May 28, 2017 “His Foot Down” – Ephesians 1:15-23
“His Foot Down”
May 28, 2017 – Ascension Sunday
I’d like Jesus to put His foot down. That’s what you have to do sometimes. When the children bounce the ball against the house too often while you’re studying, or your spouse comes home drunk yet again, or an employee calls in sick on Friday for the third week in a row, you have to put your foot down. So I wish Jesus would. No more bombings or shootings. No more babies aborted or children going hungry. No more landlords raking in huge profits on rents while so many can’t even afford a place to live. No more war. No more cancer. None of it. Lord Jesus, please come and put your foot down!
The message of our text, of this day to celebrate His ascension into heaven, is that Jesus did put His foot down, that He is putting His foot down, and that the time is coming when He will finally and completely put His foot down.
Maybe you’ve guessed that I want to focus this morning on that little phrase in the next to last verse of our text. The beginning of verse 22 says that “he (God) has put all things under his (Jesus’s) feet.” That is what Jesus ascending into heaven means. It was a visible expression of the fact that Jesus is now over and above everything else. As He rose into that cloudy sky over Galilee, the soles of Jesus’ sandals looked down on everything and everyone in this world, and finally, ultimately, on everything in the universe.
Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, one of the largest cities on the western coast of Asia Minor, what we call Turkey. It was the capital of half of Asia Minor. There was a huge temple to the goddess Artemis there which was known as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Ephesus was also an important center for commerce and had become very prosperous under the Romans.
The Christian church in Ephesus lived beneath the power of Roman government, in the shadow of pagan religious activity at the temple, and in the middle of people whose main concern was to make as much profit as they could from their businesses. You get a little picture of their situation in Acts chapter 19, when the silversmiths who made statues of Artemis almost lynched some Christian missionaries who traveled with Paul. Christians there had to be afraid of local leaders in government, in religion and in business. Their faith in Jesus might get them in trouble with any of those powerful people. So Paul wrote to tell them Jesus was putting His foot down, to reassure them that Jesus was in control even when it didn’t look like it.
I’d like us to look at the powers and authorities under which we live now, whether it’s here in Eugene, in Oregon, in the United States or in the world. The message of the Ascension of Jesus is that He is over it all, and He is putting His foot down.
Verse 15 commended the Ephesians for their faith and for their “love toward all the saints.” Remember that “faith” also means “faithfulness.” In the midst of all those antagonistic powers, the Ephesians had remained faithful and they had even shown love toward other Christians. So in verse 16 Paul gave thanks for the Ephesians and assured them that he prayed for them all the time, without ceasing.
Verse 17 begins to tell us what Paul actually prayed for the Ephesians. He asked “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory,” who sent Jesus, to give them, “a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him.” In the midst of their fears, in the middle of their precarious life as a tiny minority in a hostile culture, Paul wanted revelation for them. He wanted them to see what they might be missing about the situation. It’s also a message to us about our own situation as Christians in a hostile culture.
Paul wanted “the eyes of their hearts” to be enlightened, says verse 18, enlightened to the fact that they had been called to hope and that they were rich, and in verse 19 that they in fact had access to a power greater than any of those government or religious or economic powers around them. You and I also need to have our eyes opened to the fact that we have that same kind of hope and riches and power in Jesus.
It is so easy to feel like our lives and the forces around us are out of our control. Whatever your politics, I doubt you are really happy about local, state or national government right now. You probably feel utterly powerless to do anything about any of it.
In the sphere of faith, we Christians must be honest and admit that non-Christian beliefs and philosophies are on the rise. Gallup and Lifeway Research both released polls this month saying 4 out 5 Americans are worried about the moral state of America, but the polls also show that there is a deep split about which moral values are important. Most of us have no clue about how to make any difference in that.
We also deeply sense how the economy affects our lives. Some of you are looking for apartments to rent or homes to buy and feeling frustrated and powerless because of the high prices and low availability of housing here in our area. And that’s just a small piece of a huge economic structure that seems to determine how we live.
