Ascension Sunday | Psalm 110 | “A Psalm’s Psalm”

  1. Psalm 110: A Psalm’s Psalm

You may or may not know that Psalm 110 is the most quoted psalm in the entire New Testament. It’s kind of “a psalm’s psalm,” if you like. We know the psalms speak of Jesus, but here the Holy Spirit has given us lines too bright and too fair to miss. It’s “a psalm of David,” the king of Israel. But not a line, not a word is actually about him. In that, never was a psalm more of a psalm of David. David, the great king, sees a descendent who is, nevertheless, before him and above him: “the Lord said to my Lord.”

Jesus the Christ is the key to the puzzle of the mysterious figure spoken of in this psalm. In Matthew 22, Jesus quoted verse 1 in one of his debates with the Pharisees. Verses 41-43 say, “Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, ‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord?’” No one could answer that question…but him.

The Lord said to my Lord. In a staggering economy of six words, all of the essential points we believe about Jesus are here summarized. Patrick Henry Reardon writes, “In this one line of the psalm, then, we profess, in summary form, those profound doctrines at the foundation of our whole relationship to God – the eternal identity of Jesus Christ, his triumph over sin and death, and his glorification at God’s right hand: [for] ‘God…has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, …who…, when He had Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.’” (Christ in the Psalms, quotation from Hebrews 1:1-3)

2. This Means Three Things

C.S. Lewis called Christianity “the religion you couldn’t have guessed.” When the shadowy figure of the psalm emerges as Jesus, Psalm 110’s fulfillment is, indeed, startlingly wonderful. Because this is the most central line of the most central psalm in all of the New Testament, it means at least three things for us today:

  1. In his Ascension to God’s throne, Jesus Christ remains the perfect God-man, now wearing your glorified humanity.

“The LORD said to my Lord.” It’s a human king that’s being spoken of here. Many people assume, I think, that our Lord only temporarily took our humanity on to himself, only to divest himself of it after his resurrection. But no – Jesus Christ continues to stand before the Father, robed in our flesh, constantly able to redeem and present us spotless and beautiful to the Father.

I recently heard of a pastor, who, to gauge a newcomer’s Christology, would ask them: “Do you believe that a man is currently reigning and ruling over the entire universe?” Of course, in Jesus, the answer is yes. Luke tells us that as Jesus ascended to heaven, he lifted his hands in blessing. Friends, that blessing continues to this day. Jesus, our brother, our Lord, continues to bless us from the throne of heaven.

We need to also say here that we truly and simply worship Jesus as the God-man on the throne! That’s a great indication of where someone is at with the Lord. When the question is asked, Do you worship Jesus? The clear answer is Yes! The Ascension settles the answer to that question.

2. In his role as our perfect high priest, His ongoing intercession for you is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

What does this mean? Everything. In his book Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace, here’s how James Torrance puts it: “[Worship] is the gift of participating through the Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father.

By the way, I have given that definition of worship many times. I have seen people visibly  sigh a sigh of relief, as if to say, “Ah, is that what worship is? Then I can do that!”

Torrance continues: “It means participating in union with Christ, in what he has done for us once and for all, in his self-offering to the Father, in his life and death on the cross. It also means participating in what he is continuing to do for us in the presence of the Father and in his mission from the Father to the world. There is only one true Priest through whom and with whom we draw near to God our Father. There is only one Mediator between God and humanity. There is only one offering which is truly acceptable to God, and it is not ours.”

Look at the Apostles’ Creed, for instance. Most of the things we confess there about Jesus are in the past tense: he was born, he was crucified. Only one is in the future (he will come again), and only one is in the present: “He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.” That is good news for today! Friends, let nothing divorce you from the continuing prayers of Jesus, made on your behalf.

Moreover, we need to understand that there is one only bond that will never be broken, in this life of the next. It is the taut line of grace that runs from heaven to earth, anchored in the heavens. “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone.” (Hebrews 6:19-20)

All that we attach to that anchor will never be lost, but all that is not is nothing more than a broken and defective anchor. As Lewis said, “Aim at heaven, and you get the earth thrown in. Aim at earth, and you get neither.”

3. Because he is there, God’s throne is now a place of grace and mercy in time of need.

The outcome of all this is that, in Christ, God’s throne, that place where Jesus now sits, is a place of grace and mercy in our time of need. How we are tempted to let our weaknesses, our need for grace and mercy, our frailty, be the very things that divorce from the throne of God! That keep us from coming back in prayer!

The book of Revelation gives us a stirring picture of Jesus’ Ascension. His re-appearance in heaven is described like this: “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain.” (Revelation 5:6)

Friends, the One who is now at his post is the Crucified One. He already knows you’re in need. That’s why he came, and that’s why he ascended. You need to know that this week. I need to know that this week. In every place, in every moment, we are invited to draw near to him.

I end with the hymn “Up Through Endless Ranks of Angels”:

Up through endless ranks of angels,
cries of triumph in his ears,
to his heavenly throne ascending,
having vanquished all their fears,
Christ looks down upon his faithful,
leaving them in happy tears.

Death-destroying, life-restoring,
proven equal to our need,
now for us before the Father
as our brother intercede:
flesh that for our world was wounded,
living, for the wounded plead.

To our lives of wanton wandering
send your promised Spirit-Guide,
through our lives of fear and failure
with your power and love abide:
welcome us, as you were welcomed,
to an endless Eastertide.

Alleluia, alleluia,
oh, to breathe the Spirit’s grace!
Alleluia, alleluia,
oh, to see the Father’s face!
Alleluia, alleluia,
oh, to feel the Son’s embrace!

Text: Jaroslav J. Jajda, 1973. (c) 1974, Augusburg Publishing House. Used by permission
The hymn may sung or read as poetry. The tune ASCENDED TRIUMPH, composed by Henry Gerike for this text, it can be found in the Lutheran Book of Worship.