S-1188 Ascension Sunday/3C 5/13/10 Hymns (O) #239; S #219; L.S. #216; 221; (C) #213
Texts: Acts 1:1-11; 1 Peter 2:18-25; Luke 24:44-53
Theme: “Beautiful Scars” (Luke 24:50-53)
Question: “What do you when you someone scarred or disfigured?
SOLI DEO GLORIA, Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for The Ascension of our Lord is from the Gospel lesson: “Then He [Jesus] 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” (Luke 24:50-53).
Introduction: In Nomine IESU
People of God, chosen and beloved the other day I was watching National Geographic program called Taboo. In this episode, called “Scarred Faces” The ritual of the tribe is to scar their children’s faces. A special witch doctor with a sharp tool begins to design the cuts on the child’s face. Each cut is done with precision and symmetrical to the other cuts. By the time the cutting is done there are at least 360 scars across the face. These rituals are done only in the summer when the temperature is over 110 degrees. This hinders any infection on their faces. When the cuts heal, they have beautifully ornate and elaborate designs. Some of these designs are even marked on their mud homes. The reason for the scaring is to show that they belong to a very special group of people.
The people who were filming this episode had a hard time looking at these children being scarred like that especially as the blood began to run all over. At times they would hide their faces as the blade would make another slice across the face. They considered it a taboo. However a question was asked of the tribe: “What would happen if you don’t cut your children’s faces?” The answer was, “They will not fit, and they will not belong. The scars identify them as part of our tribe.” To the tribe, these are beautiful scars that they wear with honor.
Indeed, to us who live in the West we don’t consider scars beautiful. Perhaps you have seen someone who has a scar on his or her face. What is the first thing you do? You stare at that scar. Sometimes you can’t even take your eyes of these scars and you feel embarrassed. I remember the first time I saw my best friend Rod Bogh whose arm was cut off at the shoulder due to a terrible car accident. I gawked at him and I couldn’t move my eyes. PAUSE.
My beloved and His beloved, we in the West don’t consider scars beautiful. We even go so far to cover them up. We use make up, wear long sleeves or seek the aid of Plastic surgeon to hide the scars. I’ve found that scars can be invisible yet run deep into the heart and soul of a person. Everyone and I mean everyone has these scars. Even the prettiest girl, the most handsome boy, the most self-confident people have scars that harm and hurt, anger and annoy, shame or condemn—emotional scars. As a pastor, these are very often what I’m required to stare at, figuratively, sometimes more intently than I want to.
Now, consider this: you’ve seen portraits of Jesus—portraits, of course, from the artist’s imagination of what he or she felt Jesus should look like. These portraits usually show a handsome man, with long black wavy hair and soft beautiful hazel eyes; it gives the impression of scar-less, tall stature, an appearance of authority. Jesus’ face, eyes and hair are painted smooth and soft-toned—there’s a gentle back lighting that glows to lend peace and serenity to the portrait. And when, in my mind, I picture the ascension, this is the Jesus I see. He’s standing on top of a high place, the Mt. of Olives the picture of confident authority and divine glory are real and vivid. Then St. Luke writes that “lifting up His hands [Jesus] blessed them” (v 50).
What would you suppose my eyes (and perhaps even your eyes) would have stared at when Jesus lifted up His hands? I would have stared and gawked at those gaping holes, those nail-hewn wounds in Jesus’ feet and hands. Humanly speaking, those scarred hands marred an otherwise perfect picture. But Jesus didn’t try to hide them. In fact, He raised those hands for all to see and used those scarred hands to bestow His blessing.
Too often, many Christians revel in the glory of Jesus Christ, proclaiming Him King of kings, and Lord of Lords; the Savior of the World and avenger of evil—but they rarely mention the scars. But let us not hide from looking at these scars—for they are indeed beautiful because of what they accomplished. These scars show the mission of the Savior to rescue lost man from sin and death and hell. These scars show clearly the suffering He endured for the world and us on the cross of Calvary. These scars show the extent and enormity of His love for you and me. These scars show that we belong to the family of faith.
