Jesus: The ascended King of kings and Lord of lords!
If you had stood in Godalming High Street today and asked “What is today?”, most would, I suspect, not remember and if reminded would probably not know the significance of Ascension Day.
We have special holidays for Christmas Day, Good Friday and Easter Sunday but not for Ascension day [although I understand that it used to be – it is in South Africa where I grew up, at least it was up to the time we left 10 years ago]
The Ascension is something we probably don’t talk about as much as we should – and yet it is, of course, just as important as the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Philippians 2v8-11 is one of the key passages concerning the ascension of Jesus. Stuart Briscoe in his book about preaching says we should always ask three questions about a text – “What?” “So what?” “Now what?”
I would like to ask 6 questions of this text – Who? What? How? Why? For what? So what?
- WHO? Who ascended?
This seems a pointless question really in that we know it was Jesus. He was the one who went up into heaven. However in the context of this passage it is inadequate to simply say ‘Jesus’ without looking at what comes in verses 5-8.
It is a passage that tells us about a Jesus who existed long before his birth in Bethlehem. A person who is in every respect completely God – with all the holiness, majesty and power that we ascribe to God Almighty.
It is also important to note that he never ceased being God when he descended to earth as a man – he became human. He is human in every way that we are human. His body was like ours – his feeling were human feelings – his needs were human needs – his physical limitations and weaknesses were human YET he remained completely God while being completely human.
In his body he bore the results of sin – not his but ours – for he was holy and without sin. This sinlessness did not make his humanity any less real!
While being completely God and completely Human he experienced death – a cruel, shameful, rejected execution on a cross. Rejected by humanity and by his Father in heaven.
WHO ASCENDED? This same Jesus!!
- WHAT? What did it mean for Jesus to ascend?
What is it that is being emphasised here when we read that Jesus went up into heaven [Acts 1]. Yes physically he went up into the sky – the disciples saw him go – up there. And we talk of heaven being up there and hell being down there.
ILLUS.: We use the words ‘up’ and ‘down’ to express value judgements! We speak of someone going up the corporate ladder!
We speak of sportsmen going up the rankings.
We speak of high office.
We talk about a pupil being top of the class.
We use this language not too talk about their physical position but their ranking / status / place of honour in relation to other people.
When Jesus ascended he did go up physically BUT that is not really Paul’s point here. God is expressing a value judgement about his Son – In the eyes of God the Father, Jesus is to have the most highly honoured place in the Universe.
The ascension is a visible demonstration to heaven and earth and hell that Jesus is Lord of All. Philippians 2:10 …… every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (NIV)
The fact that he is worshipped in heaven where no one except God is worshipped confirms his deity without question.
The ascension was not just a way of getting Jesus off the earth and into heaven but is an historical declaration by God about how highly honoured Jesus is! The word exalted in v.9 is not the usually word used – this is the only time it is used in the bible and it means “super-exalted”
- HOW? How did the ascension happen?
We read the following in Hebrews 4:14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
This speaks of Jesus having in himself the power and the will to return to heaven. However this passage in Philippians tells us that God … super-exalted him –
When we read Acts we are told that 40 days are the resurrection Jesus ascended. The ascension was a deliberately planned divine act. This was no hasty decision.
ILLUS.: When Janet and I work among the Muslim community in SA for 10 years we often heard Muslims tell us about the ascension of Jesus – that God snatched him away just before the crucifixion to rescue him from death.
The ascension certainly was God in action BUT not on a rescue mission – this was the honouring of a victor not the rescue of a failed mission!
- WHY? Why did God honour Jesus in this way?
Well the text tells us – v.9 begins with the word “therefore …” – all that jesus is and did resulted in him being exalted by God.
It is not enough to say that he was exalted because he died on the cross. Vv.5-8 tell us about the ‘mind of Christ’ – what sort of person he is.
He was not grasping in relation to his glory – he didn’t claim his rights. We hear so much these days about our rights – what we are entitled to. Even as Christians we are sucked into this way of thinking. Jesus gave his up. He emptied himself – he humbled himself – From the splendour of heaven to the squalor of earth, to the place of the cursed. From perfection and holiness to becoming sin for us!
