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The Man Upstairs

5/29/03

You've heard the expression "the Man upstairs." Some people say, "The Man upstairs" does this or takes care of that as a way to refer to God. Do you know where the expression comes from? It comes from the days when the boss was in an office above the factory floor. "The man upstairs" made all the decisions, directed everything down below, and was the one everyone answered to.

In a way, "the Man upstairs" is a fitting way to refer to God. Today is Ascension Day. On this day, the Church marks the bodily ascension of Jesus into heaven. Jesus ascended bodily into heaven far above all rule, authority, power and dominion. Jesus no more walks the earth being only at point A, then point B, then point C and so on. Now Jesus fills everything in every way or "all in all" as Paul says. So there really is a "Man upstairs," but having a Man upstairs may or may not be comforting.

Actually, having a man upstairs can be threatening. In old time factories, the office of the man upstairs often had windows for walls. The entire floor of the factory was open to his eyes. He could see all the workers all of the time. There was no hiding from the man upstairs. That is threatening, and, that's how it is with us. There are no hiding places from our Man upstairs. Hebrew 4 says, "There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him." The 4 living beings described in Revelation that serve and surround the Man upstairs are "full of eyes."

There is no way to get away from the persistent, penetrating, pervasive gaze of the Man upstairs. There are no breaks. There is no machinery that you can step behind to temporarily get out from under His eyes. There are no building beams which block His vision at certain angles. Like a song years ago said, "Every move you make, every breath you take, every promise you make" is being watched by the Man upstairs. Everywhere you go on the factory floor of this world is within eyesight and earshot of the Man upstairs

This is a Sunday School truth that adults often forget. Like the man who said to the little boy, "I'll give you a dollar if you can tell me where Jesus is." The boy replied, "Mister, I'll give you a dollar if you can tell me where Jesus ain't!" The boy knew what the man didn't. There's no place the Man upstairs is not. Unlike Visa, He's not only every place you want to be, He's every place you don't want Him to be.

Sinner's, just like bad workers, want to get out from under the ever present glare of the Man upstairs, but there's no escape. Psalm 139 says, "Where can I flee from your face?" Right up to and especially on the Last Day sinners try to be out from under the unrelenting stare of the Man upstairs. Revelation 6 says that on the Last Day kings and military leaders, rich and strong, poor and weak, will hide themselves in caves and call to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne."

No door can be closed tight enough; no darkness dark enough; no hole deep enough; no mountain high enough to escape from the Man upstairs. Jesus though miles away at the time, saw Nathaniel praying privately. The Pharisees, and even His own disciples, tried to hide their thoughts from Jesus. But that was useless. He would say to them, "Why do you say in your hearts?" Not even our thoughts are safe from Him.

It's true; you can hide most anything from me, your spouse, your boss, your parents, but you can hide absolutely nothing from the Man upstairs. He knows every word you think; He sees every deed you do; He hears every word you speak whether in a shout or a whisper, whether in greeting or gossip. Go ahead and believe that it's only wrong if you get caught; go ahead and believe that what your spouse doesn't know won't hurt them; go ahead and believe that as long as you don't actually do the sin it's all right to think about it. You're in for a big shock when Jesus, the Man upstairs, calls you in and demands you account for every thought, word, and deed you smugly thought you were successfully hiding.

Just like in the factory, our Man upstairs won't accept excuses or reasons for our wrongdoing. He won't listen to how your terrible upbringing led to your secret sins. He won't excuse your drinking too much or your loving too little because you're stressed. Whatever reasons, excuses, or defenses you have for sinning, you're going to hear what factory workers caught doing wrong have always heard from the man upstairs, "You're finished!."

Do you see why having the Man upstairs can be threatening? Who can live with such a relentless, pitiless inspection of their lives day in day out every hour of every day? One of two things happen to those who live under such a Man upstairs. Either hopelessness or hatefulness sets in.

Hopelessness sets in when you believe that since there's no way you can please the Man upstairs, you're doomed. Since you can't go 24 seconds let alone 24 hours without sinning in thought, word, or deed, the Man upstairs can find sin in your life anytime of the day or night. And having found such sin all He can or will do is reject you, punish you, damn you. How hopeless you are!

Hatefulness sets in when you think of Jesus like a factory worker thinks of a cruel boss riding his back, following his every move, exposing his every error. Hatred burns deep within the worker under that kind of a man upstairs. This is where Luther first found himself. God demanded that he love Him with all of His heart, but this same God held him to standards that were impossible for him to meet. So Luther hated rather than loved God.

