A sermon preached on Ephesians 1:16-23 by Pastor Michael Johnson at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Sioux Falls, SD, on June 2nd, 2019
I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. – Ephesians 1:16-23
Have you ever walked in on someone doing something so weird that you just had to ask, what on earth are you doing? I’ve walked in on our kids as toddlers happily covering their bodies with markers and thought what on earth are you doing!? What about with bigger, more important things? Have you ever looked at the world around us and thought – What on earth is Jesus doing? It’s tempting to think that from time to time. But today, as we celebrate Jesus’ ascension, we see the answer to just that question. What On Earth Is Jesus Doing? 1. He is giving the Holy Spirit 2. He is preparing our glorious inheritance 3. He is ruling the world for our good.
What on earth is Jesus doing? He is giving us the Holy Spirit. Last week, Pastor Were talked a little bit about the Holy Spirit and the Spirit will be our focus next week. The Spirit brings us and keeps us in the faith. Here, you see how the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work together for our salvation.
More than sending the Spirit to work faith in our hearts, Jesus is preparing our glorious inheritance. Paul says: I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. This isn’t “God laying something on our hearts” like Pastor Were talked about last week. Paul isn’t saying I can just believe what I feel like. No, the focus isn’t on my heart and how I feel here – the focus is on what Paul wants me to know – “the hope to which he has called you.” Paul’s prayer is that they continue to cling to the faith that the Holy Spirit created in them.
These words remind me of Martin Luther’s explanation of the 3rd Article of the Apostles Creed. “But the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” In faith, I focus not on myself, I focus on the hope we have in Jesus. That hope of heaven isn’t a wish and a prayer, it’s a certain hope in Jesus.
How do I know this? Jesus lived a perfect life in your place. Then he died on the cross to pay for your every sin and failure. And Paul shows us God accepted Jesus’ death as payment for your sins in verse 20 when he says God “raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”
This Easter season we’ve seen that the empty grave is proof God the Father accepted Jesus’ death as payment for our sins. Yet, he did more than just raise him from the dead. Today, we see Jesus gloriously ascending into heaven. We see him seated at the Father’s right hand – a place of power and authority. Proof that not only did God accept Jesus’ sacrifice for us, Jesus is powerful enough to continue to care for us. Paul puts it this way: “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
So what on earth is Jesus doing? On Ascension we recognize that Jesus rules over all heaven and earth for us. But if we’re honest, does it always feel that way to us? Or are we tempted to feel like he’s completely out of touch and ask – What on earth is Jesus doing?
Paul talks about God’s “incomparably great power.” Yet, somedays it feels like anyone but Jesus has power. Politicians twist right and wrong all the time. Celebrities are treated like gods in our society. More people today are willing to get up early for a sports game than to go to church. Unbelievers are getting ahead in life through dishonest means. Yet, you maybe feel tossed and turned about by the devil as you try not to fall into sin.
There are times I question whether God is really in charge. Or maybe I don’t say it, but I act like God’s not in charge. Something bad happens and I get so busy figuring out how I’m going to fix my problem, God doesn’t even enter into my realm of thinking. Or something good happens and I completely forget to thank God or act like it was all my doing. This isn’t just foolish, it’s sin and sin should scare me as God tells me “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:5).
That’s why I want to focus on Jesus and no one else. Jesus didn’t just live for me. Jesus didn’t just die for you. He did more than rise for you. He ascended into heaven and was crowned king for you. Paul says: “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body.”
Jesus is ruling over all things and he does it for you. Why? You are his body. You are so intimately connected to him through faith that he sees you as his body and wants to keep you safe and sound. If something were to happen to my body, I don’t ever think – well that’s my body’s problem. No, it’s my problem. I strive to care for my body! And that is what on earth Jesus is doing right now. He is caring for his body.
Does that mean you will be trouble free in this life? No. In fact, Jesus once said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). But because he rules over heaven and earth for you, he followed up that warning with this promise: “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” The Ascended Christ ruling over all things means that when life is difficult, Jesus will use it to work out his good plan. He will bring about unforeseen blessings through hardship or he’ll use it to keep me clinging to him for salvation.
What on earth is Jesus doing? He is victoriously ruling as your king. And his victory is your victory. The powerful and mighty of this world aren’t in charge, Jesus is. The troubles in my life aren’t in control – Jesus is.
Ascension day often gets forgotten in the church year. But it offers so much comfort for you and me. Jesus is actively working every second of every day and he’s doing it for you. Amen