Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
June 02, 2019

Our Gospel reading picks up with some things Jesus said to the Apostles when He appeared to them alive again from the dead. He makes several connections.

First, He connects the things that had happened to Him to the Scriptures, what we now know as the Old Testament. He said that it had been written in the Scriptures that the Christ must suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. Jesus’s death and resurrection took place according to God’s promises, according to God’s plan and purpose for the redemption of humanity and all creation.

But now Jesus makes another critically important connection. He states that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His Name to all the nations (Luke 24:46-47). Jesus uses three verbs to make this connection: suffer, rise again, and preaching. The Christ had to suffer for sins. He had to rise again on the third day, wining the victory over all things. And now follows the purpose: preaching. Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in Jesus’s Name. Suffering, rising, and now preaching.

The preaching connects us to Jesus’s suffering and rising. God’s purpose in Jesus’s suffering and rising was so Jesus could authorize the proclamation of forgiveness in His Name. He authorized this proclamation so that we sinners can be justified before God by grace. Jesus died and rose so that it could be preached that God regards us as righteous, innocent, and holy in His sight on account of Jesus’s suffering, death, and resurrection for us. As Paul puts it, “[Jesus] was delivered up for our trespasses and raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:25).

This preaching as the purpose is vitally important because Jesus’s death and resurrection were historical events. They took place at a particular place and time; a place far away and a time long ago. From God’s perspective, when those events took place, Jesus atoned for all human sin of all time.  

But we are saved when we believe that Jesus atoned for all our own sin (John 3:16). We also live in a different time and place. We were not there to witness Jesus’s atoning death and resurrection so we could believe, though the Apostles were there. How can we know about this redemption God has accomplished so that we can believe and be saved?

Preaching must go forth into all the world, down through the ages, from the cross and empty tomb. This preaching must be connected to the saving events, Jesus’s death and resurrection. It must tell us of those events so we can believe and know what God has done for us. And a proclamation must go forth from Jesus’s death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. It is the proclamation of forgiveness in His Name.

So, the purpose of those events must be proclaimed so that we can hear that we are forgiven. The preaching must come into our time and our place, into our ears so it can get into our hearts. The saving events must be placed before us in Word and Sacrament so that Jesus can connect us to them, to Him, to the salvation He has accomplished for us.

And so Jesus made and continues to make this connection. It must be that the Christ should suffer, die and rise again, and that repentance for forgiveness should be preached in His Name in every time and place, until He comes again.

You and I are the direct beneficiaries of this connection. The good news of Jesus as the Apostles witnessed it and preached it has come down to us, right here in our time and place. Through the preaching of the Apostolic Gospel Jesus connects us to Himself and His saving work for us. He speaks to us what He has accomplished: your sins are forgiven. And He justifies us through this preaching. He works in us through the Spirit so that we believe it and trust Him to keep this promise. He connects us to Himself and to His saving work and gives us now joy and peace.

There is yet another connection we must make on this Ascension Day. This is the connection between Jesus’s suffering and resurrection and His ascension. Jesus rose and showed Himself alive to the Apostles with many convincing proofs, writes Luke (Acts 1:3). One of those proofs was eating food with them in their presence (Luke 24:42-43; John 21:12). But Jesus was only with them for 40 days.

Although, take note of that. Jesus did show Himself alive to the apostles and many other Christians over the course of 40 days. It was not just on two or three occasions. Thus, He established His resurrection.

Nevertheless, it was only 40 days. Jesus’s rising leads to His ascending. His atoning death leads to His right to ascend to the right hand of God, the position of almighty power. So He died. He rose. And now He ascends on high.

This is important because now He can command and make happen the preaching of His Name and the salvation He brings. Now He can send the Holy Spirit to empower the preaching and faith in it (Acts 1:4).

The Spirit is the power from on high that Jesus sent to the Apostles so that they would be empowered to establish the good news of Jesus for all time. He caused their eye-witness testimony to be written for us to preserve the preaching of Jesus’s Name in our day. The Spirit is the clothing of power upon Christ’s church today so that the preaching, believing, and rejoicing goes on, though it goes on under the cross.

And it is evident that Jesus still commands this preaching from God’s right hand. It has gone on for two thousand years. It has survived through the centuries. It has survived though the devil and the world hate the good news of Jesus and have tried to get rid of it, to silence it. It has survived despite the sin and weakness of Christ’s church. The preaching and believing goes on despite these things.

There is thus a wonderful and mighty connection between Jesus’s suffering, rising, ascending, and now the preaching and giving of the Holy Spirit. And we are caught up in this, caught up in the connections. Your hearing about Jesus here is the culmination of God’s plan and purpose right from the very beginning in the garden, when He promised that a Son of Eve, our first Mother, would crush the serpent’s head. And this Son of Eve came and died and rose and now has ascended on high and sent the Spirit. And the Spirit preaches the good news to you and comforts your heart with it. And you are connected to Christ and the Spirit and the Father through the good news and faith. And in the Father, Son, and Spirit, through the Gospel, you are connected with the Apostles and all the saints who have gone before us. And we are all connected in a wonderful seamless tapestry of the wonderful deeds of God in Jesus in God’s unconquerable love and grace, brought to us in the Gospel of Word and Sacrament.

As Jesus has ascended to the right hand and causes the Spirit to preach His Name and bring the Sacraments, He connects us to Himself and to the deeds by which He won our redemption. And through this connection with Himself here, He will take us to Himself one day where we will see Him in blessed sight and everlasting joy. Thanks be to God. Amen.


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