Posts Tagged "Ephesians 1:15-23"

New Lord in Town

May 13, 2021
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation this evening, as we celebrate our Lord’s ascension, comes from our Epistle text where Paul tells the Ephesians, “that [the Father] worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” Here ends our text; my dear Christian friends …

“There’s a new sheriff in town!” That phrase undoubtedly calls to mind Westerns, movies like “Tombstone,” “High Plains Drifter,” “Rio Bravo” … maybe even irreverent ones like “Blazing Saddles.” Admittedly, I couldn’t find where the phrase actually originated, but nevertheless, it conjures up images of hot, dusty streets in a town in the Old West, as two gunslingers stare each other down mere moments before they draw their six-shooters and resolve the duel. Wherever and whenever it was coined, we all get the meaning behind the idiom: the old ways are over. Lawlessness and terror no longer have a place, nor do those who practice such things. The new sheriff is here, and he’s going to clean house. He’s going to oust the wicked and evil oppressors from the town by force, to the joyous gratitude of the residents. That’s what you’ll usually see in those Westerns, if the new sheriff successfully kicks out the bad guys and actually survives, the town is overjoyed, and there’s usually a grand party of some sort to celebrate. The evil in their midst has been defeated (at least temporarily), law and order has been restored, and they can go on with their lives.

Tonight, we examine a similar scene in our text: in the aftermath of the physical, literal bodily ascension of our Lord Jesus, true God and true man, back to heaven to take His seat at the Father’s right hand, the disciples are … overjoyed. Our first reading sets the tone by painting a picture of the disciples gaping after Jesus’s ascent into the clouds until two messengers appear and tell 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.” Our Gospel lesson shares that the disciples who went with Him as far as Bethany, after His ascension, “worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.”

This was a time of pure elation, hopeful expectation. But, why? Why was Jesus’s ascension a source of such jubilation? After all, He was leaving! You’d think this would be a time of sorrow! As He’s going up, becoming obscured by the clouds, not to be seen in the same way again by the apostles, one would assume that they’d be sad. But they’re not. Quite to the contrary, they are overjoyed! So what gives? Why are they so enraptured? Well, because of what Paul wrote in our text: “… what is the immeasurable greatness of [the Father’s] power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”

It may be hard for us to comprehend, since we live in the apostolic age, but prior to Jesus’s first advent, this world had a lord. A deceiver, a cheat, a corrupted one who corrupted everyone and everything he could sink his claws into. The tyrant ruler and prince of this world, Satan would have no competitor. He had beguiled Eve, deceived Adam, broke the cosmos, and ruined all of humanity, the pinnacle of God’s creation. … except for one. There was the One with whom the strong man, the prince of this world, had to wrangle with.

If this were a Western, the bad guy, Satan and his demonic horde (or posse, I guess) would be shown having considerable skill. They’re a force not to be reckoned with. They’d honed their skills in deception and temptation and beguilement with the residents of this world for so long, that it was no doubt a surprise when the new sheriff, Jesus, came to town and resisted. Beginning at His temptation in the wilderness all the way through His death, and culminating in His glorious resurrection, our Lord Jesus dueled with Satan. Yes, the deceiver has skill that far exceeds ours, but he’s no match for the new sheriff. Yes, at a certain point, he thought he had Jesus on the ropes, utterly defeated, as He breathed His last and cried out, “It is finished.” However, that moment which seemed like victory for the Evil One proved to be his undoing! The Lord Jesus boomeranged triumphant, descending into hell, where He proclaimed His unmatched victory over the yellow-bellied Satan and his posse, and sent them running for the hills. The new sheriff has come. He’s cleaned house, ousting the wicked and evil oppressors by force, to the everlasting joy and gratitude of His people. He has bound the strong man and plundered his house. He has shown His complete dominion over all of His creation … and it is His creation and rule.

Now, you may say, “Well, it certainly doesn’t seem as though the bad guy and his posse are gone. Evil still occurs – wars, famine, the pandemic. Marriages still fall apart, crime and violence are skyrocketing, depression, suicide … hatred. Is the bad guy really defeated?” Yes, he really has been defeated, and now we depart from our unravelling Western cinema analogy. Satan really had devoted all his energies to the goal of preventing Christ from achieving salvation for us. He failed. In His death and resurrection, Jesus triumphed over the power of the devil, along with his allies of sin and death. He won a decisive victory for us. By His ascension, Jesus returned to heaven where He kicked Satan out as our accuser once and for all and makes His enemies His footstool. Your sins and mine are atoned for, and the accuser can only roar and foment, but he is utterly defeated! “This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will. He can harm us none! He’s judged, the deed is done. One little word can fell him!”

Philip Melanchthon wrote in the Augsburg Confession, “[The Son of God] … descended into hell, and truly rose again the third day; afterward He ascended into heaven that He might sit on the right hand of the Father, and forever reign and have dominion over all creatures, and sanctify them that believe in Him, by sending the Holy Ghost into their hearts, to rule, comfort, and quicken them, and to defend them against the devil and the power of sin. The same Christ shall openly come again to judge the quick and the dead, etc., according to the Apostles’ Creed.”

That’s what we’re celebrating this day: the return of Jesus to His position of power at the Father’s right hand. We are celebrating His ousting of Satan from the heavenly places, who will never again accuse those whom the Father has claimed as His own. We are celebrating Jesus’s dominion and rule over all of creation. There is nothing that goes on without His seeing, no act that goes without His permission. Nothing happens to His people that, despite our view from below, is not for our good. The penalty has been paid, and we are His people. To our joy, He is “raised … from the dead and seated … at [the Father’s] right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” There’s a new Lord in town; He is the Lord of the earth, the Lord and Master over all of creation, and He is coming back.

+ In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

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