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The Ascension of Our Lord - May 26, 2022

[Read Luke 24:36-53]

The Ascended Lord Saves Bodies

There was certainly a lot of tragedy this week. Atrocities committed. Bodies hurt and killed.

All tragedy and suffering began and is caused by the human nature’s fall into sin. In Adam’s fall, we all fell. Before the fall into sin, there was no suffering of body, no death, no tragedy, no atrocities. No mental illness. No school shootings. No disease. No crippled bodies. No injuries.

The specific sufferings in our body are generally not to be attributed to specific sins, although at times maybe that’s the case. And atrocities and tragedies which kill bodies are not attributable to one specific cultural cause nor are they solved by one political solution.

The cause - the thing making it all happen - is our sinfulness. Original sin. Death and evil – and just plain suffering and sickness – are the fruits, the product, of the human sinful condition which is common to us all.

When you see death, when you see atrocity, when you see disease “out there”, you are seeing us “in here”. Outward suffering in the world or in the body is a manifestation of the inward, hidden condition of us all. There is one human nature we all share from our first ancestor, Adam, and it is a fallen nature.

Atrocities which harm bodies – and other, ‘regular’ bodily suffering – are a mirror in which I see outwardly what is true inwardly. Fallen. Hopelessly sinful and unclean.

But, brothers and sisters, more than that, bodily suffering – whether in atrocity or in personal trials of the body – bodily suffering is a reminder that Jesus has come to save bodies. Jesus has redeemed bodies. Jesus has died for bodies. Jesus is risen for bodies. And Jesus is ascended into heaven for bodies.

Jesus came bodily – born of a woman – yet born without sin. The One and Only Good, Unfallen Body. A body without sin. A body without death. None of its own.

Jesus’ body was pierced on the cross for the sins of your body. Jesus’ body was pierced on the cross for the sinfulness – ours, not His – that affected all of our bodies. He counted sin all His in His body on the tree. There His body died for yours and for every body.

Jesus’ body died on the cross for your dying body. Jesus suffered cruelty in His body for all those whose bodies are treated cruelly. He suffered our whole sin-fallen existence in soul and in body.

His body that suffered for yours is the body that lives again, nevermore to die. And, brothers and sisters, His body that suffered for your body is the body that has ascended into heaven and now sits at God’s right hand.

In tonight’s Gospel, just before Jesus ascended into heaven, just before our reading began, Jesus had appeared among His disciples. “Jesus himself stood among them.” They were startled and frightened – they thought He was a ghost, a spirit. Jesus said, Don’t be frightened – “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

And then Jesus even ate a piece of broiled fish in front of them to prove that He is no spirit, but a body. Fully human still, soul and body. Still those hands and feet that were pierced for yours.

Then Jesus lifted up those pierced hands to bless them as He ascended into heaven. They rejoiced and worshiped Him.

Why did Jesus ascend into heaven? Jesus ascended into heaven to send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter and Helper who helps and comforts you. Jesus ascended into heave to be your Intercessor – to forever be showing the Father the marks of His sacrifice for you which forgives your sins.

Jesus ascended into heaven to take all He has done for you up to God the Father.

And Jesus ascended into heaven to take His seat of authority. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” [Matthew 28:19]. Jesus is King. The right hand of God is the place of God’s power. Jesus now reigns as King over all things, in heaven and on earth. All things. Nothing is outside of His authority and power.

Because Jesus ascended into to heaven bodily, the King who sits on the throne is also the Lamb who sits on the throne – the Lamb sacrificed.

And the one who sits on heaven’s throne exercising all of God’s authority is a man like you, flesh and bone, yet without sin. But having suffered as you do in your body. The one who reigns there knows what it is to hurt – and He knows the tragedy of tragic death. His own.

And the one who sits on heaven’s throne has been tried and tested and tempted in soul and in body in every way that you have – without sin – yet having done so for the sake of your sins. To win the victory.

Jesus has ascended into heaven to forever be your Hight Priest who has offered the once-and-for-all sacrifice by which you are saved. Hear what Scripture says about your bodily High Priest in heaven who sympathizes with your bodies:

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” [Hebrews 4:14-15]

He is ascended. You are baptized. Having been baptized into Christ’s body, your body will now run the same course as His. Your body is buried with Him by baptism into death. Your body is raised by His resurrection. On the Last Day, your body will ascend to meet Him in the air. You will even sit on thrones, the Lord says, in your bodies.

In the meantime, we draw near to the throne of grace – which is not far, but near. You see, another thing Jesus said just before His ascension is this: “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age” [Matthew 28:20].

The right hand of God is not far but near. Jesus has ascended up, but not away. Just as God is fully present everywhere in everyplace, the ascended Jesus rules and reigns at the right hand of God in every place.

Bodies broken by disease and injury. Bodies full of sins. Bodies broken by tragedies. Saved by His broken body. Soon to be lifted to Heaven by His ascended body. Amen.

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