Ascension + May 10 & 13 + Pr. Dale Reckzin Download PDF
Text: Luke 24: 44-53
Hymn: On Christ's Ascension I Now Build (CW 173)
In 1516, English scholar, Thomas More, wrote a book about a perfect society of equality and justice. Of course, this place really did not exist. Thomas More was describing the desire to have heaven on earth. But whenever humans try to make heaven on earth, it turns out bad. In a desire to build a perfect society people follow charismatic, but dangerous, leaders. Then they try to build a society out in the desert or jungle, far away from the “real world.”
History teaches us what happens with these people. They don’t create heaven on earth. They bring pain and suffering. For example, in 1978 nine hundred followers of Jim Jones committed mass suicide in Guyana. In 1993 the followers of David Koresh perished in flames in Waco, Texas.
No, humans cannot create heaven on earth. Thomas More understood this. That’s why invented the name Utopia for his book. That word is based on the two Greek words, ou and topos. It literally means, “not a place.” In other words, there is no such place as heaven on earth.
But it’s okay that we can’t make heaven on earth. It’s okay because there is such a place as heaven. And heaven is ….well, heaven is in heaven. That’s what Christ’s ascension proclaims to us. Forty days after Jesus rose from the dead, he went up to heaven. So, as we celebrate Christ’s ascension we listen to the comforting message of God’s Word. The real Savior ascends to the real heaven.
This is, indeed, comforting news. That’s because where Christ goes, you have to follow. You have to follow where Christ leads because your life is connected to Christ. At your baptism God tied your life together with Christ. Saint Paul says in Romans, "all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death...If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection." (Rom. 6:3, 5)
Paul says that baptism so strongly connects to Christ that we must experience everything Christ went through. This is the pattern for every Christian. We are born again with Christ in baptism. We live under the cross of Christ here on earth. We die like Christ died—crying out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) Then, after a short time in the grave, we will rise from the dead just like Christ rose from the grave. Then, just like Christ ascended into heaven, so too, we will ascend into heaven.
Heaven is the destination for every believer in Christ. And heaven is a real place of real joy and true happiness. But heaven is this way because that’s where Jesus is. So not only does the real Savior ascend to the real place called heaven. Our real Savior also makes heaven real—a real place far better than any human-manufactured society here on earth.
So, heaven will indeed be heavenly because there, in heaven, we will have a perfect relationship with Christ. In heaven our relationship with Christ will not be hindered by annoying sins, by a stumbling faith, or by any worldly distractions. Instead, heaven will be perfect because in heaven we will have perfect union with Christ. That’s why the Psalmist says, "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you." (Ps. 73:25) That’s a beautiful confession of how we want to be in heaven so we can be with Jesus forever.
But you don’t always feel that way, do you? Yes, I know you want to go to heaven. But far too often the cares and concerns of this world distract you from heaven. Far too often worldly matters interfere with your desire to be in heaven.
The sinful nature says, Sure, heaven sounds great, but earth is pretty nice, too. You know the old song, “In Heaven There Is No Beer?" Well, there are other things that heaven doesn’t have. Heaven doesn’t have Powerball, Mega-Millions, casinos, or Vegas, baby! Heaven doesn’t have TV, video games, or the Internet. Heaven doesn’t have ESPN, the Brewers or Packers. Heaven doesn’t have fast cars, amusement parks, and shopping malls.
Those worldly distractions make you struggle. They make you say, Well, I guess I want to go to heaven…. but, I can wait. First, I want to do all the things that earth has to offer. I want to have a full life. Then, when I’m done here on earth, then I’ll give up all that fun stuff and go to heaven.
Our sinful nature thinks heaven is a no-fun zone. In the weakness of our faith, we picture heaven like a pleasant but boring afternoon visiting your great-aunt. But heaven is far from being a celestial nursing home. Heaven is not a place to go once you have used up all your energy indulging in all the fun earth has to offer.
Heaven is a real place of real joy - the highest and greatest joy. Heaven has greater joy than any experience we could ever possibly have on earth. Let’s say it was possible to have a bad day in heaven. It’s impossible, but for the sake of argument, let’s say you could have a bad day in heaven. Well, that bad day in heaven would be a million times better than your best day on earth.
And why can I make such spectacular claims about heaven? Here’s why: "When [Jesus] had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven." (v. 50-51)
Heaven is better than anything on earth because Jesus went to heaven. Jesus is the reason why heaven is better than anything on earth. Jesus is the perfect Son of God. Jesus is the Lamb of God who sacrificed his life to forgive your sins. Jesus is your mighty hero who defeated death and Satan.
The Bible also says that Jesus is your heavenly husband. You and I, we are his bride. By faith we long for our permanent marriage in heaven with Christ. We long for this more than an earthly bride longs for her wedding day. So, our faith aches to be with Christ. When we are with Christ in heaven, our joy will be complete, our hopes will be complete, our whole existence will be complete.
That’s why Saint John describes heaven this way in the book of Revelation: "I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Rev. 21:1-4)
This is not utopia. This isn't “not a place.” This is the place. This is the real place. This is the real heaven. This is our real home. And heaven is our real home because heaven is where we will be with our real Savior forever and ever.