THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD
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In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 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.”
14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.
Devotion (This is inspired and based on Dr. Martin Chemnitz’s The Two Natures of Christ)
Why do we celebrate the ascension of our Lord? The Creeds confess the ascension as a key event in our Lord’s saving work that will culminate in his return in glory on the Last Day. The ascension confirms what the resurrection evidences demonstrate: that Jesus is the one Lord and creator who rises from the dead and ascends to receive His kingdom. And it marks the completion of our Lord’s redemptive work.
Hebrews 1:3 says “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
We speak of the right hand of the divine majesty, or the right hand of His power or strength (Luke 22:69), at which Christ is described as sitting here in time. Elsewhere in Scripture the right hand of God does not signify a member or part of God, nor merely a place of quiet and bliss, but it indicates the power and activity of God by which He drives back His enemies.
He is present with His own, listens to you with His grace, His blessing, His help, His liberation, His defense, His preservation, His salvation, as shown in His miracles and all His glorious divine works.
Christ according to His divine nature is the very right hand of God, for the Father does all His works of divine majesty and power through the Son. Through His human nature He is working for you, and sits at the right hand of God, because it has been personally united with the divine nature of the Logos, which is the very right hand of God.
Now after He has laid aside His humiliation in the exaltation or glorification, it has been brought into the full and manifest use of the power of the right hand of God. He had hidden this majesty during His life on earth and did not make full use but only when He wished.
The expression “to sit” in this passage (Psalm 110:1; 1 Cor. 15:25) does not refer to the reclining position of the body or to the occupancy of a particular place, but to His power and to the glorious administration of His office of King, High Priest, and Messiah and to His dominion over all things.
Scripture speaks in this way of Christ’s session at the right hand of God so that it may show clearly that also with respect to His human nature, according to which, He was crucified, dead and raised again, Christ is placed at the right hand of the majesty and power of God.
The terms which are added in the description of this session, such as “in heaven,” “in the heavens,” “in the highest,” do not restrict the right hand of God to one place, nor do they imply that Christ according to His human nature is sitting at the right hand of God in only one place in heaven; but these expressions mean that the majesty and power are not created, earthly, or lowly, but rather that they are heavenly, lofty, and divine.
For it is said of God Himself, who is limited to no one place: “Our God is in heaven, He does all things which He wishes.” (Psalm 115:3) So, to say that Christ – as God and Man- is seated is to say that He is still acting on your behalf as your Prophet, Priest, and King.
Not the least part of the work of Christ as our Mediator and Savior is that as Head He is present with His members, gathering, ruling, defending, preserving, and saving His Church.
For in all your afflictions and temptations—in the depraved infirmity of your nature, among the various offenses and the many pitfalls under the powerful tyranny and the rage of Satan, the world, and all the enemies of the church— your greatest and only comfort is our knowledge that Christ is present as our King, our High Priest, our Head, and the pastor of us who are His sheep in the midst of ravening wolves.
He does not place the burdens of governing in His kingdom on the shoulders of others through delegated work, as the custom of our kings is, for the government is always on His shoulders (Is. 9:6), but when He Himself is present He cares for us, governs, defends, preserves, and saves us, as His peculiar people whom He has bought with His own blood.
We have, moreover, an express word and a specific promise instituted in a particular and definite way, ordained as a part of His will and testament by the Son of God Himself on the night in which He was betrayed, a promise which Christ ratified also after His ascension by sitting at the right hand of the Majesty in His glory in heaven, a promise which was repeated to Paul, a promise that He wills to be present with His body and blood in the observance of His Supper as it is celebrated in the gathering of the Church here on earth in accord with His institution.
The words state that Christ desires to be present in His Church with His Body and Blood, or according to His human nature, wherever His Supper is celebrated on earth. Through His assumed humanity, He wills to bestow His benefits on us, to confirm and seal them, and thus to accomplish in the Church His work of giving us life, according to each nature, through His life-giving flesh.
This is a doctrine which is so full of consolation, that is, that the Son of God, our Mediator and Savior, according to the words of His testament wills to be present with His Church here on earth, which is fighting under the banner of the cross and struggling in this vale of tears.
For He wishes to be present also in and with His assumed nature by which He is of the same substance with us, related to us, our Brother, our very flesh, according to which flesh He does not blush to call us His brothers and in which flesh He was tempted.
So that He can share in our sufferings, according to which flesh Christ is our Head and we His members. And just as no one hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, so also Christ does to His Church, since we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bone (Eph. 5:29).
For He now fills all things in heaven and on earth. He continues “to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1), preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins through those sent in His name (Mark 16:14–20; Luke 24:44–53), and giving you His true body and blood in the Supper.
He is Lord over all things for the sake of the Church. And He continually serves as your Prophet, Priest, and King.
He whom heaven cannot contain has raised your human nature to share fully in the glory of God. You who believe and are baptized into Christ’s body are already sitting in the heavenly places; for you are in Him who is at the Father’s right hand.
When He comes again in the clouds on the Last Day, you also will appear with Him in glory.
No matter what is going on this truth of what Christ’s Ascension means for us stands as our hope.
Almighty God, as Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into the heavens, so may we also ascend in heart and mind and continually dwell there with Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
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