Introduction: How important an invitation the Gospel summons is. This summer, it will be such a privilege to again run our ‘English for Kids’ camp, as well as our local VBS, at which times this glorious summons to believe on the Lord Jesus will go out. May the Lord give us a spirit of prayer, that the families invited to hear the Gospel at these camps might be spared the judgment on Israel because of their refusal to heed the invite to the Feast of salvation in Matthew 22:1-7! At the same time, may we grow in our appreciation of our invitation into God’s Kingdom by remembering that this Gospel summons comes from the lips of our Ascended Lord Jesus – who sovereignly sends out His messengers to gather us into His banqueting hall. May we increase our sense of awe before our Savior as we consider His ascended glory, and as we hear His voice of invitation thunder from His throne (Revelation 3:20)!
Mon/Tues/Weds: read Luke 24:50-53; Exodus 23:14-18, Psalm 121 and Luke 19:28. All through the OT, the calendar focused on “going up” to worship at Jerusalem, as Luke 19:28 says. In fact, one view of this phrase, “to go up to Jerusalem,” focuses on the “Psalms of Ascent” (#’s 120-134 in the Psalter) which many think were written for pilgrims to sing on pilgrimage to God’s House, where they were required to assemble three times a year for the pilgrim feasts in Exodus 23:14-18. For example, Psalm 121:1 introduces us to one such “Song of Ascent” in which the pilgrim “looked to the hills” (i.e., the hills of Mt. Zion) from whence help came from the Lord enthroned in His temple. In this way, the pilgrim crowds which welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday looked to their time in the Holy City as a time of joyful sacrificial worship in which they were to experience anew forgiveness and Divine favor through the sacrifices they offered. For them, “going up to Jerusalem” was a joy, accompanied with much feasting!
But what a difference for Jesus! Feasting with God’s people would have to wait as He alone understood the cost of the sacrifice which He would offer outside the walls of the holy city! How lonely was His ride to the Cross! Entering Jerusalem for our Savior was not ultimately a triumphal entry! Many hailed Him with words of royal welcome – only to turn against Him when they cried, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”. Pilgrims in Jerusalem were mistaken if they thought that “going up” on Palm Sunday was a measure of Christ’s Kingship! His true disciples would learn at His Ascension to God’s right hand in Luke 24:50-53 that this Ascent to God’s Heavenly throne was the true royal welcome worthy of Christ’s saving work!
Meditate and Pray: “Thank you, Jesus, that you show us how important your Ascension is by tying all your expectations to that great event! Thank you that, with far more anticipation than entering the earthly city of Jerusalem could ever give you … you have entered Heaven as the victorious Lion of Judah … going there to prepare a place for us! Help us to be greatly encouraged also, to realize that your days of anticipation are not over yet! Though you could have deservedly settled into the acclaim of Heaven for a job well done, you even now look forward to when we will be with you there at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, refusing to eat and drink of the fruits of your victory until all your invited elect, from every tribe and nation, can join you! Teach us to value the ordinances of your grace which prepare us for that Wedding Supper! Amen.”
Thursday: read Luke 19:28; 19:45-48 & Heb. 1:1-3. “Going up” to Jerusalem was not the only ascent celebrated by God’s people at their religious festivals. In Luke 19:28, for example, Jesus is not simply “going up” to Jerusalem as one among many pilgrims to the Holy City. He is “going up” as the real High Priest to the place of His sacrifice – laying claim to God’s temple as His rightful place of service! No wonder, therefore, that Christ exercises such authority in cleansing the temple in Luke 19:45-48. He alone has both the authority and the sacrificial purity to offer true sacrifices in place of the robbery and false worship offered by the greedy priests of His day. Therefore, the emphasis as Christ draws near the temple is on the power of His Priesthood, in contrast with the corruption of sinful, earthly priests – especially Christ’s power to make atonement for sin.
