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Journey With Jesus

Jesus’ New Ministry

The Ascension signaled the end of one ministry, and the beginning of another.

The disciples had been through a lot; they had seen the good, the bad and the ugly of Jesus’ time on earth. They had seen many miracles – water into wine, healings, thousands fed from a boy’s lunch, demons exorcised, storms halted with just a word, and dead people resuscitated. (Note: resurrection refers to putting on a new, glorified body; resuscitation means raising the person in the same mortal body.) Through it all, they were still hoping that Jesus would raise an army to overthrow the Roman government. And I can’t help but wonder what they thought of Jesus’ words to Nathanael (Barthalamew) when Jesus said to him, “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of God.”

But they also saw Jesus be arrested, tortured, and killed. We can’t imagine the hopelessness and despair they went through. Fortunately, it was just for the weekend, and then they saw him alive. For 40 days Jesus spoke to them and others about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3), and then they watched his words to Nathanael come true.

As they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight (Acts 1:9 NRSVUE).

Ten days later, as they gathered for Pentecost, they witnessed the Holy Spirit coming to them as tongues of fire. The Ascension and Pentecost signaled the beginning of a prophecy Jesus gave to his disciples in the Upper Room.

Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father (John 14:12 NRSVUE).

Jesus’ earthly ministry was intentionally limited to his disciples and followers. He often spoke in parables that only a few could understand. At times he limited his teaching even further by only including Peter, James, and John. When Jesus began his new ministry – living in us through the Holy Spirit – the expanse of the kingdom has fulfilled this prophecy. The opportunities for kingdom growth grew exponentially as more and more were invited to participate with Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.

There are several roles that Jesus now fills – advocate (1 John 2:1-2), mediator (1 Timothy 2:5), redeemer (Titus 2:14), intercessor (Romans 8:26-27, 34) – but let’s look at the one that includes all of these titles and that the book of Hebrews emphasizes. When Jesus ascended, he became the great high priest.

The role of the high priest was clearly understood by the Israelites. The role of the high priest was to serve as a mediator between God and his people. Considered the highest-ranking spiritual leader, one of the high priest’s responsibilities was to enter the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement and sprinkle blood on the ark of the covenant. Throughout Israel’s history, there were several high priests, some who served well, others who did not. Jesus was prophesied to be “a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:4, Hebrews 5:6).

  • As our “forerunner,” Jesus enters the inner sanctuary (Holy of Holies) on our behalf (Hebrews 6:19-20).
  • Jesus is the only high priest who is “holy, blameless, pure, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26).
  • As our high priest, Jesus is the guarantor of a better covenant (Hebrews 7:27).
  • Jesus does not need to offer up daily sacrifices for personal and national sins, he sacrificed for all when he offered himself (Hebrews 7:27, 9:12).
  • “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties, again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:11-12).
  • He established a new covenant and made the old covenant obsolete. (Hebrews 8:13)
  • “He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves, but he entered the most holy place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:12)
  • “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance — now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9:15)

Jesus’ ascension was the beginning of his new ministry — the role of the Great high priest who established a new covenant. Under this new covenant, our sins have been removed — as far as the east from the west. Under this new covenant, we are invited to enter the most holy place and spend time with Father, Son, and Spirit in relationship. Under this new covenant, we are invited to participate in Jesus’ work of bringing many sons and daughters to glory. Under this new covenant, we are adopted and given an inheritance that is far more than we could ever ask for or imagine.

Let’s not gloss past the Ascension, let’s read through the book of Hebrews and reflect on what it means that Jesus is our great high priest. And in our reflection, let’s receive the magnificent reality of what is ours through Jesus.

Praising the Priest,
Rick Shallenberger

4 thoughts on “Jesus’ New Ministry”

  1. I find the definition difference between “resuscitation” and “resurrection” quite helpful.

    Our formal GCI national liturgical calendar recognized and included Jesus Anscension as an important celebration already back in 1996.

    “In his life Christ is an example showing us how to live in his death he is a sacrifice satisfying our sins in his resurrection a conqueror in his ascension a king in his intercession a high priest”.-|Martin Luther

  2. Thank you Rick. So encouraging to be part of his ministry of drawing all people to him on the cross and at his resurrected side! I conjecture that his departing High Priest blessing to have been, “I will bless you and keep you; I will make my face shine on you and be gracious to you; I will lift my countenance on you and give you peace ‘to the end of the age.’” Thank you Jesus-Father- Holy Spirit.

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