Roger's Postings

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Luke 24:44-53. Fare-Well - from Lord Jesus!! 16/5/10

(44) He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." {45} Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. {46} He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, {47} and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. {48} You are witnesses of these things. {49} I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." {50} When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. {51} While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. {52} Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. {53} And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

Today’s readings remind us of Christ's ascension into heaven. But interestingly very little is said about the actual Ascension, or heaven for that matter. The emphasis here is on Jesus’ farewell speech. Fare-well in the true sense of its meaning. It is not full of good-byes and see-you-laters. But the focus is on our faring well as we go forward in life; on what we need in order to keep on going as Christians, - as we go on living without the visible presence of the Lord Jesus Christ with us.

You see, the danger for the disciples was that without Christ visibly with them they would become discouraged and uncertain, and perhaps even let go altogether. The same, of course, also applies to us today, and in fact, it is there. There are many people today who have become discouraged about being active and visible Christians; or uncertain about whether they are on the right track or not; or who simply have given up along the way, finding it easier to go along with the rest of society. Others again are just nervous and hesitant in being too open about their faith and their sharing of it with others; perhaps feeling as though they will make a fool of themselves; or else thinking that they can not do what is asked of us.

Now of course, because of our sinful, selfish human nature, we will try to avoid facing up to the reality of these issues. We will try to pretend that we are too busy – by filling our lives to the brim with endless pursuits of selfish enjoyment, and by placing a high priority on our work so that we don't have time to think about those things that are difficult and important. Or else we look to the weaknesses and failures within the Church; the pastor or others, in order to let ourselves off the hook. Or again, we look for visible proofs of Jesus presence in our midst, or the right feelings; and when tragedy comes our way, we scream out that obviously God is not here and that he does not care. Whatever it is, we all, are too quick to find excuses to hide behind, because we are not prepared to face the real issues, and the important facts of life. We hide the real issues behind many things. And then in the midst of the difficulties of life we struggle with the reality of God, because the visible presence of Jesus is not here with us, and so are unsure of the purpose of life.

To all of this our Lord Jesus says fare-well. Fare-well, however, not in the sense of goodbye, see-you-later, I am out of here, and you are on your own: But exactly the opposite. We (us here) can now fare-well in life because we have everything going for us. There is no need for us to be discouraged and unsure about the key issues of life anymore. We have got everything we need in order to be able to face life in whatever way it comes. We can be sure that Jesus is for real and that there is a purpose to life, and that we are not on our own – Jesus and the Holy Spirit are with us: so we can now fare-well. We can fare very well in life - no matter what.

Those three points Jesus brings out quite clearly to his followers in that farewell speech. Firstly, he wants us to be quite sure that he is for real. You see he knows very well that there are many times in life when we doubt whether Jesus really is who he claimed to be, and that there will be times when we will just not be sure. Think of those first disciples: it was fine for them believing in Jesus. He has just performed miracles; he suffered, died and in particular rose again from the dead. So it was easy for them while he was still there with them: while it was all still fresh in their memory. But what happens down the track when life gets a little rough and they are under pressure. Their human reason starts to say, ‘hang on, are you sure you are not loosing your marbles,’ and ‘your imagination must have run away with you’, or that ‘perhaps a lot these other people are right, and this is just a good story’ or whatever.

No. Jesus here reminds us all: What you have seen, heard and know, is for real. Look way back in the time of Moses, and down through the ages since, there is account after account pointing to Jesus and all of these things that you now know about him. If he was a fly-by-night scam there is no way that all these things that have been written right back there, over a period of hundreds of years before, could all fit together with Jesus. What happened to him is no coincidence. It couldn't be. Way back, it was prophesied that he would die and three days later rise again; and it happened - this is for real - you can be sure. That is Jesus message to his disciples and to you and me. The evidence is all there so that you and I can understand and know that the Lord Jesus is who he says he is; and that he has died and risen again for the forgiveness of us all. So now, we can face anything and everything that comes our way.

Not only is the evidence there in the Scriptures, in the Books of Moses, the prophets and the psalms, as well as the New Testament books, but we are reminded week in week out that Jesus died and rose again for each one of us individually when we come to the Lord’s Table. There he gives us his very body and blood which he shed on the cross for the forgiveness of sin, life and salvation. So constantly through Word and Sacraments we are assured and reassured that Jesus Christ is for real and that he is with us in a very real way, even though we cannot see him. And in and through those means he constantly reminds us that he did die and rise again for each and every one of us.

And with that understanding, we now then can also understand the meaning and purpose of life for each and every one of us. This is the second point Jesus now gives for our faring-well on earth. To know the Lord Jesus, and his death and resurrection for forgiveness sins, is the basis of life. It being vital to our, and every human beings, very existence, then means there is a purpose for us here and now. The same Scriptures that points to and uphold Jesus as Lord and saviour of the world, also stress the need for all people, all over the world, to know this message and its importance for their lives. Jesus here points out that we are the witnesses he has to those around us of this Good News: Repentance and forgiveness is to be told and proclaimed and lived to all nations: that is our task.
Therein lies the purpose for which each and every one of us is still living here on earth. Each of us is to witness of these things. The word used here for witness in the original Greek, is martyros, from which we see the word martyr. You see – the idea is that we give our all for this purpose. Nothing else has precedence. Ultimately, nothing else matters. By the way we live, act and speak, in our giving our all for Jesus Christ and his Good News, we are showing the value and greatness of Jesus Christ - we are witnesses to what is important in life. As we continually turn back to God each and every day in repentance, knowing that he has forgiven us for Jesus sake, we are being martyrs: witnesses, to the only cause that is really worth anything at all.

So we are called to preach Christ and his death and resurrection, and repentance and forgiveness. Yes in preaching Christ we don’t just proclaim some lovey – dovey, sentimental, all-accepting Christ, and his power for new living. We preach Christ and him crucified, for the forgiveness of our sins. And we preach repentance: that is the need for people to turn back to him as Lord and saviour, recognising their sinfulness and failure to be the people God intends us to be, and knowing that without constant reassurance of his forgiveness they are in trouble. So we need to constantly turn back to him – daily- so that we can know the forgiveness that has been won for us, and then know also where our help comes to live out our lives every day. That is the message of our witness to the people around about us.

In living for this purpose, our lives have all the meaning we could ever want. And it is not as if we are left on our own to do this either. Jesus third point is that we have his Spirit to help us in this regard. Last weeks message, and next weeks also, emphasise that we can fare-well here as his people because we have this Counsellor with us all the time. He gives us the help, strength and power we need in order to be witnesses for Jesus Christ and the forgiveness that he has won for us all.

So my friends, let us be encouraged by this fare-well from our Lord Jesus Christ. We can now go forward confidently: knowing that we are on the right track; and so not be discouraged and uncertain. We have every reason to continue on with joy and hope, ready to face whatever is in front of us. Jesus has ascended physically from this earth, but he is ever present with us, as we hear, read and listen to Gods Word and here in Baptism and the Lords Supper. So fare-well one and all in Jesus name. AMEN.
Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish


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