Paul wanted the Ephesians to know and God wants us to know, and to see with the eyes of our hearts, what verse 19 talks about, “the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.” There is a power over all those other powers. There is a force greater than all the forces over us and around us. That’s the power which verse 20 shows us here, “God put that power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead.”
In readings from Luke and Acts today we heard Jesus tell His disciples that after He ascended they would receive power, His power, the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s the same power God demonstrated when government, religious and economic powers put Jesus to death. God raised Jesus up to put His foot back down on the ground and walk out of the tomb. God gave Jesus power over death. So He has power over everything else.
That power over everything is the point of Jesus ascending into heaven. We Christians often get it wrong. The disciples there in Acts 1 got it wrong as they stood there looking up into heaven. They thought it meant Jesus is gone, that they were on their own. But the meaning of the Ascension is not that Jesus is gone. It’s that Jesus is Lord. Verse 20 goes on into verse 21 saying God “seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named…”
Some Christians think Paul was talking about spiritual powers and forces in verse 21. They say rulers and authorities and powers and dominions are classes of evil angelic beings. So which is it? Is this about Jesus’ being above spiritual forces like angels and demons or is it about Jesus being above earthly forces like kings and presidents and corporations? The answer is, simply, yes. It’s about both. The way spiritual powers show up in our world is in visible people and social structures.
Name a power, name a ruler, name a title, Jesus is above it. Presidents, kings, prime ministers, generals, CEO’s, managers—Jesus Christ is Lord of them all. Religions, philosophies, universities, school systems—Jesus Christ is Lord of them all. Nations, cities, corporations, armies, terrorist organizations—Jesus Christ is Lord of them all. Jesus has been raised to the right hand of God to put His foot down, to put His feet down on all the rulers and powers and authorities and forces of this world, forever. “…not only in this age, but also in the age to come.”
So we come to the place where I want to put my own foot down today, verse 22, “And he has put all things under his feet…” Jesus puts His foot down on everything and everyone. That’s where our Christian hope is when the world seems hopeless. That what our eyes need to be opened to see even when and where it doesn’t look that way.
Paul was referring to Psalm 8, which asks, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” David the psalmist was talking about human beings, wondering why God has any use for us. But then in verses 5 and 6 of Psalm 8 he says that God has “crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet.” That is supposed to be about the human race. God gave us dominion over this world when He made it and made us. But instead, as we’ve been saying, this world and all its powers have dominion over us.
Jesus is how that promise in Psalm 8 gets fulfilled. Jesus is the Son of Man under whose feet God has placed all things. Jesus is the one who ascended into heaven so that His feet could be above every force and power on earth.
We have a hard time seeing that power of Jesus, just like those disciples standing there looking into heaven were not seeing Him anymore. But He is there in heaven, and His foot comes down on every power on earth. But it looks to us like all the power and authority is in the hands of evil and godless and greedy people.
It’s hard for Coptic Christians in Egypt to see the power of Jesus when masked men with guns attack a bus full of Christians including children going to pray. It seems like all the power was in the weapons when they demanded that the men recite a Muslim confession of faith and when they refused began shooting everyone including children. It’s got to be really, really hard for those Copts to see the power of Jesus, but they do.
Last month after a Coptic church was bombed on Palm Sunday, Amur Adeeb, a prominent Egyptian talk show host, interviewed the wife of one of the guards who kept the bomber from getting inside the church. He died when the bomb went off outside. She said, “I’m not angry at the one who did this. May God forgive you, and we also forgive you. Believe me, we forgive you.”
Christianity Today reports that following that expression of forgiveness, Adeeb the television host was stunned into silence for twelve long seconds. Then he finally managed to get out these words, “The Copts of Egypt … are made of … steel!” Then with his voice cracking he said, “How great is this forgiveness you have! If it were my father, I could never say this.” All those Copts know, and Paul wanted every faithful follower of Jesus to know that it’s not them, it’s not we Christians who are strong. It is Jesus, Jesus who died forgiving His enemies, and rose to take His place over us all.
