The Ascended Christ is Now Close to Us

Ascension Day

 

“Luke 24:50-52

And he led them out as far as Bethany and lifted up his hands and blessed them. And as he blessed them, he parted from them and ascended into heaven. But they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.”

We should not think that he ascended and now sits up there and lets us rule things below. Instead, we should think that up there he can accomplish and rule the most. For if he had remained visibly before the people on earth, he would not have been able to accomplish as much. For not all people could have been with him and hear him. This is why he began a way in which he deals with all people and rules in them all so as to preach to them all and they all hear him and so as to be with all. Therefore, beware lest you think that he now has gotten far from us because the opposite is true: When he was on earth he was far from us, but now he is close to us. But reason cannot comprehend how this takes place. This is why it is an article of the faith. Here you must close your eyes and not follow reason, but grasp it by faith. For how can reason comprehend that there is a man like us who sees all people and knows all hearts and who gives faith and the Spirit to all, or that he sits in heaven above while he is with us and in us and rules us? This is why you should leave your thinking at home and say: This is Scripture and God’s Word. This is immeasurably higher than all reason and understanding. Therefore, just leave reason behind and lay hold of Scripture. It writes about this man how he ascended into heaven and sits and rules at the right hand of God. … In Psalm 68:18, it says: “You ascended on high and captured captivity; you received gifts for men, even the rebellious ones, so that God the Lord may dwell there.” … Just as his dying and death are deeply grounded in Scripture so are his kingdom, resurrection, and ascension. This is how one must understand his ascension; otherwise, it has no strength whatsoever. For what use is it when no more is preached than that he ascended and sits up there idly? For this is what the prophet wants to say in this psalm: … He is not only seated up there, but is also down here. And he ascended precisely in order to be down here to fill all things and to be able to be everywhere. This he could not have done on earth. For there not all bodily eyes could see him. This is why he took his seat where everybody can see him and he can deal with everyone to fill all creatures since he is present everywhere and all things are full of him. And nothing is too great in heaven and on earth for him to have power over it: It must do what he wills and no more. In this way, he not only rules and fills all creatures – this does not help my faith nor take my sin away – but also leads captivity captive. … By “captivity” he means the captivity that captures me and holds me captive. For I am Adam’s child, full of sin and dirt. This is why the law captured me so that my conscience is entangled and sentenced to death. … But Christ who had committed no sin and was full of righteousness trod under foot sin, death, and the devil and devoured them. And he captured everything that intended to capture us, so that sin and death are impotent now. Now, this is the power that he has preached so that all who believe in him are free from captivity. For I believe in him who has captured sin, death, and everything that assaults us. … Therefore, those who want to be free from sin and be rescued from the devil and death must get to where he is. But where is he? He is here with us, and he took his seat in heaven to be near to us. This is how we are on high with him and he is down here with us. By this sermon, he descends to us. And by faith, we ascend to him.

 

St. Louis ed., 11:940-944.

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