THEREFORE God exalted him!
One of the basic principles of God’s word is this –Proverbs 16:18
18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (NIV)
Proverbs 29:23 23 A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honour. (NIV)
Then Jesus himself taught … Matthew 23:12 12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (NIV)
A lesson we do well to learn!!
- SO WHAT? So what that Jesus ascended!
Because we focus in his first coming on the fact that Jesus cam as Saviour and that at his second coming he will come as King – we can be guilty of thinking that his coronation day is still coming. But that is not true. Jesus was crowned when he ascended.
NB the past tense of v.9 – Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name, (NIV)
In the book of Revelation the Apostle John describes “the Lamb who was slain as King of kings and Lord of lords”
The crowning day has happened – Jesus is King! Jesus is Lord!
The problem is that not everyone knows it – Christians know it and rejoice – BUT millions do not know that Jesus is King. BUT on that day when the king returns they will know.
ILLUS.: This past week a friend of ours father died – When Janet told me about it she also said that he would be having a secular funeral because he was an Atheist. My response was “He isn’t an atheist anymore!”
On that day when we face Christ – either at death or his return – we will bow before him and acknowledge he is King of kings and Lord of lords.
The sad fact is that those who for the first time acknowledge his Lordship on that day will not be making a saving confession – it will be a grudging admission.
All will submit, all will confess BUT not all will be saved – only those you now confess his Lordship in repentance and faith!
- NOW WHAT? What does Christ’s ascension mean for us now?
- One Lord
The thing that the ascension proclaims most clearly of all is that Jesus is Lord! This is the present reality – Christ is ruling.
While millions don’t know it – we do!
The proper response to Christ as Lord is to bend the knee in submission and confess with the tongue that he is Lord!
Romans 10:9 9 .. if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
If Jesus is MY Lord – which should be the profession of every believer then we must live under that Lordship – so that our time, talents, priorities, possessions etc are all directed by him.
It I as we live in this way that we give evidence to the all that Jesus is reigning and that we are his people.
- One Task
This passage of Philippians 2 sets limits to the task of evangelism.
ILLUS.: This was brought home to me recently when I went to visit one of our neighbours in ICU – I talked with him for an hour on a Friday afternoon – On Sunday evening he died unexpectedly – I buried him the following week. Should I have said more – If I had known he wasn’t going to make it would I have been more urgent in my witness?
It is a sobering challenge – While it is true we cannot save anyone. Are we by our timidity / laziness / unconcern hindering others from entering the kingdom and confessing Jesus as Lord?
Someone has said “The high of selfishness is the Christian who is content to go to heaven alone!”
The Bible makes it quite clear that now is the time – Today is the day of salvation.
There are so many things that take up our time and energy – often good things – but how do theses things fit in with the task that Jesus left us to do.
This ‘Jesus Video Project’ – offering the life of Jesus on video to every home in Godalming is a wonderful opportunity. NOT that evangelism should begin and end with the Jesus Video Project. If you are not involved yet – why not get involved?
While I firmly believe in God’s sovereignty I also firmly believe that Christians are responsible to tell others of Jesus as Lord and Saviour – ONE TASK!!
- One Life
We see in Christ a coming from heaven’s glory to Calvary and on to the supreme height of heaven, exalted by God.
His life bears the hallmark of divine approval.
Paul begins this section by saying – “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” –
Paul urges us to look at Christ and copy him.
His desire above all else was to please and obey his Father – is that my desire?
He was always concerned more for others than for himself/ he never did things for his own advantage or comfort – it that my concern?
He never sought the approval of people but of his Father – do I?
Jim Elliott – “Just one life, it will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last”
There is so much that crowds in on our lives – there is so much to do – so much choice – so many distractions – so many good things. Focusing on the ascended Lord Jesus Christ recognising that we will all bow before him will help us put life in its proper perspective.
4) One Hope.
If we believe, as we say we do, that Jesus is the ascended Lord then Who do you think is in control of this world? Does it not therefore make sense that we make it our life’s ambition to please him?
My hope / my future is absolutely secure because Jesus has ascended and is King of kings and Lord of lords!