S-1255Ascension/3A 06/02/11, (O) #633 vv 1-4; 5-8(S) #525; L.S. #528; $632; (C) #492
Text: Isaiah 45:18-25; Revelation 5:6-14; John 1:29-37
Theme: “The Lamb Reigns! Forward in Faith” (Rev. 5:11-12)
Question: “Who is your champion?”
SOLI DEO GLORIA, Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for the Ascension of Jesus is from the Epistle lesson: “Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 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. 5:11-12).
In Nomini Iesu,
Beloved in the Lord, the history of man tells the story very well. In every age, in every era, and in every generation; whether in the sports arena or on the battle field we have someone who reigns supreme. From the mighty powers of Egypt, the Roman Empire, and the Turkish Empire they had their moments. Likewise in sports, from football, to basketball and other sports, you have a champion that rules the court or field.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s, a young man by the name of Michael Jordan dominated the sports of Basketball. He was the reigning champion for a time. His leaping ability earned him the nicknames “Air Jordan” and “His Airness”. But that was then. He is no longer the reigning champion. Now you have LeBron James and others dominating that sport. Champions come and go. Some reign for a while and then they are deposed. Empires come and go, rise and fall; and others take their place.
But today, as we observe the Ascension of our Lord and Savior, the evangelist John tells us of a champion who reigns forever and His kingdom has no end. Who is this Champion? Whose Kingdom is it? It is the Kingdom of God and of the Lamb who was slain on the altar of the cross; but now reigns supreme forever and ever.
40 days after the Resurrection, Jesus would leave the world physically to go to His Father in heaven. His Ascension begins His coronation and His reign that has no end. In full view of the disciples Jesus ascends to heaven from where He came to rule over the entire universe but more importantly over His Church, so that she may live out Her mission in this dark world.
Tonight, on this Ascension Day, as we gather in the Lord’s house to celebrate in Word and song the coronation of our King, join me in being caught up into the heavens, into that throne room as detailed in the vision recorded by St. John in Revelation 4-5.
It’s the throne room of the eternal God. There on the throne He sits in all His glory and majesty. Surrounding Him, seated, as it were, on their own thrones, are the twenty-four elders, representatives of God’s people from every age. And forming an inner circle around the throne are the four living creatures, who sing in a loud voice: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty” (4:8), and the elders respond, “Glory and honor and power” (4:11).
Yes, Ascension points to Him as the Holy One who is worthy to open the scroll that has all of human history recorded on it. By His death and glorious resurrection this Lamb is worthy to open it and read it. Do you want to know what He reads? Your every activity from the moment you were born till you die—every thought, every action and every word are recorded. And He knows them. Yet, He is worthy and we are not.
How do you measure worth? In today’s world, worth is measured in so many different ways. Some measure worth in terms of dollars. They look at a Bill Gates and his billions and talk about his worth. Others measure it in terms of acting like Brad Pitt who makes between $20-25 million per movie or athletics like LeBron James who makes almost 40m p/y. Others measure it in terms of beauty or appearance or position or power.
By the world’s standards, our Lord Jesus isn’t worth very much. He had no bank account; He won no athletic contests; He didn’t write a book, He didn’t produce a movie and He wasn’t known for His beauty and appearance. Yet we say, “Worthy is the Lamb.” The elders tell us why He is worthy: The Lamb is worthy, they say, “For You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (5:9). PAUSE.
The picture of the slain lamb is a common picture in the Old Testament. The lamb of the Passover is slain. Its blood is sprinkled on the doorposts, and God delivers. He passes over the homes of the redeemed. He delivers the firstborn from the angel of death. This picture of the slain lamb is also central to the great prophecies of the Suffering Servant. “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Is 53:7). The Suffering Servant, the Messiah, is the LAMB.
It is John the Baptiser who ties it all together. When pointing to Jesus, he cries out, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). Here is the One pierced for our transgressions; here is the One crushed for our iniquities. Here is our substitute. The Lord laid upon Him our sin and our iniquity; indeed, He laid upon Him the whole of human history, with all its sins, and He paid the price. He died for YOU, to save YOU, to redeem YOU, to forgive YOU and to love YOU. He died in order to purchase men and women and children for God “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (5:9), and you are one of them. He made you a kingdom, priests to declare His praises, and now you, too, can join in the song, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain” (5:12).
This One who suffered and died was raised to life on the third day. He was seen by Peter and James and John, by the other disciples, and by many others. He rose from death, and then at God’s appointed hour He ascended to take His rightful place, at the right hand of the Father. All things being placed under His feet, He now reigns as the Eternal Champion and King forever and ever.
That’s what we can say to each other on this Ascension Day and every day following as we encourage each other in our walk. Indeed, that is what we can do together. We can confidently go forward in faith!
We go in faith armed by the Gospel of this Lamb. We share what the Lamb has done for us on the cross and still does for us today in His Word and Sacrament. PAUSE.
Because the Lamb Rules in heaven, our hearts and our heads, He has the power to send us on ahead of Him to do what He told the 11 to do. Share the Good News with young and old, here and everywhere. Because Jesus Rules in our hearts He keeps us in faith. He rules the world for the benefit of His people, the Church (Eph 1:22). He is their Shepherd. He leads them by springs of living water. He dwells with His sheep and builds and strengthens their faith. He gives boldness even in the midst of trials and tribulations, which we will most certainly face. And He is the One who will enable us and the whole Christian Church to remain faithful to the end.
There’s an interesting detail in this vision pointed out by my spiritual Father, Louis Brighton in his commentary on Revelation, a detail that’s often missed. Normally in the Book of Revelation, angels appear to assist John by pointing out details of a vision or interpreting a particular scene. But in this vision, it’s not an angel, but an elder. An elder directs John’s attention to the Lamb. Who better to give that direction than an elder, one who has been touched by the Lamb, touched by His gift of forgiveness, redeemed from slavery to sin, and rescued from the clutches of hell? Who better than an elder? (See Louis A. Brighton, Revelation, Concordia Commentary [St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999], 135.)
And come to think of it, who better than you, than me, than all of us together in this congregation, than the whole Christian Church on earth (Eph 3:10)? After all, we have been touched by His grace and forgiveness. Even now, in this very hour, we are being empowered by the Spirit of God to go forward in faith. The Lamb does it for us in the Word of forgiveness extended and through His body and blood in the Holy Supper. These gifts strengthen and preserve us, indeed the whole Christian Church, to life everlasting.
They strengthen us until that day when the going forward in faith comes to an end and we stand in awe before the throne and see our ascended Lord Jesus, the Lamb, in all His glory. Then we shall hear the ascension song of praise, “Worthy is the Lamb,” and join with all the saints and angels, indeed the whole heavenly host, in singing, “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (5:13). Amen.
Now the peace…
SOLI DEO GLORIA.