If your salvation depends on the death and resurrection of Christ, as it does, why pay so much attention to his ascension? Luke’s ends his Gospel with a brief account of the ascension of Jesus, Luke 24:50–53.
Receive Christ’s blessing. Christ is now the glorified Lord. Luke shows you the glory of your Lord. Near the beginning of his Gospel Luke records the blessed angelic song of joy and peace. Now he concludes with Christ blessing his disciples and their resulting joy. He has described the humiliation, suffering, and death of the Messiah. Chapter 24 recounts the triumphal resurrection. The exalted Lord instructed his disciples in the Word, showing its focus on him. Now you see the Lord ascend to the place of exaltation at the right hand of the Father. Yet this is not the end of the story, but only the end of the beginning. Volume 2 (Acts) is about to describe the continuation of Christ’s work. This will be the record of the work of the ascended, glorified Lord (who is life-giving Spirit) through the apostolic church. There is continuity with the church today, with this congregation. Christ ascended to the work which he continues today: sitting at the right hand of the Father, subduing the nations by his Word and Spirit, and ruling over his church. The ascension, no less than Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection, was foretold in the Scriptures, Psalm 24:7–10; 68:18. The glorified, ascended Lord summons you to submit to his authority. It is this glorious, ascended Lord who invites you to live in fellowship with him.
“[T]he Christ who was invoked, confessed and worshipped by the faithful, was the living Lord. Though He was remembered as the One who on their behalf had surrendered His life unto death, and had ratified the new covenant in His blood, and though there was a sober realization that the perfect consummation was to be manifested only in the future manifestation of the rule of God, their present faith in Him as the Lord bound the elements of remembrance and hope together and afforded a present assurance of grace and righteousness through faith in His name.”Ned B. Stonehouse, The Witness of Luke to Christ, p. 151
Therefore, live as one blessed by Christ. The Old Testament priests would bless the people as the conclusion of their intercessory work, Leviticus 9:22, 23; Numbers 6:22–27. Our service this morning will conclude with the benediction. At the heart of the benediction is the idea of God’s presence and favor going with you. Christ, having finished his work as the great High Priest, now blesses his disciples as the final act of his earthly ministry. This is not just a symbolic blessing, but is followed in ten days by Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. You live under that benediction today. The Holy Spirit poured out by Christ has made your heart his residence. Paul takes David’s prophecy of the glory of the Messiah and applies it to the ascension of the Christ, Ephesians 4:8–13. The variety of gifts with which the Lord has endowed his church, the gifts you use each day to serve him, flow from the glory of the ascension. The ascended Lord empowers you to serve him each day. You move through life, not in your own strength, but in the presence of the King of kings. His blessing rests upon all who trust in him. He has placed his name upon you. Your basic identity is as a Christian.
How do you respond to all this? Worship your ascended Lord. He is worthy to be worshiped! His deity is perfectly clear to his disciples. But he is praised also for what he has done. He has earned the praise of his church, Revelation 5:9–14. His life of obedience, his suffering and death earned him the glory into which he entered at his ascension. Psalm 24 may have celebrated the entry of the ark, the symbolic throne of the Lord into Jerusalem. The King of glory was entering, and that was reason for rejoicing. How much deeper your joy when you reflect on the depth of Christ’s suffering and the glory of his resurrection! Worship is and always will be the basic function of the church. It is your calling as you trust the Savior who gave himself for you.
“This is the note that Luke sees as a fitting way to end part 1 to Theophilus: with this description of the activity of the disciples — likely of a considerable number of disciples (there were at least 120 before Pentecost, Acts 1:15) — in the ten-day period between the ascension and Pentecost. This activity was marked by blessing or praising God, praise that was no doubt influenced by the heart-burning, mind-opening effect of exposure to Jesus and his teaching following his resurrection (see Luke 24:32, 45). In other words, it seems fair to conclude, the content of their praise was the gospel, centered in the death and resurrection of Christ and with its call to repentance for the forgiveness of sins (24:46–47).”Richard B. Gaffin Jr., In the Fullness of Time, p. 177
Respond with joy to the salvation Christ provides for you. If you belong to the glorified Lord, you cannot but rejoice! The worshiping joy of the disciples was also a first step in obedience. They worshiped and returned Jerusalem to praise God and await the promised gift from the Father. The joy and worship would continue, but the waiting would grow into proclaiming the good news of repentance and forgiveness throughout the earth, verse 47. That growth has brought you together as God’s people this morning to celebrate the ascension of your Lord. You continue that work of joyful service, in worship, in obedience, in evangelism.
As Luke’s Gospel comes to an end, it introduces a new beginning, a life of worshiping and serving the King of glory, who has placed his blessing on you.