Having a Man upstairs can be a very hopeless, hateful thing, but it doesn't have to be. It can be a very comforting, assuring thing. It all depends on who the Man upstairs is. Take the factory. If the man upstairs doesn't understand how the factory really runs, if he doesn't have the brains or capability to run it, life will be very difficult for the workers on the factory floor. Well our Man upstairs is true God. Our Man upstairs is the Creator and Builder of the entire factory. Jesus not only understands how the factory operates, He built it from the ground up. Our Man upstairs is an expert at running, directing, and fixing the factory.

Of course, lots of men who work upstairs know the factory inside out, but many of them don't know the workers. They're ivory tower, white color types who know little and may care less about the blue collar types who work below. This is not how it is with our Man upstairs. He is not only true God, He's true Man too. This means not only does our Man upstairs have a perfect understanding of the factory, He has perfect understanding of you. Like John 2 says, Jesus doesn't need to have anyone tell Him about mankind because He Himself knows exactly what is in man. Being a Man, our Man upstairs knows exactly what we feel, think, hurt, and need. He, according to Psalm 103, remembers that we are but dust and so knows we easily crumble back to the dust we came from. Our Man upstairs knows how much we on the factory floor can take.

Having a man upstairs is comforting depending on who the man is and how he got upstairs. A country song some years ago lamented how a man was looking for a promotion "but the boss's son got the call." I worked at a Chevrolet iron foundry one summer. The foreman trainees were college kids who had never spent a day on the line. They were hated by the factory workers, but the foremen who had worked the line, those who had spent time sweating it out on the factory floor were thought highly of.

Jesus is that kind of Man upstairs. Although He had every right to start and stay upstairs, although He was indeed the Boss's Son and really did deserve to be called to run the factory, He gave it all up. Jesus gave up all the power and prestige that belonged to Him as God the Son, and He disguised Himself in order to work on the grimy, sweaty, backbreaking factory floor.

It's even better than that. While down on the floor, Jesus did your job perfectly for you. He did your work so well that it can even pass inspection by the Man upstairs. But what about your poor job performance? What about your working against the company? What about the thousand and one shameful, horrible things you have done, said, or thought? Jesus took all the punishments you deserve. And I don't mean Jesus was fined, suspended, or demoted for you. I mean that Jesus bled, cried, and died for you on the terrible tree of the cross. He left His safe, secure position upstairs in order to redeem you. By His perfect life and by His perfect suffering and death, He not only earned a place for you in God's factory, but He made your feeblest efforts good and God-pleasing.

Having a Man upstairs will comfort you if who He is, how He got there, and what He's doing there comforts you. If you see Jesus up there angrily judging and punishing you, that's not comforting. But if you see Him as the God/Man who paid for your sins and is on your side, you'll be comforted by Him being upstairs. You'll see that far from Him being upstairs to criticize, judge, or punish you, Jesus is there to mediate, advocate, intercede for you.

St. Paul says there is one mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus. In the upstairs office, right now Jesus stands between labor and management, between sinners and God. Jesus isn't a neutral Mediator; He's on the side of sinners. He actively advocates our cause. St. John tells us, "If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ." Our Man upstairs speaks on our behalf, for our well-being.

But how much can Jesus really say? We don't deserve pity, help, or more time. So Jesus doesn't just advocate; He intercedes. Romans says, Jesus "is on the right hand of God interceding for us." Hebrews says, Jesus "ever lives to make intercession for us." Jesus is there constantly asking, pleading, begging for the mercy, grace, and patience we don't deserve, but He does.

When you think of Jesus interceding for you, focus on the Man's hands. He wants you to remember His hands. Luke tells us, "Jesus lifted up His hands and blessed them" while He ascended. Many times throughout His life Jesus must have raised His hands, yet only here are we told this. We are to remember the hands - the hands that still bore the nail holes, the hands that had been spread wide on the cross paying for the sins of the world -; these hands are now always before the Father. When we sin and wrath and judgment should bolt from God's throne, Jesus holds up His nail pierced hands saying, "Remember Father I died for this person."

Friends, if the man upstairs where you worked mediated, advocated, and interceded on your behalf, wouldn't you be glad he was there? How much better to have the Man Jesus mediating, advocating and interceding for us in heaven. That's why the disciples could return to Jerusalem with great joy. Although Jesus their Friend and Savior would no longer walk and talk visibly with them, they knew that He was upstairs filling all heaven and earth. Now when they prayed they weren't praying to a shapeless, faceless God, but to the Man upstairs, to their Man upstairs, Jesus. The Man who did so much for them on earth could and would do still more for them in heaven. Amen.

Rev. Paul R. Harris

Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas

Ascension (5-29-03), Luke 24: 44-53