|The Sermon for Ascension Sunday
Here we concern ourselves with faith. For Christ’s ascension is for our comfort and well-being. His ascension brings us great benefits. The event of the Ascension is short: Christ gathers His disciples, He instructs them and He ascends visibly and a cloud receives Him. He is seated at the right Hand of God.
We might then wonder what good Christ’s ascension is for us. He is seated at the right hand of God, yet here I remain midst trial and tribulation. Fear not, the prophets and apostles have told why and for what reason Christ ascended into heaven. Listen to Paul as he quotes King David: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” (Now this, ‘He ascended’ what does it mean but that He first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.'” Here Paul quotes David.
What does it mean that “He ascended on high?” Here he speaks of Christ occupying and establishing a new, everlasting kingdom. So when Christ ascends, He then takes possession and establishes this kingdom. It is imperative to know this.
For here Christ’s kingdom is clearly distinguished above and beyond all other kingdoms on earth. No earthly king asends but merely remains here on earth and rules here. When they die so does their kingdom. Earthly kings have their thrones in castles, cities, countries. Not so with Christ, He ascends on high, in heaven and there seats himself at the right hand of God: “Thy throne, O God, is forever.”
King David tells us the power and fruit of Christ’s ascension. His words are short and consice: “He has led captivity captive.” The Scripture speaks in the same way in other places: “By the Law I have died to the Law”; God sent His Son in the form of sinful flesh and cursed the sins in the flesh through sins”; “I will free them from their sins and save them from death. Death, I will be your death and hell I will be your poison”; What then is the captivity that Christ has taken captive? Christ ascended in order to imprison the prisons and chain up the chains. He cast captivity into captivity. What again is this captivity? For he is talking about a kingdom and about a captivity which is not earthly, but is on high before God. So He is not dealing with earthly chains, or prisons, but with everlasting captivity. Had Christ not ascended on high and not led captivity captive, we would have had to remain captive forever.
We know what physical captivity is: chains, prison, retraints etc. But before God captivity means that sin has ensnared us, that death, hell and the devil have taken us captive, and we are under their dominion. Christ has dealt with this captivity; takes sin captive, expunged death, and destroyed hell. Sin, death, and hell have taken us captive; Christ in turn takes them captive. Christ takes my captivity captive; intercepts my death, interdicts my sins, damns my hell.
What a delightful yet strange way to speak. But when we look at sin in this light, that it is taken captive, what can it do? God told Cain that sin crouches at the door. And its desire is for you, but your should rule over it. Sin that is free is agressive; it becomes my master and takes me captive. When we are captive to sin we willingly do what it wants. Here captivity is at its worst. We are captive, sin is our master.
For this reason Christ ascended on high and led captivity, or sin captive. It is as if Christ said: You, sin, are a part of captivity, as you have done to my Christians, so I shall do to you now. It’s your turn to be taken captive and be made a slave yourself. Not only shall you be a slave, but now you shall be like a thief whom people will want to see jailed forever.
Christ’s power and might over sin are now given to those who believe in Him, who know that they, too, are masters over sin, while before they were its slave. Because of Christ’s asension He helps us resist sin when in belief we call upon Him. “Sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under Law but grace.” This means that sin and lust will still cause us anguish, but they will no longer control you. Sin’s dominion has been broken and has been laid at your feet. It is like a murderer, who, though still alive, can do you no harm because he has been taken captive. Or like a thief, his hands are tied, he cannot do anything. He may be angry and curse but all such ranting is in vain. That’s way also with sin, because it is not yet competely dead and buried. This captivity of sin, which, even though it is not completely dead, nevertheless, cannot rule over believers who are under Christ, continues until judgemen Day. On that Day, sin will have it head chopped off and put to death completely. What sin has done to us, that Christ has done to it; as it has imprisoned, driven, plagued, and accused us before God, Christ has done to it, so that it cannot exercise its dominion over us any longer, as long as we abide under this King, Jesus Christ.
Christ has taken our sins captive. So sins can no longer terrify or stand up before God’s throne. Sin’s accusation mean nothing, for My Lord has ascended and taken you captive. You are already condemned and are damned before God. I know you would like to drive me into despair and great depression. You have no claim on me, your tyranny is over, your dominion is done.
On the other hand, Christ has taken sin captive so that it neither lures nor entices us. Sin, you are whisltling me a sweet tune and want me to do evil, refuse to do what it wants. Trample it under foot; be humble, patient, kind, friendly.
But the “Old Adam” wants the freedom to sin. To give up faith and follow the flesh is doing nothing less than liberting the sin which Christ has taken captive. You then separate yourself from Christ who set you free through the power of His ascension. You give yourself back into the prison and stocks of your enemy, sin. But when in Faith you firmly resist sin, it can have no hold on you, cannot terrify you, nor take you captive so long as you cling to Him.
For sin, which so sweetly lures us; but then it opens up the book and holds before you what you have done, so as to bring despair and eternal death. But it is presicely sin, which Christ has taken captive. By Christ, and His ascension which locked up sin, death, and hell. We have been set from sin, we have died to sin, and sin has died to us, we now live to God in Jesus Christ, our Lord. “On Christ’s ascension I now build, the hope of my ascension; this hope alone has always stilled All doubt and apprehension; for where the Head is, there as well I know his members are to dwell When Christ will come and call them.