“[W]hat is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and 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, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” – Ephesians 1:20-23
On May 13, 2021 the church remembers the day that Christ ascended into heaven. We confess this important teaching when we say The Apostles Creed, “He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.”
We confess this with the same excitement and fervor as we do the Christmas line in the Creed, “Born of the Virgin Mary.”
The Ascension of Christ into heaven is when he visually departed from his disciples and this teaching is a very good thing for us.
It is the beginning of summer and things are opening up more and that means traveling and seeing people we maybe haven’t seen in a long time. This also means we must again eventually say good-bye to those we love.
We do not like to leave our friends when it comes time to part. Jesus warned the disciples that he would leave them a little while and the disciples would be sad. But Jesus said, “But I will return to you in a short while.” (John 16:16) This was Jesus speaking on Maundy Thursday night to his disciples speaking about his death and resurrection. The disciples were very sad that Jesus had to leave their presence. But Jesus’ departure, his Exodus, was necessary to take away our sins so that we could be with him forever in eternal life. The disciples did not like the idea of Jesus leaving.
When Jesus was raised from the dead it seems Mary grasped at Jesus because she was overcome with joy to see her Lord. (John 20:17) She did not want to let Jesus go. She did not want to depart from his presence.
On the road to Emmaus Jesus appeared to the disciples and it looked as if he were to keep going but they wanted him to stay with them. “Stay with us for the evening is at hand and the day is far past.” (Luke 24:29) After Jesus broke bread with them their eyes were opened and then Jesus left them.
Jesus’ presence is a calming presence (Matthew 8:27). Jesus’ presence is a wonderful thought, but before his ascension he couldn’t be in all places at one time. He is after all true man and man has a local presence. You can’t be with your family in New York and your family in Dallas at the same time.
However the Ascension of Jesus teaches us something that baffles our minds. Since Jesus has ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God he can be wherever he wants whenever he wants. Since Jesus was raised from the dead in the flesh he can now be present everywhere with us.
It is curious to note how the disciples who never wanted Jesus to leave them, when Jesus did finally ascend into heaven the disciples were not sad! They rejoiced that Jesus had ascended. Luke 24:51 “While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.”
Why did they rejoice this time when Jesus was leaving them?
Because Jesus’ ascension meant that he is no longer limited by space and time. Jesus’ flesh and blood body is not limited to a local presence like we are. Jesus’ human body is now fully using his divinity. Jesus can now be on our altar, flesh and blood, and every altar who celebrates the Lord’s Supper. Jesus is now closer to us than he ever was when he was not fully exalted. Imagine that! In defeating death and sin Jesus is victorious over all things, even physics!
With all the talk this last year of “trust the science” we have something more sure and certain than what test tubes and equations can show. Science changes. What was the “science” at the beginning of the pandemic is now not “science” but outdated. That’s the nature of science, it changes. But God’s promises never change. Jesus Christ is raised from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God. Being seated at the right hand of God means he can be trusted to never change his promises to forgive us and be with us.
The Ascension of Christ is an article of the Christian faith. It is something that we believe because it does not make sense to our logic and science. How can Christ be in, with and under the bread and wine? Always be careful when you ask the “How” question of God! Mary said to Gabriel, “How can this be?” when she was told she would give birth to the Son of God. Zechariah was told Elizabeth would give birth to John the Baptist, “How can that be?” The disciples wondered how Jesus would feed 5,000? How would he be raised from the dead? You cannot test the promises of Christ in a laboratory.
Jesus now promises us, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) The Ascension of Christ teaches us that Jesus isn’t just an idea that stays with us or some hyper-spiritual experience he wants us to draw on. Jesus’ Ascension points us to His Word and sacraments for his presence. This is a true promise for you whose sins would separate us from God for eternity but because God loves the world he sent Jesus to be crucified, dead and buried. He was raised for us and ascended into heaven to guaranty us he will never leave us.
See you on Sunday!