The Ascension of Our Lord
St. Mark 16:14-20
Sometimes I think we treat Jesus’ departure like the death of a loved one. We know they’re with God in heaven but they’re gone from this life and so the best we can hope for are our goodmemories and a visit to the cemetery once in a while. So it is with Jesus. Christmas! Jesus was born. Good Friday, Jesus died. Easter, Jesus rose. Now Ascension and He’s gone away and since we can’t see Jesus anymore, it’s like all there is left is to piously think about Jesus once in awhile. It’s as if coming to church is like going to visit the cemetery; you are there to remember someone who’s not around anymore. But that’s wrong! That’s not how it is at all! Listen again to what St. Mark says, “And so when Jesus had said these things, Jesus was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And the disciples went out, preaching to all nations, the Lord working with them.”
So which is it? Is Jesus gone or not? The answer is that Jesus went away but Jesus is not gone. That’s because “heaven” and the “right hand of the Father” aren’t up there somewhere, far away, past the moon or the solar system or the galaxy. Recall what you heard from the book of Acts. He was taken up and “a cloud received Jesus from their sight.” Jesus isn’t gone. You just can’t see Jesus with our eyes right now. So if you can’t see Him and He’s not gone, where is Jesus? Well that’s what Mark’s Gospel answered. He’s where His Word is being preached by the men He calls to preach. Jesus is where His church is gathered around the Word and Sacraments. Jesus is where Baptism is and Absolution and preaching and teaching of His Word and of course, in His Supper with His true body and blood. Jesus hasn’t gone away. Jesus is just unseen but you do hear Jesus by faith in the sure and certain places where Jesus promised to be found.
And what do those gifts promise? They promise and deliver the forgiveness of sins and that the righteousness Jesus won for you is safe from all your enemies. Jesus has ascended to the right hand of the Father and that means the devil can’t touch your righteousness. The devil can’t take away your being a child of God. The devil can’t steal your inheritance or rob you of the life to come. Jesus accomplished your salvation when Jesus was pierced for your sins on the cross of Calvary and when Jesus rose again on Easter from the dead. And Jesus’ Ascension means both that your righteousness is safe with Jesus and that Jesus will be with you now to give you His forgiveness and life until He comes again. Jesus’ Ascension is like the victory parade now that He has done His work of defeating sin and death.
And then there is that final promise that Jesus will come again. “Men of Galilee, why are you standing around looking up into heaven. Jesus will come back the same way He went away.” The angels are telling you to stop looking for Jesus up in the sky. Rather, go to church where Jesus has promised to be. But there IS the promise of His coming again. Jesus will one day come back so that you can see Him with your eyes. And on that day, Jesus will raise you up from the dead and give you everlasting life in the new heavens and earth. Then you too will have the eternal and everlasting glory as you reflect the glory of Christ forever. Ascension means Jesus isn’t just in one place anymore but is wherever His Word is declared. That means to you, here, today. Over and over until He comes again. That’s the promise of Jesus being seated at the right hand of the Father, that Jesus is with us always to the very end of the age. And so here we are, not just remembering someone who is gone, but here with Christ Himself right here among us.
Blessed Ascension in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit! Amen