Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Ascension: God Has Made Jesus Lord


At Pentecost, fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and ten days after He ascended to His throne at the right hand of the Father, Peter preached to the Jews gathered in Jerusalem:
Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’” Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." (Acts 2;33-36)
God has made Jesus Lord. That might sound unusual for many Christians because, after all, the confession of our faith is that Jesus is Lord — has He not always been so? How then can it be said that God has made Him Lord?

We often assume that the words “God” and “Lord” have the exact same significance. There are, however, important distinctions to be made. The confession that Jesus is Lord is not merely a statement about His divinity, an identification that He is God. More than that, it has special import in regard to God’s plan for renewing the world, and Jesus’ role in that plan.

Jesus has always been fully divine in His essence. He is the Word who was with God in the beginning, who is indeed God and who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14). He has always been the eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Godhead, the Holy Trinity. In the Incarnation, He became fully human, in addition to being fully divine, and it was then that He was called Jesus. But there came a point in history, and in His humanity, when God made Him Lord.

In making Jesus Lord, God fulfilled in Him the promise He made long ago to His people Israel. It was the promise that He would anoint one who would come redeem Israel, subdue the nations, set everything right in the world and reign forever. Jesus is that “Anointed One” — that is what is meant by Messiah or Christ.

Paul, in his letter to the believers at Philippi, speaks of how Jesus, though being in the form of God, took the form of a servant, in the likeness of humanity. As God who became man, Jesus further humbled Himself to the point of a humiliating death on the cross. But now listen as Paul describes the result of that great, and greatly surprising, act:
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
God has highly exalted Him. He has given Him the name that is above every name by appointing Him as Lord over everything in heaven, on earth and under the earth — every realm of existence. Paul says it a bit differently in the book of Ephesians, when he speaks of the mighty power of God, “which 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 principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:20-21).

Before Jesus ascended to His throne in heaven, He came to the disciples and declared, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). In regard to His divinity and His identity as the eternal Son of God, Jesus has always been sovereign over creation from the very beginning. But in regard to His humanity, He was given all authority in heaven and on earth.

In the time-space continuum of the world, then, there came a moment when God highly exalted Jesus the Messiah, gave Him all authority in heaven and on earth and made Him Lord over all. He appointed Him as the rightful ruler over everything — the King of the world. The Church identifies and celebrates that moment in history as the Ascension.