The Ascension of Our Lord
Topic: Biblical Verse: Ephesians 1:15–1:23
The Ascension of Our Lord
May 29, 2014
From the world’s perspective, today is just another day as we head toward the weekend and move into summer. But the Body of Christ sees today as not just another day, but as the day that marks our Lord’s ascension into heaven forty days after he rose from the dead. As we will confess in the Nicene Creed: “On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.” This is what Paul writes of in that second Scripture reading from Ephesians 1:
…what is the immeasurable greatness of his [the Father of glory] power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fill all in all (Ephesians 1:19-23).
And that is the mystery of Jesus’ ascension: how he is high and lifted up, seated at the Father’s right hand, and yet how he remains with us always, even to the end of the world (Matthew 28:20). St. Augustine explains it like this: “Christ, while in heaven, is also with us; and we, while on earth, are also with him. He is with us in his godhead and his power and his love; and we, though we cannot be with him in godhead as he is with us, can be with him in our love, our love for him” (A Sermon for Ascension, as recorded in For All the Saints: A Prayerbook for and by the Church, Vol. 3, pp. 1236-1237). And it is that love for Christ that holds us together, in the midst of all the challenges that come with this life. We grapple with what God’s Word tells us how Jesus is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion” even as we see so many things that appear to the contrary – so many things that do not look like they are under Jesus’ authority. What do we do with this? How do we reconcile this apparent contradiction?
It is helpful to consider that Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come.” We often pray this, but may not realize that God’s kingdom – his rule and reign – comes in three different forms. First, there is God’s kingdom of power as he rules over the universe – something already present here and now. Second, there is God’s kingdom of grace as he rules over his church on earth – something also already present here and now. Third, there is God’s kingdom of glory – something yet to be revealed when the words of the angels to those first disciples will be fully revealed; when “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1: 11). That is what we wait for – the glory yet to be revealed when Christ comes again to make all things new. And until Christ does come again, he calls us to be his witnesses “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). That is our mission as the Body of Christ until the Head of the Body, Christ our Savior, comes again.
Until that great and glorious day, Christ comes to us now in his life-giving Word and Sacraments here in the fellowship of believers. He comes to us under forms of bread and wine to give us his very Body and Blood. He does this to strengthen, encourage, and bless us with his risen and ascended presence. And isn’t that the best gift we can give to someone? Not things, but our very self – that is the greatest gift of all. And so, fellow believers, on this Ascension Day, come here to Christ’s table and receive this gift that we abide in him and he in us until he shall come again. Amen. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.