Easter 7 Friday
“And I am no longer in the world; but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep those whom you have given me in your name, so that they may be one, even as we are one.”
Here the question is raised: Since Christ says that he is coming to the Father, he must remain in the world. For we believe that the prophets were right when they said that God is in all places and fills heaven and earth, as it is often written in the psalms, e.g., in Psalm 139:8, that he is both in heaven and in the abyss or hell. And St. Paul says in Acts 17:27-28: “He is not far from any one of us; for in him we live, move, and exist,” so that he is present and lets himself be found wherever people seek and call upon him. … How, then, does he say here that he is no longer in the world and makes much ado as if he went far away so that we could no longer have him among us? Answer: There are two ways of addressing this. One way is that of the enthusiasts. They say that Christ ascended into heaven and now is seated there as in a swallow’s nest. That is, they flutter about with their thoughts according to the eyes and sight, which can only be directed at one place at a time; it cannot be directed to heaven and earth at once. They are saying that Christ must be enclosed and circumscribed in a single place so that he cannot be elsewhere simultaneously. Accordingly, they want to conclude from their sight and thoughts from this or similar verse that Christ cannot be everywhere with his body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. But we respond according to Scripture and say: “Being in this world means to be in this outward, empirical existence, that is, in the life that the world uses and lives, which is called a natural life in which one must eat, drink, sleep, work, own a house and a farm, where one, in a word, must use the world and all necessities of this life.” Again, we call all those no longer in the world who are withdrawn and separate from all those things I just recounted, so that they no longer need to eat, drink, walk, stand. They, in short, no longer live in natural, bodily works, … not that he has completely left the world and is no longer with us, but that he no longer needs to provide for this earthly life as a man would. This is why he now no longer lives in a worldly manner, that is, in this bodily life with all its necessities. This is why their ideas are humbug and loose babble when they dream that “going from the world to the Father” means leaving heaven and earth for a particular place. Otherwise the devil alone would rule the world, so that God would have no place here, and Christ would be neither in the Lord’s Supper nor in baptism and not even, if we believe them, in the hearts of the believers. … For, tell me, where is the Father? Certainly not above in the swallow’s nest. But if he comes to the Father, he must be everywhere the Father is. But the Father is everywhere, within and without heaven and earth and all creatures so that he cannot be tied to a particular place as the stars are affixed to the sky. For we must say and believe that he is with us wherever we call upon him, in the dungeon, water, fire, and all needs. … Remaining and being kept in God’s name means retaining the Word pure and unadulterated in the heart. For this is God’s name or honor and praise that he is preached and known that he gives the forgiveness of sins and saves only out of pure grace through Christ. Those who remain in this doctrine or faith are God’s; they call him their God and Father; they are named after him and are holy. For as God is so is also his Word and name. And as his name is holy, so we too become honestly holy by it, not by our life or works. Now, those who let go of the Word, are already no longer holy, even if they seek and claim other great holiness.