The Rector’s Weekly Letter to the Congregation for Sunday, May 24, 2020
Jesus the Controversial Ascends to Heaven with the Promise to Return
Jesus was controversial during his stay on earth. He made some outrageous statements that did not sit well with the powers that were and even with the public. He did this on purpose. He wanted the Jewish leaders and all people to find out who he was by self-discovery, using their brains to put facts together of what he said and did and come to a conclusion about him, and not by being told that he was this or that. The miracles he performed were signs pointing to who he was, not antics like those of a city conjurer which are designed to engender momentary wonder, wowing people short or long term, and leave it at that. He was telling the world he was more than a mere human being, that he was God, and that he was calling all people to him to be forgiven of their crimes against God and against other human beings.
Jesus did things only God has the prerogative to do. For example, he forgave people’s sins. In Mark 2: 1-11, a sick man was brought to him through the roof of the house Jesus was in, because the doorway was jammed with people and there was no room to pass to reach Jesus. The text says that when Jesus saw the faith of those who went to so much trouble to bring the sick man to him, he tells the sick man, “Your sins are forgiven you.”
The people around were quick to raise an alarm, “Who, but God only, has the right to forgive sins?” They were right, yet that exactly is what Jesus was telling them, that he was God, and therefore he could forgive sins.
C.S. Lewis rightly observes that a man who said the kind of things Jesus said, cannot by any imagination be called a great moral teacher. Lewis says, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg –or else he would be the Devil of Hell.” Lewis adds, “You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him, and kill him as a demon, or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great moral teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to” (Mere Christianity 1996:56). Jesus made statements such as “Before Abraham was, I AM,” (John 8:58) meaning he existed before Abraham. His critics were angry at this. They scolded him for making such a claim. They were so bent on criticizing him at every turn that they missed the opportunity to learn a great truth. Jesus claimed to have been alive before Abraham ever existed. Although he was born as a baby in Bethlehem, actually he existed many years before. That is an outrageous claim.
At another time he said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). Did we hear that right? Yes, we did. He said it. All authority, and not only some of it, but all of it, has been given to him. He is going to be the supremo of both heaven and earth, that is, the entire universe. He is making this claim in broad daylight to his disciples and it got recorded in the gospel writings. Is he out of his mind, that is, deranged? In John 17:2 he says he has been given authority over all people. Yes, all people, atheists, Asians, Europeans, Africans, Americans, name them. That is quite a claim.
Another claim is being remembered on Thursday, May 21, 2020, his Ascension back to heaven with the promise to return a second time. Of all founders of world religions, he alone made the promise to return in bodily form. And he said when he comes a second time, he will be with his angels. So, he even has angels under his command. The man makes out-of-this-world claims. And these are only a few of the mind-boggling declarations he made about himself and the world.
A closer look at his life reveals a human being who has life all together. He is kind, and lovely to be around, a person who knows who he is and has his life under control. The words that come out of his mouth are profound and life-giving. He makes living right seem easy and available to all including the riffraff of society. These are delighted to be around him, and he gladly welcomes them. He was not a legalistic holier-than-thou kind of person, and his life was exceptionally beautiful. Let every human being consider submitting to this man. He is not just a man. He is God. He is both God and Man.
We await his return. He promised it, and it will happen.