Ascension, Holy Communion Service, 6:30 PM
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time
The Hymn #221 Hark Ten Thousand Harps 3:33
The Confession of Sins
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual Acts 1:1-11
The Gospel Mark 16:14-20
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #496 From Greenland 3:23
Post Resurrection Appearances of Jesus
The Hymn #316 O Living Bread 3:45
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #294 O Word of God 3:31
KJV Luke 24:49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. 50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. 51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: 53 And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.
[The ending of Luke fits with the opening of Acts, which Luke also wrote.]
KJV Acts 1:1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: 3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: 4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
KJV Mark 16:14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. 15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. 19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. 20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
O Jesus Christ, Thou almighty Son of God, who art no longer in humiliation here on earth, but sittest at the right hand of Thy Father, Lord over all things: We beseech Thee, send us Thy Holy Spirit; give Thy Church pious pastors, preserve Thy word, control and restrain the devil and all who would oppress us: mightily uphold Thy kingdom, until all Thine enemies shall have been put under Thy feet, that we may hold the victory over sin, death, and the devil, through Thee, who livest and reignest with God the Father and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen,
Post Resurrection Appearances of Jesus
As I promised one layman, I am going to discuss the appearances of Christ after His resurrection, because we tend to pass over them.
The Gospel of John
The Fourth Gospel unifies the four-gospel account of Christ, giving us one coherent gospel, as Lenski wrote in his Interpretation of John.
The appearances of Jesus in John are vivid and compelling. The women saw the empty tomb first but they did not see Jesus right away.
When Mary Magdalene saw the empty tomb (John 20) she ran to tell Peter and John. Those disciples saw the empty tomb but did not see Jesus.
Mary returned to the tomb, she saw two angels in the place where Jesus lay. She was weeping when Jesus spoke to her. She did not know who He was at first, until He spoke her name, “Mary.”
She responded, “Rabboni – Master,” a response which gives many people goosebumps.
KJV John 20:17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.
The rest of the chapter is well known, since we use it every year on Doubting Thomas Sunday. Jesus appeared to the disciples without Thomas being there and gave them (not the pope) the Office of the Keys. That was Easter evening.
He appeared again a week later, and they were still locked in a room.
KJV John 20:29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
John concluded his Gospel:
KJV John 20:30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
So what do we make of John 21, which has another and similar conclusion? I agree with Lenski that people prevailed upon the aging apostle to produce a supplement, which could have been written down by someone else, but was still dictated by the apostle. John 21 is found in all the early copies of the Gospel, so it was part of the account from very early times. So we have to wonder, “Why was this account of Jesus meeting them by the sea so important?”
In this account, Jesus appeared to some apostles while they were fishing, but the disciples did not recognize him. Jesus hid His identity as He did at first with Mary and the disciples walking to Emmaus. The disciples had not caught any fish, so Jesus suggested casting the net on the other side of the boat.
Biblical students recognize this as almost a duplicate of the miraculous catch of fish, as the Savior doubtless intended. The disciples were not out preaching the Gospel, but providing for their material needs. “Broiled fish” is another name for wages – The broiled fish of sin is death, as Paul said literally. So they were earning wages instead of preaching.
As soon as they obeyed the Word, the net was too heavy with fish to be pulled into the boat. John recognized Jesus.
KJV John 21:7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.
Peter was not literally naked, but down to his skivvies. He grabbed his outer garment and jumped into the sea, to get to shore first.
When everyone got to the shore, they saw Jesus had a fire, fish, and bread for them to eat. And he invited them to dine.
What is the purpose of this supplement?
One striking feature is the irony of the fishermen going back to their fishing. Jesus already had a meal for them, before the fish were hauled to shore. This example said to them, “I will take care of you. The fishers of men will not starve.”
I have told ministers, who confused a synod organization with the Savior, “You can still be a pastor. Just start studying the Bible with some people and let the Word do its work.” The Word is the Means of Grace, visible and invisible. Money is not.
Another lesson from John 21 is Jesus absolution of Peter. He used the Gospel, not the Law, to bring Peter to repentance. Just as Peter denied Him three times before a charcoal fire, so Jesus asked him the same question in three ways – before a charcoal fire.
KJV John 21:15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
Jesus also addressed the death of Peter, how he would glorify God, but with no details about the death of John.
Matthew’s Gospel is first in order and may be the first written. (Early on, some though of Mark as a harmony of Matthew of Luke. I tend to agree, but this is not a big issue, nor is it one we can solve on this side of the veil.)
In Matthew, it is clear that the angel opened the tomb for the women, not to let Jesus out. The Savior was not limited by His human nature. He left the sealed tomb, just as he entered the locked room of the disciples.
The two Mary’s saw the empty tomb, then ran to see the disciples. On the way, Jesus revealed Himself to them. They held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.
KJV Matthew 28:10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.
Matthew’s Gospel ends with the Great Commission as it is called:
KJV Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
The Church Shrinkers, using their Reformed doctrine, try to persuade people that Jesus said, “Make disciples!” The text does not say that at all. Jesus Gospel admonition says:
· Go and teach all nations – literally “disciple all nations.”
· Baptizing them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
· Instructing them to observe all things I have commanded you.
· I am with you to the end of the world.
