Pastoral Commentary: Acended but still here
Are you ready for the holiday? This time of the year, you might say, “Oh, yes, Memorial Day is coming! We’ll do the picnic or the barbecue or the campout. We’ll pay our respects at the cemetery to that service member who defended our country.” What other holiday could there be? Flag Day is not until June. Independence Day is not until July. But these are national holidays of temporary importance—holidays, “holy” days, only in the sense of being held sacred by a nation.
God’s people, His “chosen race,” His “royal priesthood,” His “holy nation, a people for His own possession” (1 Peter 2:9), remember an entirely different and sacred holy day which is observed this very week and must not be forgotten. Forty days after Easter, in the presence of His disciples, “as they were looking on, He [Jesus] was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as He went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, Who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 2:9-11). The holiday, the “holy” day, is the Ascension of our Lord Jesus.
If Jesus said that He is with us always, to the end of the age—and He did say this—and if Jesus ascended again into heaven forty days after His resurrection—and He did ascend into heaven—can both be true? Yes!
The promises of Jesus’ ascension are great indeed! Jesus has gone to prepare a place in His Father’s house for all who repent of their sin, trust that His death on the cross has forgiven them, and take refuge for eternal life in His resurrection from the dead. The ascension of Jesus assures us of the heavenly inheritance that the Father has in store for us, “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Peter 1:4). The ascension of Jesus assures us that again on the Last Day He will come to raise the dead and welcome all believers in Him, with resurrection bodies like His, into His eternal glorious kingdom.
Still, Jesus abides with us. Still, He is with you. Still, He is here. How can this be? Where the Gospel of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ is spoken, there is Jesus. Where the gracious gift of Baptism is given to one conceived and born in sin and condemned to death, new and eternal life is granted to that one through the uniting with Jesus into His death and resurrection. Jesus Christ now lives with and in that one. Jesus, at His Table, still says to those who partake the bread and wine connected to the promises of His Word that they partake of His very body and blood. Yes, the living Lord Jesus is there present at the table to give forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation.
Jesus is ascended but still here? Yes! Just as He promised in His Word. Now we can “proclaim the excellencies of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
Rev. Michael Schotte leads the St. Paul Lutheran Church, at Preston, Kansas.