Posted on May 26th, 2017
The Ascension is like staring at the sun. The more you look, the less you see. It’s a mystery. It doesn’t make any sense, but then neither does Jesus walking upon the waters, or passing through closed doors, or being born of a virgin. The creation of the world, or the raising of the dead– it’s all incomprehensible to us.
The Lord’s Ascension instead comforts the simple believer that Jesus is with the Father, and yet keeps on caring for us. Part of His care is calling us to repentance. “To repent means nothing other than to truly acknowledge sins, to be heartily sorry for them, and to stop doing them” (FC SD V). To this then is added remission of sins. This means they are taken away, the debt is cancelled.
This is a total declaration. Sins are gone. There is nothing that comes after. Sins are taken away, blotted out in His name. You are looked upon by the Father as His beloved child. Can you then dare to say, “I will hold my brother’s sins against him, I will make him pay”? If God forgives sins, who are you to hold on to the sin? We all stand together under the cross, baptized in the same name, fed with the same body and blood, blessed with the same blessing.
Three simple phrases surround the Ascension. They show us what the Ascension means for us: “He blessed them.” “They worshipped Him.” “They returned to Jerusalem with great joy.”
“He blessed them.” We don’t know the specific words, although I suspect it is a form of the blessing given to Aaron: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”
The main thing is that the blessing, the good word from Jesus, is what remains, what rings out throughout the Church. The Ascension of Jesus means that God is continually saying to us, “Peace.”
We are prone to be angry and want justice. We are upset and don’t understand why the suffering continues. We hurt and want the pain to stop. And constantly the voice of Jesus keeps speaking to us as to a raging storm: “Peace! Be still!”
“They worshipped Him.” Luke’s Gospel ends where it began, in the temple, with worship. Life only makes sense when our eyes are fixed on Jesus: Jesus crucified for us, Jesus victorious over death for us, Jesus returning for us. The Divine Service trains us to see all of life through this lens, that Jesus is Lord, He is with us, and He is returning for us.
This being true, the disciples “returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” What’s in Jerusalem? The Temple. The promise of the coming Holy Spirit. But there’s something else: Persecution. Suffering. Death.
Still they go. They go knowing that life will be hard. Life will be lived in the valley. They will not be wealthy. They will not be comfortable. They will be hated and hounded. All of them except John will be killed.
Yet they go with joy! This is only possible because everything has changed. Jesus is risen from the dead. They have His blessing. They have the remission of sins. They have His peace. They know that He is not gone into heaven, but rather He has received all the heavens into Himself. He is with them always, even to the end of the age. He is with them in His blessing, His good word. He is with them in His Supper. He is with them in life. He is with them in death. He is with them in the grave. He is with them in the resurrection. He is with them.
So it does not matter what the world does. It does not matter how others treat them. Though everything be cold and dark and they are alone, yet they are never alone. They have Him. They have His blessing.
This now is the pattern of our own lives. He blesses us. We worship Him. We go into the heart of danger with great joy. +INJ+