Monday, April 09, 2007

40 Days After Easter

Easter and the Masters dominated my weekend. I feel obliged to write about them both today. Each remains fresh in mind, but the Masters stands as an easier subject on which to write since trivialities always require less time and energy. Plus, Easter involves the word "resurrection" and its double consonent, my old arch nemesis. Misspellings would run roughshod over RP. Still, can one put golf in front of the resurrection of Jesus Christ without consequence? Redeeming Prufrock does not want to find out.

This Easter Sunday, I picked up a bulletin entering church and quickly glanced at the sermon title:

"The Ascended Christ"

Sweet, same old Easter sermon, I thought to myself. I'm on comofortable, familiar ground. Talking about the resurrected Christ and the empt. . . .

Wait a minute, Pastor! That adjective says "ascended," not "resurrected"! What are you trying to pull? This is Easter, for goodness sake! Certainly this must be a typo.

Then, lo and behold, thirty minutes into the service, my pastor starts firing away on the importance and meaning, not of Christ's resurrection, but of his ascension into Heaven 40 days after the resurrection.

Now, I must admit, this subject was as new to me as a green jacket was to Zach Johnson. I have never given the ascension much thought. Of course Christ ascended after rising from the dead. What else was he supposed to do? It could not have happened any differently.

But things could have always happened differently. When I fail to grasp this, I miss the purpose that God has in doing things exactly how they were done. Jesus could have done any number of things after rising from the dead. He could have wandered the earth for 2000+ years, playing a huge game of "Where's Waldo?" with mankind. He could have vaporized and simply disappeared to only God knows where. He could have re-entered the grave after proving his mastery of it. Yet, he did not. The biblical text explicitly says he bodily ascended into Heaven in front of his disciples to take his seat at the right hand of the Father. He did so with great consequence for us.

When Jesus took his place at the Father's side, he gained ultimate authority on Heaven and on earth, as the Lord handed my Lord the scepter with which to rule. Jesus Christ has ultimate power. He can go anywhere he wants and do anything he wants. This is a great comfort to the believer.

When Jesus took his place at the Father's side, he began his eternal priesthood, cleansing us from sin and continuously praying for us. Jesus prays for you and me, and he always desires what is best for us.

When Jesus took his place at the Father's side, he became our advocate, our lawyer in a trial we all must one day stand. At our deaths, when the accuser of the brethren, Satan, brings forth a case against us complete with Exhibits A through infinity of all our sins along with the witnesses of his demons to corroborate, it is Jesus Christ, the son of God, who will step in when we can say nothing on our own behalf and simply say, "The prosecution has no case. It says right here there is no condemnation in Jesus Christ." And we will win.

I believe the world has Christ wrong when they implicitly and explicitly portray him as a Mr. Rogers, nicest-guy-in-the-world type figure. For one thing, I doubt Jesus ever wore a cardigan, and if one object defined Mr. Rogers, it must be the zip-up/button-up sweater. But more than apparel, this characterization misses a great deal of Christ's character. Jesus is powerful; Jesus is fierce; Jesus is victorious.

We hear this quite loudly on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We see it at the ascension as well if we stop to look. And with Jesus, the Lord of Lord and King of Kings, reigning from Heaven for all eternity, we will know and experience this forever more.

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