Rev. Mark Buetow
People often think that by ascending into heaven, Jesus has gone away from us. He was here on earth and now He's “up there” somewhere and isn't really around until He comes again. But pay close attention to what Luke wrote down in the book of Acts: “A cloud hid Him from their sight.” The Bible doesn't say that Jesus went away when He ascended. It says they couldn't see Him anymore. But if Christ isn't gone then where is He? That is answered in St. Mark's Gospel in which Jesus gives His apostles the command to preach the Gospel to every creature. And so they did, writes Mark, “the Lord working with them.” When Jesus ascends and is hidden, it is only to be hidden to our eyes so that instead, by the preaching of the Gospel, He would go to the ends of the earth. Before Elijah was taken away in the fiery chariot, he ordained Elisha to be the preacher after him. Before our Lord's Ascension, He ordained His Apostles to preach the Gospel and Baptize. Understand this: the big deal is not that Jesus Himself is here speaking to us but that His Word is delivered into our ears whether its by His own mouth or the mouths of His preachers. The Good News of the forgiveness of sins is what our Lord gave to His preachers to deliver to the world.
Jesus' Ascension is the celebration and seal of His work for sinners and it is the beginning of the delivery of that forgiveness. Christ's perfect life and His bloody death have destroyed the power of sin and the power of Satan to accuse us before God. His resurrection from the dead stripped Death of its power. Now His ascension means that all our righteousness is kept safe for us and no one can take it away from us. Imagine the big tall kid holding the ball while the little kid jumps up and down trying to grab it and can't. So it is with our salvation and righteousness. It is kept safe by Jesus so that the Devil can't snatch it away! Our Lord Himself holds on to your righteousness in heaven so that nothing can take it away from you. It is this forgiveness and salvation that is splashed upon you at the holy font; spoken into your ears by preaching and absolution and fed into your mouth with Christ's own body and blood! These earthly gifts that are given to us with Christ's Word attached have His promise that where they are given out faithfully, He Himself is there. Jesus isn't far away in outer space somewhere! He's right here, on earth, in His church. Hidden to our eyes, true, but plainly visible to the eyes of faith. And you have this promise that everything He gives you in this life: Baptism, Absolution, the Gospel, the Supper, all have the crucified, risen and ascended Jesus standing behind them so that their promises smash any opposition of Satan and cannot be overcome!
Notice that after Jesus ascended, the Apostles weren't sad. They rejoiced! They were happy! And what did they do? They worshiped! The angels preached that Christ will come again. His Ascension reminds us that just as He departed, so He will come again and one day Jesus will again be seen with our eyes. But until that day, we aren't sad. We rejoice! And we worship. Until Christ comes again we worship. And “worship” just means we receive Christ where He has promised to be: in His church in His Word and Sacraments. That's why the angel's say, “Why are you looking up into the sky?” You don't look for Jesus “up there.” You don't look for Him just anywhere. You look for Him where He has promised to be: in His church in the means of grace. There He comes to you and will never leave you. Here He comes and delivers His forgiveness, life and salvation which can never be snatched away from you! On this day, Christ ascended on high! Not to get away from us! But so that He would be with us always and among us to forgive and save us right here where His Word is. All thanks and praise and glory be to our Lord Jesus Christ who has conquered all our enemies and now lives and reigns on high at the right hand of the Father while yet dwelling among us in His holy church through His holy gifts. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.