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King Jesus Gospel: Ascension




Let me begin by sharing with you a story of good news, what we may call the gospel. In the NT, the word translated good news or gospel is euangellion. It was a word of great significance.


Euangellion is not just good news in lower case, like 'good news I'm having spaghetti carbonara for tea.' No, it is good news in capital letters. It's a declaration that the world has changed; it's a public announcement that demands a response.


In the Greco-Roman world at the time of the first Christians, someone might arrive in a marketplace to share euangellion, announcing 'there is a new cease, or a battle has been won.' A public announcement that is an invitation to celebrate.


The early Christians proclaimed the euangellion, the gospel, the good news. They believed that it had power, and that the content of this euangellion is the story of Jesus, what we may call the King Jesus Gospel.


Let me share:


As I shared this gospel with you, notice that it included the life, death, Kingship of Jesus, his resurrection, and also his ascension.


**Ascension**


The Enthroned King who reigns and rules.


In the ascension, we see that Jesus returns to heaven. He is installed and enthroned as King in the heavenly realm. It's the coronation of the world's true king.


How should we think about heaven? What is heaven?


We shouldn't think of heaven as being a geographical location a long distance away, as if at some point it will be discovered by astronauts. Rather, we should think of it as theologian N.T. Wright says, it's 'God's dimension of present reality.'


Let's meditate on this mystery a little more.


Heaven, God's space, is difficult to articulate. It's the realm in which God reigns; it's the home of holiness, the gateway to glory; it's the place of presence and proximity; it's the operating system for a world of shalom and wholeness.


This divine dimension, almost inconceivable to us, can at times overlap with our space, what we may call the human dimension (although obviously, we share this space with a whole range of non-human worshippers: mammals, birds, fish, insects, etc.).


In the Celtic tradition, they use the phrase 'thin spaces' to talk about geographical locations in which God's presence draws near in a very close and tangible way.


**When Jesus is enthroned, it doesn't mean that Jesus is now distant and absent, waiting for us to die so we can join him in heaven. No, Jesus is enthroned as King in heaven and calls his church to enact his kingdom on earth. This is why we pray, 'Lord let your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven'... The holy mystery is that the enthroned King has access to heaven's resources and that they can be poured down into our human existence until that day when heaven and earth, God's dimension and our dimension, are joined together.**


In the Jewish world of the first century, language used to describe heaven included the notion of thrones. Let me share with you a few verses about this.


In Philippians 2:9, we read, 'Therefore God has exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth.'


Jesus is the world's true Lord and King.


This is what Paul is talking about in Ephesians 1:19-21:


"When He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church."


For the Jews in the first century, this is astonishing. It's a transformation of monotheism, that Jesus, the human being, shares in the identity of God and sits upon His throne.


The astounding conviction of the early church is that Jesus was and is the embodiment of the God of Israel, YHWH, and worthy of all worship. The Friend of Sinners is the Holy God; The Good Shepherd is the Great I Am; The one who washed the despised feet is the creator and sustainer of the cosmos.


**Jesus**


In the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, we have a poetical visionary masterpiece full of both truth and metaphor. In chapters 4-5, written within the Roman Empire, where the empire of domination ruled and reigned with violence, we have a counter-cultural vision in which the church is encouraged to march to the beat of a different drum.


For John, drawing on the ascension and enthronement traditions, we see that at the center of the cosmos is a throne, and on this throne sits not a lion, but a butchered lamb.


The point that John is seeking to make is that the power at the center of the universe is not brutality or violence, but rather Jesus, the one who is full of self-giving sacrificial love.


In the time of Jesus, the Caesar and the Roman Empire thought they were the name above all names. In our world, it's corporations, financial institutions, and brands that see themselves as dominating the globe through globalization, consumerism, and unrestrained capitalism. These brands and names secure us and entice us to live as if they are the only show in town. Yet, we know that these powers and principalities are not always a force for goodness, and that they wield their power in a way that fuels ecological destruction.


But, brothers and sisters, hear the gospel. The King Jesus Gospel.


Jesus is the name above all names, the brand above all brands.


The ascension of Jesus and His glorious enthronement remind us that the true King, the true Lord, is Jesus. He rules and reigns with self-giving sacrificial love.


In a world of despots, dictators, and dodgy politicians, in a world where we see that power is wielded as control, and power can bring suffering, we find here a political theology. A theology with backbone, a King Jesus theology that doesn't retreat into spiritualizing irrelevance but rather speaks into all spheres of life. Jesus is higher than all powers and principalities. And it is to this King, to our Savior Jesus, we pledge allegiance as we are called to embrace and enact His reign in a lost and broken world.


Jesus is Lord.


**The Enthroned King who brings the blessing**


So, our King is on the throne. He is worthy of all worship. In the book of Revelation, it tells us that Jesus has tattoos 'King of Kings and Lord of Lords.' But what, you may ask, is His approach to us?


Is He a King who ignores us, high and lifted up, and we are facedown?

Is He a King who has a big stick, waiting for us to step out of line from heaven?


No, He is a King whose arms are outstretched in blessing.


In Luke's Gospel, Jesus had called and commissioned His church to go


into the world and preach and enact the message of the kingdom, to proclaim forgiveness of sins.


What's the last thing they see of Jesus?

That's Jesus' disposition towards us; we have been blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing. In Jesus, the hope, peace, and joy of the kingdom are mediated to us.


**The Enthroned King who prays for us**


He doesn't pick and choose who He prays for.


Hebrews 7:25 (TNIV)

25 Therefore, He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him because He always lives to intercede for them.



You may be trapped in cycles of sin; Jesus is praying for you.

You may be going through storms; Jesus is praying for you.

You may be discouraged and doubting the goodness of God; Jesus is interceding and praying for you.

You may struggle to raise your hands in worship or open your lips in prayer. Know this: the enthroned King is praying for you.

You may be overwhelmed by the sin, suffering, and injustice of the world. Know this: Jesus is interceding and praying for you.


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