Meditate and Pray: “Thank you, great High Priest, that you ever live to intercede for us in our trials. Most important, thank you that you have finished the work of our redemption by entering the Holy of Holies in Heaven once for all to sacrifice your blood for our sin. Thank you that, from this high place of authority you can subdue all your and our enemies in order to ensure that we persevere to the end. Pray for us, Jesus, in our time of trials! Amen.”
Friday: read Leviticus 9:22-24 and Luke 24:50-53. Every priest who preceded the coming of our Great High Priest Jesus had to come down from making atonement on the altar – just as Aaron does in Leviticus 9:22. Having first ascended the altar (which was always built on a place of eminence, higher than the dwellings of the Israelites), and having finished blessing the people of God, he came down again to the level of his fellow sinners – only to perform the daily sacrifice for sin again on the next day, and repeatedly every year on the Day of Atonement (see Hebrews 9:25 and 10:1). For Aaron and his descendants, their work of repeated sacrifice for sin was never finished! Their earthly ministry was characterized by weakness and repeated, vain sacrifices!
But how gloriously different is Jesus’ work as our Priest! When He raised His hands in blessing in Luke 24:50, He went up (not down) in order to permanently open our way of access into God’s presence in Heaven! He could not and never will carry out His Priesthood on earth, since there was a different priestly family for earthly ministry named Levi (Hebrews 8:4). But now from His place of Heavenly Priestly ministry, Jesus invites us to join Him at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb! By this invitation we may be sure that the way has indeed been opened for us, and it is a way of permanent blessing!
Meditate and Pray: “Lord Jesus, we know it is your desire that each one of your people behold your glory in Heaven (John 17:24). But we are beset with so many obstacles – all of which threaten our progress up the mountain of God! Help us! Raise our sight to Heaven, where you are actively engaged in intercession for us. Please pray for us that our faith won’t fail! Amen.”
Sat/Sun: read Luke 24:50-53 and Leviticus 16:29-34. According to tradition, the emphasis in celebrating the Day of Atonement from Leviticus 16 was on the ascending of the High Priest up the steps to the temple of God. Think about this for a moment. Every year, at the Day of Atonement, all Israel would observe the High Priest as he ascended the steps up to the Temple and into the Holy Place with sacrificial blood in hand. In fact, tradition has it that there were approximately 15 steps on which Levite choirs would stand and sing as the High Priest “ascended” up to the Holy of Holies, passing by each Levite choir in turn. This picture finds fulfillment in Jesus our High Priest, who 40 days after His resurrection ascended to God’s right hand, there to offer up His blood in the true, Heavenly temple where God dwells! Moreover, the praises which accompanied Him up to the Heavenly temple were that of the angelic choirs, not mere Levites! Having provided this Heavenly purification for sins, “He sat down,” His work complete! (See Hebrews 1:1-3.)
Meditate and Pray: Let us thank God that His Son’s “Ascent” was not up to the earthly Jerusalem, but to Heaven itself. Sing about His “once-for-all” completed, and Heavenly, Priestly work with the help of the following hymns:
Not all the blood of beasts
On Jewish altars slain
Could give the guilty conscience peace
Or wash away the stain.
But Christ, the heav’nly Lamb,
Takes all our sins away;
A sacrifice of nobler name
And richer blood than they.
My faith would lay her hand
On that dear head of Thine,
While, like a penitent, I stand,
And there confess my sin.
Believing, we rejoice
To see the curse remove;
We bless the Lamb with cheerful voice,
And sing His bleeding love.
The golden gates are lifted up,
The doors are opened wide;
The King of Glory is gone in
Unto His Father’s side.
Thou art gone up before us, Lord,
To make for us a place,
That we may be where now Thou art,
And look upon God’s face.
And ever on our earthly path
A gleam of glory lies,
A light still breaks behind the cloud
That veiled Thee from our eyes.
Lift up our hearts, lift up our minds:
Let Thy dear grace be giv’n;
That, while we wander here below,
Our treasure be in Heav’n.
That where Thou art, at God’s right hand,
Our hope, our love, may be:
Dwell Thou in us, that we may dwell
Forevermore in Thee.