Wherever Christians conquer the forces of evil the way Jesus did, by accepting suffering and offering forgiveness, you can see Jesus stepping on those dark powers. So when you give up your own convenience and comfort to shelter someone in Jesus’ name, that’s our Lord’s foot coming down on homelessness. When you get passed over for a promotion at work but keep doing a good job, that is Jesus stepping on injustice. When you give so that a child can eat, that’s Jesus crushing hunger. When you get to know and become friends with someone who is a different color or speaks a different language, that is Jesus standing on top of racism.
Jesus puts His foot down and you can see it. He puts it down everywhere, on everyone. They are all, we are all beneath His feet. Jesus puts His foot down on bombs and bombers. He puts His foot down on wars and generals. He puts His foot down on child slavery and human traffickers. He puts His foot down on oppressive governments and evil leaders.
Jesus puts His foot down on everyone who tells a lie when it’s convenient, who is unfaithful to a spouse when it’s pleasurable, who gets rich off the poor because it’s legal, who seeks revenge because it feels good. Jesus wants to step on all that. Ultimately, Jesus wants to put His foot down on you and me, so that we submit to His rule and authority over our lives.
Jesus is putting His foot down on all the evil in this world. He’s putting His foot down on all the evil in us. But verses 22 and 23 tell us He is doing it for our own good. God put Him up there at His right hand, made Jesus “head over all things” for one reason, for the sake of one thing, there at end of verse 22, “for the church.”
Jesus is putting His foot down for our sake. He loves us. He loves His people. He loves them and brings them together in His church. And He ascended to heaven to rule over everything for that one purpose, to bless and preserve and save His church. That’s how the Bible ends, as David read for us from Revelation last week. The Bride of Christ which is the church comes down from heaven to meet Jesus who is the Bridegroom.
Our Lord loves us and He has the power to take care of us, to save us from evil and make us the people He means us to be. He has the power to free us from all the dark forces of this world and give us eternal life in His kingdom.
The message of Ascension Day is that the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Jesus, is not just something we are waiting for someday. Jesus is reigning over our universe, over our world, and over us right now, there at the right hand of God. We and everyone else, no matter how powerful or frightening, no matter how small or afraid, already have the feet of Jesus over our heads. Ascension Day helps us understand, to have the eyes of our hearts opened to see that under His feet is just where we want to be.
Some of you have pets. Where do they, especially if it’s a dog, often want to be? Right there at your feet, maybe even under your feet. Those companion animals know instinctively what Christians need to know. It’s a good thing to be at our Master’s feet. The old hymn we sang a few minutes ago talked about the joy and peace and security of sitting at the feet of Jesus. That’s the blessing and gift of His ascension. We can all be safe and secure there, beneath His feet.
I’ve talked about Jesus putting His foot down, about Him stepping on the evil and terrible forces of our world. But for those who truly know Him, it’s not a put down, it’s not getting stomped on. It’s a place to rest and have hope when there is no other rest and hope for us.
By dying and rising and ascending into heaven, Jesus gave us the grace of choosing to be under His feet, of voluntarily accepting Him as Savior and Lord. When you do that, no one can else walk on you. You are safe at home with your master.
I call you today to the feet of Jesus. He is Lord over every power you can imagine. He is Lord over every situation that affects you. He is Lord whether you know it or not. Like Paul, I pray that you will know it, that the eyes of your heart will see Him, that you will know the love of a Master who died and rose for you. Have hope in the fact He loved you enough to die. Then trust in the power that raised Him from the dead, His power over every other power. Then be glad to be there, with all His people, under His feet.
Valley Covenant Church
Copyright © 2017 by Stephen S. Bilynskyj