Why Did He Leave?
#WhyDidHeLeave is the podcast for June 2, 2019, The Ascension Sunday. If Jesus is the Messiah and he is establishing a new kingdom, then why did he Ascend? Four main reasons and two others in this podcast. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Luke24 #Acts1 #Ascension #LambofGod #EternalSacrifice
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 3/21/2019 Ascension Sunday/the 7th Sunday of Easter.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 24:44-53 and Acts 1:1-11.
To understand why it is that Jesus ascended into heaven last Thursday, we need to tie together a few things. First, he is resurrected in a transformed resurrected body. Second, we know from over 100 passages in the New Testament that he is seated at the right hand of the Father, including in Luke 22 where he tells the apostles before his death that he will be seated at the right hand of the Father. Third, we are told to ‘ask anything in his name.’ Finally, fourth, he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. These four points are crucial to understanding why it is that Jesus had to go sit at the right hand of the Father in his body.
First, his resurrected body needs to be considered. All of Easter is filled with resurrections narratives. They are important because they drive home the properties of a body whose physical properties are still intact, but have been transformed by the reality that death, dying, and gravity have no more hold on the body. In John’s Gospel, we learn that his body can appear without opening a locked door. In Luke’s Gospel, we learn that he appears to others as a stranger and is revealed to them in the Breaking of the Bread. In John and Luke we learn that the resurrected body can eat, be touched, is real, healed, made new, but with an historical record of what happened to it.
This ‘beyond physics’ nature of the body allows Christ to be there, at the right hand of the Father, and to be here, on the table in the transformed bread and cup. Being crucified is important to this process. Jesus defeats death, is now in the Resurrected body, and is able to be here, there, and everywhere with no contradiction.
Secondly, because of this, he is seated at the right hand of the Father. This means, there is a human in heaven sitting at God’s right hand. This is where we get ‘my right hand man’ as an expression. Jesus is the Father’s right hand man, His Son, His fully God, fully human person. This is key to understanding the Scriptures, like the verse from Revelation last week that said that the aim of God is to make his home with humanity. Jesus at the right hand of the Father, is humanity making their home with God. All of us who are baptized into Jesus Christ, are with God in heaven in the person of Jesus. In this way, we too have a resurrected body through Baptism. We are present at the right hand of God in the person of Jesus. That leads to the next point.
Third, he has said, if we ask anything in his name, he will hear it, and do it. Of course, if we are “in his name” we wouldn’t tempt God by asking him to do something on our whim. Yet, this “ask anything in his name” speaks to the purpose of why Jesus is going to the right hand of the Father. He is our presence, as I pointed out. Because Jesus is God’s home among humanity, he is there to intercede for us. If we ask anything in his name, that means we are asking the right hand man of God to hear our prayer. He “pleads for us at the right hand of the Father,” Lord have mercy.
Fourth, if you recall from the Old Testament, humanity has a tendency to mess things up. We have a tendency to be prideful, self-serving, and mean. I do not know if you have heard, but we sin. (Gasp!). I know! Calling something ‘sin’ is so out of fashion these days. Now, ‘sin’ is ‘empowerment.’ The biggest consequence of sin, which is a concern for us, is that sin causes separation from God. That is against God’s desire. He wants to ‘make his home’ with us. So, how could we be reunited with him without having to make sacrifice after sacrifice at the Temple?
The answer, of course, is that Jesus is the eternal person who sacrificed himself for us. He is the Eternal Sacrificial Lamb. He is, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb.” When we are baptized into Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sins wrought by his sacrifice is applied to us.
When Jesus is the Lamb of God at the right hand of the Father who intercedes for us, it means that God does not look at us through our sin. The Father looks at us through the Lamb, through the forgiveness of sins. If you have ever had a little voice inside say, ‘well, you are too unholy to go to church, you are too unworthy to worship God, you did it now, you should just stop believing,’ that voice is not God. The whole work of God and Christianity is to unite us with the Father over and against our sins. The Father set up the whole system so that he is looking at us through the Eternal Sacrifice for the Forgiveness of Sins. The voice from God is, ‘come to me anyway, I have my Son pleading for you because I want to forgive you so I paid the price for you.’
So, the Lamb of God is at the right hand of the Father, hearing our prayers, which we are asking for in his name, while at the same time physically present in the Eucharist. It is foolishness to those who do not know the Son of God. This is why he had to ascend to the Father.
There is one last thing. We often forget that love is a choice. If we have all the evidence in front of us and it is undeniable, then that is not really a choice, is it? God is not going to force us to love him. He is not going to make it so that there is no choice. To make a situation with no choice is not love, it is control. Amazingly, God is not about control. He is about allowing us to choose him. When we do, that is love. The Ascension into heaven facilitates that ability. Jesus being here (pointing at the altar) and there allows us to choose. When we choose Christ, we are saying we love God.
As well, the Ascension into heaven is empowering to us. We are to take up the mission to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins. “You are forgiven” are some of the most wonderful words every spoken from my lips. We can tell others of the love of God, the empowerment, but if he were here exclusively, then no one would pay a lick of attention to how God works through humanity.
Although the proper celebration of the Ascension was last Thursday, we celebrate it today and we should celebrate. There are four main and two additional reasons to celebrate. They are why he left us to be at the right hand of the Father. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2019.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian