God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets! Amen.
1 Peter 5:6-11
In the name of our risen and ascended Savior, dear disciples:
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky?” That is the question the angels asked of the disciples right after Jesus ascended into heaven. They followed their question with a statement of fact and comfort. They went on to say, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Jesus wasn’t gone forever. He would be in heaven ruling over all things for the good of his church and then would return one day. Jesus had informed his disciples just before he ascended that they would not know when he would return but he would return. Jesus said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” So this is where we find ourselves still today – living in the time between Jesus’ ascension and his return. We our called on to wait … wait for Jesus. But what shall we do as we wait? Certainly we know that our Lord wants us to spread the good news about him – that is the main task he has given us. We also know that the task is difficult and stressful. So what are we to do as we wait and as we struggle? Through the apostle Peter, the Holy Spirit answers that question. So we consider – While you are waiting for Jesus …
While you are waiting for Jesus humble yourselves! Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Just before these poignant words of advice to struggling Christians, Peter quoted from Proverbs 3: He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble. So we humble ourselves before God as we wait for Jesus to return. This means we refrain from being full of ourselves – for all forms of selfishness come from the sinful flesh and not from the Spirit of God. So we really need to work on the way we think. It is so easy to look at life from the perspective of what I think, what I like, what is good for me, and how I feel. It is much more difficult to think in terms of others and serving others. How can I help? How can I assist? What can I give? We need to approach life the way that John the Baptist approached life – he said of Jesus, “He must become greater, I must become less.” That is indeed the motto of disciples waiting for their dear Lord to return – He must become greater, I must become less. There is no room for braggarts and one-uppers. There is no room for selfishly clinging to what I like even when it may stand in the way of others hearing about Jesus. Instead of selfish desires, let us rely on God and him alone! Listen to the godly promise connected to living in humility – that he may lift you up in due time. Your time of glory is coming, just as soon as Christ returns. So let us wait in patient humility as God enables us through Word and Sacrament.
While you are waiting for Jesus, cast your anxiety on him. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Wow! Does this hit the do-it-yourself culture in which we live square between the eyes! Don’t try to gut it out and live with it! Don’t think I can handle it all by myself. Don’t let the burden of sleepless nights get the best of you. It is not your prerogative to sit at home and worry about every little thing. No! Listen to what Peter says! Cast all your anxiety on him. Every little worry. Every sniffle and stubbed toe. Every big worry. Every personal worry. Every family worry. No need to worry whatsoever. Take all your troubles to the Lord in prayer he promises he will hear you, he will deliver you in the day of trouble, he will protect you, and he will bless you. Don’t ever forget this most important fact – HE CARES FOR YOU! Don’t let the devil try to convince you that God does not care about you! He sent his one and only Son to die for you! God does care! He cares enough to number all the hairs on your head. He cares about you down to the most minute detail! So don’t spend your time waiting for Jesus in worry and fret. He wants you to have life to the full – a life in which you leave the worrying to him. Simply trust that your Lord Jesus is with you and he will take care of all your needs – no worries!
While you are waiting for Jesus be alert. Life out there in the world is a battle. So Peter reminds us, Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. It may be easy for us to dismiss the devil as some cartoon character with horns and a pitch fork. But Peter reminds us that the devil is very real. He is a very real threat to your faith and to your eternity. The devil is no one to joke about or dismiss. He is your arch-enemy. He is looking to devour you. Watch out for people who bring temptations your way! Perhaps the same warning the disciples received in the Garden of Gethsemane is in order for us today – Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak. This is a dangerous battle we find ourselves in. All the forces of hell are working against each person’s salvation. They will stop at nothing to discredit the church and the Word. They will lead you astray. So be aware of what is being taught and aware of the devil in all his many disguises and tactics. It is easy for us to dismiss the devil as some old fairy tale, or join with others in dismissing hell and downplaying any kind of sin or wrong-doing. The reality is that the devil is our enemy, the one who seeks to destroy us for eternity. So stay alert! Learn to see through the lies of the devil. Trust that the truth of Scripture is the way to remain self-controlled. Reject sin! Say no to all ungodliness! This is how we wait for our dear Lord Jesus!
While you are waiting for Jesus stand firm in the faith! Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered for a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. This is a recurring theme in the Bible – resisting the devil. In fact, James writes, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you!” But the attacks are many and varied and the battle wears us out so we need the Lord to help us stand firm in the faith. So Peter shares two kinds of encouragement with us. First, he reminds us we are not alone in this – many brothers and sisters in the faith are facing the very same kind of struggles. So lean on each other! Second, he reminds us of the God of all grace. Our gracious Lord Jesus has brought us into his eternal glory – we will go to heaven just as Jesus did! Wow! What incredible comfort! The hardships we face are very short in comparison to the eternity of bliss that awaits us. Our gracious God is the one who makes us firm, strong, and steadfast! And he is working to do that right here this morning! He works on our faith through his Word and Sacraments. So make use of these tools and the Lord will strengthen you for all the struggles you may face!
While you are waiting for Jesus to return, don’t stand starring into heaven, don’t sit around doing nothing but waiting. Jesus encourages us to work while it is day to share the gospel until he does return. This is indeed strenuous and nerve-wracking work, but the Lord promises to strengthen us for this task. So while you wait for Jesus’ return humble yourselves, cast your anxiety on him, be alert, and stand firm in the faith! May our gracious God help each of us to do these things to his glory! Amen.