Chased. That’s how we sometimes feel. Who’s after us? And what do they want?
Jesus’ Ascension is the topic of our current series. Why did he have to leave us? That’s the question his disciples must have asked when he told them he was headed back to heaven. At times the same question haunts our thoughts, too.
Wouldn’t it have been better if you had stayed, Lord? Why did you leave us?
One reason we’re considering today is this: Jesus left because he had successfully secured all of God’s promises to bless us. Now we’re chased by his blessing. Remember how his hands were raised in blessing as he ascended? Can you picture him doing that as if you were there?
The Apostle Paul writes, “All God’s promises are yes to us in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20).”
What does he mean by that? Simply, that every blessing for obedience is ours today, not because we obeyed, but because Jesus obeyed in our place. He not only resisted every temptation, living a perfectly blameless life, but he took the blame we deserved for our disobedience on the cross.
I know that, you might say, but what does the ascension have to do with it? And how do I interpret the hard times when I feel more cursed than blessed?
A strange ceremony in the Old Testament prepares us for the answer. Moses declared, “And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God (Deuteronomy 28:2).”
In Christ we are literally chased by blessings. They run after us and overtake us like so many puppies. We can’t outrun God’s blessings to us in Christ.
Chased by Bad Luck
Do you ever feel like you’re being chased by bad luck? Sometimes walking by faith makes us imagine things.
That’s why it doesn’t take much to awaken our default superstitious nature, even for those who profess faith in Christ. We often read the circumstances of our lives like tea leaves that interpret our past as well as predict our future. Why did this happen to me? And what’s next??
There is biblical precedent for anticipating curses as well as blessings. Moses warned God’s people before they entered the land that they had a choice to make. Their obedience would open God’s hand of blessing. But their rebellion would cut off the flow of his generosity, leaving them desolate in every area that was previously overflowing.
Moses wanted to imprint this truth on God’s people in a memorable way. He planned a ceremony to dramatize it, once they had entered the promised land.
He called for a rock to be covered in plaster so that the Law of God could be written for all to see. Then he warned them:
“But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.” Deuteronomy 28:15
Curses would chase them if they disobeyed, chase and overtake them. They wouldn’t be able to run or hide from the evil that their disobedience would bring them.
Moses listed 14 verses of blessings that would chase them, but in this section there are no fewer than 54 verses of curses.
What a contrast! Surely that ceremony, meant to make a deep impression on the conscience and memory of that generation would help them remember and obey.
Ignoring the Warnings
But it didn’t. They ignored the warnings. Every one of those curses came on God’s people during the centuries they descended into idolatry and flagrant disobedience. First the northern kingdom was carried off by Assyria, then the southern kingdom a century later deported to Babylon.
Warnings don’t help unless we take them seriously. Sometimes we don’t until we’ve experienced the worst.
We lived in San Diego during the 2007 wildfires. When the warnings began to come in, we wondered how seriously to take them. Surely we would be safe. We couldn’t imagine a roaring fire coming down the hills around our house.
Even when a friend called and told us to pack up and get out, we didn’t fully believe it. However, just to be on the safe side, we gathered the dog’s food, some clothes, and our important papers. After we’d loaded them in the car we went to bed.
At midnight we got the first official call. Prepare to evacuate. Shortly after that the second call came. It was time to leave.
Driving west we briefly joined friends who were also packing up. The smell of smoke alarmed us, but we weren’t sure which way to head. The winds kept changing, too, whipping up the blazes and causing the fire to jump boundaries we thought were guaranteed to protect us—the wide freeway, a large lake.
Soon we headed north following the news bulletins and changing course as we fled. Never again, we vowed. Never again would we be slow about taking warnings seriously.
Chased By Our Mediator
Jesus didn’t delegate this task, but went in person, bearing his resurrected body to heaven. As our representative, still clothed in humanity, Jesus presented himself as our Mediator.
My husband works as a mediator, trying to bring injured parties together and make peace. Most of his work is done individually with each party. There are offenses to explore and motivations to understand. It often gets worse before it gets better, sometimes seeming completely unsolvable along the way.
But as God works, he is able to prepare them for their face to face meeting.
The gulf between a breathtakingly Holy God and our willful corruption requires a more intense mediation. Jesus took our flesh so he could both live and die in our place. Ascending, he didn’t slough off our humanity like worn clothes, but carried our glorified flesh into heaven.
There he presented himself for us. In his own glorified body, he had united God and redeemed humanity forever.
“Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.”
His Plan Is To Present Us Before His Glory
This Jesus, who presented himself to God as the only mediator between God and man, now has another presentation to make. Like Cinderella who wasn’t fit to go to the ball, he has cleansed us from the soot and grease and clothed us in finery beyond our imagination. He has chased us with blessings.
Now he is ready to present us. How does he feel about that? How does he feel about us? Is he relieved to have us off his hands? Good riddance! This one caused me all kinds of trouble…
No. Jude, in one of my favorite passages in the entire Bible, tells us that he presents us with great joy. We are his joy, not his project:
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever.”
Amen and Amen.