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Ascension - Eve (5/12/2021)

Ps. 47; Acts 1:1-11; Eph. 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53

Heart-Eyes, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you … (vv. 16, 17, 18a).

Salvation consists in beholding the heart of God by circumcised hearts; heart to heart. Baptism cuts away the bound-up flesh of the heart to be the organ of faith.

With heart-eyes we are enlightened of the Father’s will from Jesus, that we “love one another” as he loves us (Jn. 13:34; 15:12, 17). The Spirit’s wisdom teaches Jesus’ atoning love at the cross, delivered in word that leads to the church’s flesh and blood Supper.

Heart-eyes aspire to the mind of Christ, “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). In context of his Supper Jesus summarized our enlightening, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9b).

To behold Jesus crucified, handing-over the Spirit to the Father for his church, is to see as the Father sees. Jesus lifted on the cross is God’s glory and the beginning of his Ascension. For men looking through sinful hearts, that glory is incomprehensible.

If we look to our own hearts for wisdom, we go astray; rather true sight is of the Spirit, through gifted heart-eyes. Blinded by the light of Christ St. Paul received new sight by something like scales falling from his eyes (Acts 9:18). Truth, knowledge, and wisdom come from outside our hearts, the baptismal gift of God.

Forty days following the Resurrection angels directed the church to behold new things by the Spirit’s truth (1 Jn. 5:6). Formerly, both our flesh and the Law of Moses veiled our hearts toward God; but, in Baptism, God’s atonement has cut away the flesh’s sin binding of hearts for revelation of the Father’s heart tender in looking-on his Son’s sin-torn flesh.

On his ascension to the right-hand session of the Father in power, Jesus “parted” from our physical sight. Angels directed the disciples to behold Jesus on clouds with heart-eyes; celebrating his enthronement to the Father’s bosom (cf. Lk. 16:23), the One worthy to open heaven’s eternal Scroll (Rev. 5:2b, 3, 4, 9) for revealing the heart of the Father (Jn. 5:37-40).

Jesus, ascended as the crucified One unseals Scripture especially Abraham’s “Binding of Isaac” (Gen. 22:9-14) and the parable of “the Prodigal Son” (Lk. 15:11 ff.; cf. Lk. 24:45) for directing Christian heart-eyes to the Father. These speak of two fathers at the prospect of losing a beloved son. The death of a child is a terrible thing; worse yet is the loss of a child’s affection and obedience.

The “Binding of Isaac” (sometimes called “the Sacrifice of Abraham”) is a prophesy of Jesus. It is pure pathos, incomprehensible to the world. God commanded Abraham kill his only son. It is all the hearer can do not to curse God at the “outrage” (cf. Job 2:9); many do, elevating the human heart above God to an indignant faux “righteousness”.

Men, by nature, are killers. Adam and the woman chose death and curse over life and blessing (cf. Deut. 30:19) condemning their progeny; their sons and daughters followed suit; beginning with the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. We habitually deal-out death and harm without any ability to restore the lives we mangle or take in anger or careless disregard.

The Resurrection and Ascension of Christ opens heart-eyes, that unlike men, the Lord “kills and makes alive” (Dt. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6; 2 Kgs. 5:7). The wisdom imparted to Abraham received in faith was knowledge of God’s character, “the God of the living” (Mk. 12:27; Lk. 20:38).

Abraham discerned that in God’s command to sacrifice, he is consistent and true to his being for life. Isaac too knowing of his father’s love, beheld a heart for the heart of God, who the circumcision of dead and dying hearts with sacrificial blade.

Isaac’s faith directs us to Jesus’ heart, crucified Lamb from the foundation of the world, obediently trusting his Father’s will for the life of all men. Because our flesh-bound hearts are incapable of choosing anything but death and curse, God chose the death of his only Son.

By the Spirit’s gift of faith, we are joined to God’s choice for us. United with Jesus toward his Father, we know our heavenly Father’s heart for Life, “And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (Jn. 17:3).

The parable of the Prodigal Son is a revelation of Adam and all of us; a perverse son despised his father, demanding his material fortune for a final estrangement. The father does the unthinkable; acceding to the wastrel’s demand. At first blush the father’s acquiescence makes him complicit in his son’s loss; the Prodigal was digging a hole; the father provided the shovel.

But the father’s indulgence revealed wisdom. Only in the son’s deepest distress was the Prodigal able to perceive his father’s love. The father is broken hearted at his son’s rejection of hearth and home; still he did not respond in kind; nor did he accept the child’s loss as inevitable, but waited in longsuffering affection.

One day the Prodigal looked-up from the pit he had dug to imagine a horizon; if not reconciliation, at least return to his father as a servant. By his own lights, the son from a world-bound heart and experience could not conceive the father’s mercy, love, and forgiveness as deeper than his material wealth or the hole he had dug.

The heart of the father is disclosed in love beyond the son’s experience. On the journey home, the father greets his son vesting him with the robes of household office, the father’s own authority for mercy and forgiveness in the village.

On the cross, Jesus received the sacrificial blade commanded for Isaac. God did not spare his Son, opening to men the tenderness of the Father’s heart. There is nothing for you and I, to do but with the Prodigal wear the garments of God’s household in the new creation, sons and daughters, priestly witnesses to God’s love in Christ.

Before Jesus “parted” from the sight of men he had a meal with his Apostles, described as, “eating salt” (Acts 1:4), a reference to OT bread offerings (Lev. 2:13). In context this final meal before Jesus’ ascension is comprehended by heart-eyes; that with Promise of the Father on Pentecost comes the fullness of God’s eucharistic presence, power and rule in Christ for the Life of the church. Amen.


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