! Alleluia! Come, Lord, come!’(Church Hymnary, 316).
- Jesus is taken up into heaven. In Him, we will dwell in God’s house for ever.
For God’s people, there is a glorious eternal destiny: ‘I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever’ (Psalm 23:6). We ‘receive this blessing from the Lord, ...the God of our salvation’ (Psalm 24:5).
There is only one answer to the question, ‘Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?’: Jesus Christ ‘shall stand in His holy place’.
No one else has ‘clean hands and a pure heart’ - no one else but Jesus. He is the One who receives ‘blessing’ from the Lord - and He gives it to us (Psalm 24:3-5)!
How do we receive His blessing? - We must open our hearts ‘that the King of glory may come in’ (Psalm 24:7, 9).
How can ‘the Lord, strong and mighty’ live in me? How can I receive His resurrection power?
Jesus says, ‘I stand at the door and knock, if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in’ (Psalm 24:8; Ephesians 1:19-20; Revelation 3:20).
- Jesus is taken up into heaven. Saved by Him, let us live for Him.
Raised from the dead, Jesus Christ now sits at God’s right in the heavenly places. He is far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named (Ephesians 1:20:21).
His Name is the Name of our salvation. Through Him, we rejoice in God’s wonderful grace: ‘By grace you have been saved through faith… for good works’ (Ephesians 2:8-10).
You Have Been Saved; You Are Being Saved; You Will Be Saved: God is ‘our salvation’. He is the ‘God of salvation’(Psalm 68:19-20). God’s salvation covers our past, present and future. (a) You have been saved. Through faith in Jesus Christ, we have received the forgiveness of our sins (Romans 5:1). (b) You are being saved. God is at work in our lives, making us the kind of people He wants us to be (Romans 5:3-5). (c) You will be saved. We look forward to ‘sharing the glory of God’, being with the Lord forever (Romans 5:2,9-10). From beginning to end, salvation is the work of God - He has forgiven our sins. He is making us like Christ. He will lead us on to heaven. Our God is great. His salvation is great. Let us ‘be joyful’. Let us worship the Lord ‘with joy’(Psalm 68:3). Let us give all the glory to God - ‘Blessed be God!’(Psalm 68:35).Saved by the Lord, we are to live for Him.
God calls us to live a ‘holy’ life. We cannot make ourselves holy. We are spiritually ‘dead’. We need to be ‘made alive’- by God.
Holiness does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord. Long before we ever thought of loving Him - He loved us. Our love for Him is so changeable. His love for us is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. It is eternal. He loved us ‘before the foundation of the world’. He will love us ‘in the world to come’. This is the love of God, the love which inspires us and enables us to live a ‘holy’ life (Ephesians 2:1; 1:4; 2:7).
When we realize the truth concerning ourselves - ‘nothing good dwells within me’ (Romans 7:18) - and God - He is ‘rich in mercy’ (Ephesians 2:4) - , we will ‘praise His glorious grace’ (Ephesians 1:6).
- Jesus is taken up into heaven. Let us preach Him to all nations.
‘In all the Scriptures’, Jesus teaches ‘the things concerning Himself’ (Luke 24:27). Do ‘our hearts burn within us... while He opens to us the Scriptures?’ (Luke 24:32).
He calls us to be His ‘witnesses’, to preach His message of salvation ‘to all nations’ (Luke 24:47-48).
Before we can preach, we must listen to Him.
Before we can proclaim His resurrection, we must consider His suffering for us: ‘See my hands and my feet’ (Luke 24:39) - even after His resurrection, they still bear ‘the mark of the nails’ (John 20:25).
Listen to Christ. Consider His suffering for you. Be ‘clothed with power from on high. Let the Lord ‘bless’ you, strengthening your worship and filling you ‘with great joy’.
With all this going on in our lives, we will consider it not only our responsibility but our joyful privilege to be His ‘witnesses’ (Luke 24:48-53)!
Some of the readings from Psalms change each year - Psalm 24:7-10 (Year A); Psalm 68:15-20 (Year B); Psalm 113 (Year C)