Sadly, many believers’ even preachers of the Gospel don’t mention Christ’s suffering, death or His cross? Are we perhaps ashamed of the cross, of suffering, ashamed of the scars and try covering them up as we do with our own scars using every imaginable means to hide them? Yet Jesus, at the glorious ascension, did not hesitate to raise pierced hands before His people. He raised those scarred hands on His first Ascension on the cross of Calvary. Why were those hands pierced? Why did He suffer and die? His obedient suffering and death is the power by which we are freed from our sins and delivered from the evils of this world. PAUSE.
It took scarred hands to save us. All mankind shares a common shame, a scar that disfigures our hearts and our bodies. That common scar, that shame, is SIN. Every emotional scar—the guilt we bear, the hurt done to us—every illness that weakens our bodies, every accident that disfigures or dismembers, even every genetic defect, is a result of sin, the world’s sin, our sin. Our healing for every such circumstance is purely and sincerely is the cross of our salvation. The cross—our crucified Lord—is where we find God directing His attention specifically to our scarred lives, focusing intently on delivering us from death and eternal disfigurement.
These beautiful scars were not ONLY for the world, but more emphatically to me the sinner. I know that My Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ died in my place. It was for my sin-scarred life that holes were punched in my Savior’s hands. I need not get what I deserve, because Jesus already took what I deserve. He already took what you deserve.
And you know that person with whom you have the hardest time? Do you have that pain-in-the-neck person pictured in your mind? Jesus’ scarred hands are for him or her too. St. Peter writes, “[Jesus] Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree. . . . By His wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet 2:24). Again, “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous” (1 Pet 3:18). Healing is accomplished by Jesus’ death. Protection and deliverance are accomplished by Jesus’ death. Our glory is found in the nail-marked scarred hands of the Rabbi from Nazareth.
The very fact that Jesus lifted those hands tells us that the risen Lord has made an effective sacrifice. From the cross, Jesus loudly proclaimed, “It is finished.” His mission was completed; He died; God raised His Son from the dead—not because there was something missing, but because the sacrifice accomplished what it set out to do. The condemnation of anyone’s sin has been overcome. With those scarred hands, Jesus says, “I Am the One who died for you; I have completed your salvation.” PAUSE.
Today, we observe and celebrate Christ’s Ascension. In reality this is His second Ascension since His first was on the cross. His Ascension reminds us that our Lord’s ministry isn’t over. Even now, at God’s right hand, those nail-scarred hands are working on our behalf. They are interceding for us with the Father. They are working to provide for us and protect us. Even when He is gone from us, our Lord is still working with those beautiful scars.
In the book of Revelation we read these words: “saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’” (Rev. 5:12).Yes, this is our Victorious, Resurrected and Ascended Lamb who lifts His hands to show us those scarred hands of His—those beautiful scars that He wore as the badge of honor to deliver mankind from the destructive power of death and damnation.
Today, you and I as His beloved and redeemed children, remember the wonderful command He gave His disciples on the Mt. of Olives just before He left saying to them, “You will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8) and again “Repentance and forgiveness will be preached in my Name to all nations beginning in Jerusalem” (Luke 24:48). This is our mission too—to tell needy souls about the Savior’s Beautiful Scarred hands which earned our salvation and redemption. The ascending Savior exhorts us that as long as one soul still hasn’t heard, our mission is not done.
Beautiful people of God, you who are chosen before the foundation of the world; the young children of the Benin tribe had no say in getting the scars on their faces. It was done to show they belong to a special group of people. But our victorious and resurrected Lord, had a choice—His choice was to allow evil men to scars Him by nailing Him to the tree of the cross—so that we may not be disfigured. God grant us the grace and joy to speak of the Beautiful Scarred hands of the Savior to all people now and always. Amen.
Now the peace of God…