Luther commented (Lenski, Matthew, p. 1150) – “These are the words of a Majesty which must be termed Majesty indeed.”
So the basic admonition is not to make something, but to teach all nations – without discrimination. Not so surprisingly, the McGavran followers were taught to distinguish races and social classes. The apostolic church did not. The apostles included the scum of the earth and wealthy socialites. Man creates barriers. The Word transcends barriers.
There are many important lessons in this ending of Matthew. Lenski identifies it with the appearance of Christ to 500 brethren (1 Corinthians 15).
KJV 1 Corinthians 15:1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
So this gathering in Galilee was a great teaching event. The 500 believers were eyewitnesses of the risen Lord, the same who was publicly crucified. No one could doubt the death of Jesus, with the sword piercing Him and the flow of blood and water. Now 500 witnesses were in agreement about His resurrection.
The tendency of many teachers is to have Jesus giving the Great Commission to the eleven, who are mentioned specifically (Matthew 28:17). Matthew takes special notice of them and says they worshiped Him, but some of them doubted. This is paralleled in the account in John, also showing the disciples were human, not plaster saints whose feet never touched the ground. And we, who know so much, still doubt. Vast numbers of mainline clergy disbelieve the empty tomb but talk glowingly about “the Easter faith of the disciples.”
Many conservative clergy say they believe the Word of God is inerrant, but they only trust the wisdom of man.
I have had many conservative Lutheran clergy argue with that Jesus said, “Make disciples,” and that our job is to “make disciples.” That has also appeared in many Lutheran publications.
So here we have the risen Lord instructing the gathered Church of its time, urging them outward across the world, trusting in the efficacy of the Word and Holy Baptism. Clearly, Holy Communion would follow the instruction – “all things I have commanded you.”
Many new and improved Bibles drop the second half of Mark 16, based on very questionable texts from the Vatican and a monastery, miraculously discovered by the same man, Tischendorf, who declared them the best manuscripts of the New Testament. By the way – there are many fake discoveries which have made the reputations of a man - until the fraud was proven.
The Gospel of Mark’s ending, Mark 16:9-20, shows the harmony of the Gospel with other accounts.
Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene first.
The disciples had a lot of trouble believing Jesus was risen.
Jesus appeared to the two who were walking in the country (Emmaus story).
Jesus upbraided the disciples for not believing the first accounts of His resurrection.
KJV Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. 19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. 20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
The ending of Mark is worth reading with fresh eyes. The same story is told but in different words. When people conspire to lie, they use the same words. Truthful witnesses will use different words but agree in details.
The Gospel of Luke
We owe the Gospel of Luke our favorite unique passages of the New Testament, including the birth of Jesus, the Good Samaritan, the Lost Sheep, and the Prodigal Son.
In Luke, the women discover the empty tomb, but only Peter is mentioned in the race to the tomb. This shows how John supplements and unifies the accounts so well. Once we add John to the picture, we have the compelling picture of two men racing to see this great wonder. John enjoys stating that he won the race, but impulsive Peter went into the tomb first. (Peter also jumped into the sea, John 21.)
Cleopas and another follower were on the road to Emmaus when Jesus drew up to them and joined them. He got them to talk about the commotion in Jerusalem, giving us an important insight, “Are you just a stranger in Jerusalem?” In other words – everyone knows what just happened:
KJV Luke 24:19 And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: 20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. 21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. 22 Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; 23 And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. 24 And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.
Jesus was not exactly meek and mild at this point, a common theme in all the resurrection appearances:
KJV Luke 24:25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: 26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? 27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
Jesus made Himself known in the breaking of the bread, so the two disciples (one of them Cleopas) rushed back to Jerusalem to tell the eleven.
KJV Luke 24:33 And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, 34 Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. 35 And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread. 36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
Here we see the perfect harmony between Luke and John. The disciples rushed back. Jesus had already appeared to Peter. And soon Jesus appeared to them in the locked room, saying “Peace be unto you.”
When we read all the resurrection accounts together, we see a more complete picture of the foundation laid by Jesus before His Ascension:
1. They saw the empty tomb and heard from the angels.
2. The women, Peter, and the Emmaus disciples saw the risen Lord.
3. Jesus instructed His followers and upbraided them for their lack of faith, since He had taught them about His suffering, death, and resurrection.
4. This instruction lasted for a period of time, so the Eleven, other disciples, and the 500 saw and heard the risen Savior before His Ascension.
Luke’s interest in historical accuracy preserves a bit of information which is easily overlooked.
KJV Acts 1:3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
Christ spent 40 days teaching them and showing them miraculous proofs, all of which confirmed them in their faith and trained them in what they would teach. When we read the works of the New Testament, it is not only the Holy Spirit speaking through human beings, but also Jesus in His initial training, His death and crucifixion, and His post-resurrection instruction of the Apostles – and the 500. The Christian Church grew miraculously because God provided a broad base of carefully trained people who were eyewitnesses of the Risen Lord.
Jesus rose into heaven, probably from Jerusalem, His disciples lost in wonder, still gazing at the sky.
Two angels spoke to them:
Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
That statement is the beginning and the final purpose of the Christian Church. The disciples stopped gazing and began teaching what they had learned. One day Jesus would return in the same way He left. On that day, every knew will bow and confess that Jesus is the Lord.
Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.