Last Sunday, one of our Elders, Dan Zerbe, led us in a reading from Leo the Great (c. 400-461). We thank the Lord for Dan's commitment to lead us as a Church family in some of the well-known (and not so well-known) documents of the Church. This is vital for the Church of Christ in order that we may know whence faith in Jesus Christ has taken the true Church down through the last two thousand years. We are not disconnected from our forefathers, that "great cloud of witnesses" (Heb. 12:1) who have gone before us. In this reading from Leo the Great, the issue before the church was the person of Jesus Christ, specifically his humanity. Some were degrading the God/man union of Jesus, reducing him to divine, but only in an indirect way, human. It was vital then as now that Christ be 100% God and 100% man if he was to serve as a faithful high priest. As God, Jesus served as the perfect sacrifice. As man he took our sins to the death. This way, Christ paid the price for our sins and that eternally since he is the eternal God. The following reading (keying on these verses) accentuates the necessity and beauty of Jesus' perfect union as the God/man.
See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, Have you anything here to eat? They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. (Luke 24:39–43)
Accordingly, dearly-beloved,throughout this time which elapsedbetween the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension,God’s Providence had this in view:to teach and impressupon both the eyes and hearts of His own peoplethat, just as He was truly born, suffered, and died,the Lord Jesus Christ might be recognizedto have as truly risen.
And hence the most blessed Apostles and all thedisciples, who had been both frightened at His deathon the cross and doubtful of His Resurrection,were so strengthened by the clearness of the truththat when the Lord entered the heights of heaven,not only were they affected with no sadness,but were even filled with great joy.And truly great and unspeakablewas their cause for joy,when in the sight of the holy multitude,the nature of mankind went up,above the dignity of all heavenly creatures,to pass above the angels’ ranks and to rise beyond the archangels’ heights.
In its ascension,our human race did not stop at any other heightuntil this same naturewas received at the seat of the Eternal Father.Our human nature,united with the divinity of the Son,was on the throne of His glory!And so, dearly-beloved,let us raise our hearts’ eyes unimpededto those heights where Christ is.Minds that have heard the call to be upliftedmust not be pressed down by earthly affections,we that are fore-ordained to things eternalmust not be taken up with the things that perish;
We that have entered on the way of Truthmust not be entangled in treacherous snares,and we faithful must so take our coursethrough these temporal things as to remember thatwe are sojourning in the vale of this world, in which,even though we meet with some attractions,we must not sinfully embrace them,but bravely pass through them.
Since Christ’s Ascension is our uplifting,and the hope of the Body is invitedwhere the glory of the Head has gone before,let us exult, dearly-beloved,with worthy joy and delightin the holy paying of thanks.For to-day not only are we confirmedas possessors of paradise, but have alsoin Christ penetrated the heights of heaven,and have gained still greater thingsthrough Christ’s unspeakable grace than we had lost through the devil’s malice.
Our virulent enemy had driven usout from the bliss of our first abode,but the Son of God has made us members of Himselfand placed us at the right hand of the Father,with Whom He lives and reignsin the unity of the Holy Spirit,God for ever and ever.Amen.