(HT: Todd Pepperkorn for the structure of this sermon)
As the disciples gaze into Heaven, the two angels in white ask them, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
This Jesus will come back. Listen to what God’s Word has told us about this same Jesus here at Church since last December:
This same Jesus is the ruler “from of old, from ancient days,” who was born for you in Bethlehem as prophesied by Micah (5:2).
This same Jesus came to this world to do the will of God, that we be sanctified through the offering of His body (Hebrews 10:7, 10).
This same Jesus appeared in this world to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
This same Jesus “is in your midst; [so that] you shall never again fear evil” (Zephaniah 3:15).
This same Jesus today takes His throne in Heaven as God and Man, doing His Kingly work with the personal knowledge of what it is like to face your flesh and blood joys and struggles.
This same Jesus was seen as an infant by Simeon and Anna at the Temple, and they recognized Him as the Christ, so they were ready to depart this world in peace (Luke 2).
This same Jesus opens your ears to recognize His voice, and opens your mouth, so that you may declare His praise.
This same Jesus went into the water of Baptism, so that you could be united to His Baptismal death and resurrection.
This same Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil in every way that you are tempted (Luke 4).
This same Jesus calls you to repent of your failures in temptation, lest you perish like the rest of the world (Luke 13).
This same Jesus is the Rock from which OT Israel drank in the wilderness of Exodus (1 Corinthians 10:4).
This same Jesus changed water into wine, even as He still does far more than we could ever ask or imagine of Him.
This same Jesus is Lord of all, bestowing His riches on all who call on Him (Romans 10:12).
This same Jesus went to desolate places to spend time alone with His Father in prayer. And He ascends today to serve as your mediator, speaking of His love for you to the Father.
This same Jesus rebukes fevers and demons, and they leave their victims (Luke 4). He healed many so that the lame blind could see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, and lepers were cleansed (Luke 7:31).
This same Jesus rejoices over you with gladness, quiets you by His love, and will restore your fortunes before your eyes (Zeph. 3:17, 20).
This same Jesus had the Spirit upon Him to proclaim good news to the poor, that this is the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18)
This same Jesus has fulfilled the Scriptures in your hearing (Luke 4:21).
This same Jesus commanded the fishermen to let down their nets, and they caught so many fish that their nets were breaking. This same Jesus made them to be fishers of men.
This same Jesus, through the apostles and prophets, gives His Word to dwell in you richly, that you might teach and admonish “one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16)
This same Jesus receives sinners and eats with them (Luke 15:2).
This same Jesus says to you, “Take, eat, this is my body; take, drink, this is my blood for the forgiveness of sins” – though we have invited God’s wrath by our appetite for loveless sins.
This same Jesus “loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood” (Rev. 1:5).
This same Jesus tells you all that “The Father Himself loves you” with the extravagant love of a Father who restores His lost sons to the family home with a feast.
This same Jesus makes “you increase and abound in love for one another and for all” (1 Thessalonians 3:12).
This same Jesus borrowed a donkey to ride into Jerusalem as the King in peace, here to save us from our rebellious pride and disobedience.
This same Jesus “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a Cross” (Philippians 2).
This same Jesus “was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows… wounded for our transgressions… The LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53).
This same Jesus promised Paradise at His death to the repentant thief on the Cross – and to you and me who also justly deserve eternal punishment for trying to steal God’s power and glory for ourselves (Luke 23).
This same Jesus was made to be sin, though He knew no sin, so that in Jesus “we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
This same Jesus committed His spirit into the hands of His Father at His death.
This same Jesus on the third day rose from the dead, just as He said (Luke 24:6-7).
This same Jesus “will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:21).
This same Jesus breathed His Holy Spirit on the Apostles, and let Thomas touch the nail marks and His side, so that they could bring peace and the forgiveness of sins to you (John 20).
This same Jesus is your good shepherd, who watches over “His flock in the strength of the LORD,” and so you shall dwell secure and never perish, for He is your peace (Micah 5:4), and no one will ever snatch you out of His hand (John 10:28).
This same Jesus today is exalted by God to His right hand “as Leader and Savior, to give repentance… and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31).
This same Jesus makes sure you know that His Ascension is not the end of His work on earth. It is only the beginning. His work now continues by His Word throughout the entire world.
This same Jesus, after His ascension, appeared to and converted Paul, who had been an enemy of the faith (Acts 9) – and still converts many more enemies by the power of His Spirit and His love.
This same Jesus is making all things new (Rev. 21), even making the heavens and earth new (Isaiah 65:17) – and He makes you new too.
This same Jesus establishes “your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father” (1 Thess. 3:13)
This same Jesus says you will have sorrow, but He will see you again, “and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22).
And that is just from the Scripture readings that we have heard since Advent. Upcoming in this year of Our Lord’s grace, we will soon hear that:
This same Jesus prayed for you in the Garden of Gethsemane, that through the apostolic word, you may be one with all His people as you believe the Father sent Him.
This same Jesus teaches us to pray to “Our Father, who art in Heaven…” (Luke 11).
This same Jesus teaches you to ask for God’s Kingdom, and for daily bread so that you will not be anxious about your life, because the Father values you more than the birds and the lilies, and it is His good pleasure to give you the kingdom (Luke 12).
This same Jesus has traveled through our land as a Good Samaritan, a foreigner from Heaven. And when He finds us left for dead by sin, He lifts us up and heals our wounds as the One who shows mercy (Luke 10).
This same Jesus comforts your hearts and establishes “them in every good work and word” (2 Thessalonians 2:17) that shows mercy to your neighbor, as God has first done for you.
This same Jesus now lives in you, as you have been crucified with Him (Galatians 2:20).
This same Jesus raised the widow’s son at Nain from the dead – and He will raise your dead loved ones too (Luke 7).
This same Jesus stopped the hand of Abraham so that son Isaac would live, and then Jesus put Himself on the altar of the Cross to be sacrificed instead.
This same Jesus suffered “in order to sanctify the people through His own blood” (Hebrews 13:12).
This same Jesus tells you to “rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
This same Jesus will be seen “coming in a cloud with power and great glory. [And] when these things take begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:27-28).
This same Jesus is surely coming soon (Rev.22:20).
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Amen.