Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Ascension of Our Lord

The Ascension of Our Lord (Transferred)
May 12, 2010
Text: Acts 1:1-11; Eph. 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53

“God has gone up with a shout” (Ps. 47:5; ESV). It is God who ascended into heaven. And He is also man, Christ Jesus, God in human flesh. This is how it happened: Jesus led His disciples out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands… the same hands that were pierced for our transgressions, the hands with the holes in them, into which Thomas wanted to poke his fingers that he might believe… lifting up His hands, Jesus blessed them. Jesus blesses His Church with His crucified hands. And while He blessed them (note: there is no conclusion to the blessing here!), He parted from them and was taken up into heaven. A cloud hid Him from their sight. The disciples stood around gazing into the sky, when two men stood by them in white robes (in other words, angels), and said “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?” (Acts 1:11). Up is the wrong place to look if you’re looking for Jesus. He is not gone. He is only hidden from our sight. He is still with His disciples, still with His Church, still with you, beloved in the Lord. He promises: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

Jesus is with us. But how can that be? He has ascended into heaven, and as we confess in the Creed, He sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. Jesus is not, however, as John Calvin taught, and as our Reformed brothers and sisters still teach, confined to some locality called heaven, or the right hand of God. He sits at the right hand of God in heaven to be sure. But where is the right hand of God? Does God have an actual right hand? Not the Father. Only the Son, Jesus, has a right hand. The right hand of the Father is a figure of speech describing His great power and authority. That Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father means that He possesses now, not only according to His divine nature, but also according to His human nature, all the power and authority of God. That is to say, He rules all things on our behalf. The right hand of God is not a locality, 50 billion miles that direction. It can’t be found on a map. God’s right hand is everywhere. And that Jesus sits at the right hand of God means that He fills all things, as Paul says in Ephesians, “He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things” (4:10). But doesn’t the fact that Jesus is a human mean that He can be in only one place at one time? Again, that’s what John Calvin taught, and it’s really quite logical. But the Scriptures say otherwise. We can say things about Jesus that we can’t say about any other human being, because while He is fully and truly human, Jesus is also fully and truly God. And He is one person with two natures, and we dare never separate the natures, lest we have two Jesuses. Where the one Jesus is, He is there as God and as man. And so Jesus, as God and man, can be, and is, in more than one place at one time. He is all places at all times.

This means that when Jesus says that He is with you, He doesn’t mean it the way I might mean it if I say “I’m with you in spirit.” When I say “I’m with you in spirit,” I really mean I’m not with you. I may be thinking about you, but in no sense am I with you. When Jesus says He’s with you, He means He’s with you! Bodily. As God and as Man. He’s not just thinking about you, He’s present with you. He’s with you now. He’s with you everywhere you go. You are never alone, because Jesus is always with you, as God and as Man. It is a profound mystery that Almighty God in human flesh is with you. Immanuel, God with us. The King of the universe rules all things for your benefit. And as Man, He sympathizes with your weaknesses. He has been tempted in every way, as you are, yet without sin. In all your suffering, physical, emotional, and spiritual, you have the presence of One who suffered all the torments of hell on the cross for your forgiveness and salvation. You have a Savior who knows what it means to be sad, to be forsaken, to be lonely, to be in physical agony and agony of soul. You have a Savior who has stared death in the face. You have a Savior who died. You have a Savior who is risen. And He’s with you! Really, bodily, with you.

Don’t stare up in the sky this Ascension Day. That is not where you will see Jesus. One Day you will see Him returning in the same way He ascended, on a cloud. But until that Day, know that He is with you, and He is with you in a very particular way. Don’t look for Him down in your heart. Don’t look for Him in your feelings or your reason. Look for Him where He has promised to be for you. He has promised to be present for you, for your forgiveness, life, and salvation, in the preaching, in the Scriptures, in your Baptism, in holy Absolution, and in the Supper of His body and blood. Yes, he is truly and substantially present, bodily, in His Supper. His true body and blood are in, with, and under the bread and the wine. Again, how this can be is a great mystery, but we can say things about Jesus that we can’t say about any other human being. And of course, we take Him at His Word when He says of the bread, “This is my body,” and of the wine, “This is my blood.”

Jesus has promised to be with His Church, and for His Church, especially in His divinely appointed means of grace. Remember, there was no conclusion to His blessing as He was hidden from the disciples’ sight by the cloud. Jesus still raises His pierced hands in blessing over His Church. He blesses us with His eternal presence, with and for us in the Word and the Sacrament. Jesus is now hidden from our eyes. But we always know where we can find Him. We don’t look up into the sky. We find Him here in His Word and in His Church. We find Him in the flesh. And wherever we find Him in the flesh, we find Him also in His divinity. We find in the one person of Jesus, God and Man, a gracious God who loves us and forgives us and calls us His own. Beloved in the Lord, God has gone up with a shout! Rejoice. And know, that though you do not see Him now with your eyes, He is with you. Bodily. In His Word and in Baptism and particularly with His body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. He promises it. And you can take that promise with you to the grave and back again. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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