- Written by Pastor Shawn Nettleton Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Created: May 21 2020 May 21 2020
Friends in Christ,
Christ is risen and ascended on high! Alleluia!
The Word of the Lord from Luke 24:44–53:
Then [Jesus] said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.
Today, forty days after the Resurrection of our Lord, the Church celebrates with great joy the Ascension of our Lord. It is an important, but often forgotten Feast Day in the Church. Fr. Patrick Reardon put it this way:
The Ascension of Christ is not, then, an afterthought, a sort of postlude to salvation. It is not merely an appropriate but optional parade celebrated in consequence of the victory. It is an integral part of the triumph itself; or more properly, it is the crowning moment of the Lord’s priestly offering. The Lord’s Ascension is a ritas, a liturgical event … The Ascension of Christ is the event where heaven and earth are joined forever … The place on earth where heaven and earth meet is called the Church, which finds her identity in the exaltation of Christ. The mystery of the Ascension leads immediately to the mystery of the Church. 1
The Ascension of our Lord is indeed His coronation as our new and great High Priest forever. And as our great High Priest, Jesus serves as our mediator who continually prays for us and intercedes for us before the Father. St. Paul rejoiced at this, asking, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:33–34).
The Ascension of our Lord is also His glorification by which He restores our humanity with the Father and so it is also the glorification of our humanity. This is not man become God, but God become Man to rescue fallen humanity and bring mankind back to God.
Our Lord's Ascension is also His exaltation and His ultimate vindication. Jesus has overcome His enemies. He has overcome death, He is at the Father’s right hand and He is in charge of all things! Christ's Ascension, then, is also His coronation as King of the universe. The Treasury of Daily Prayer notes,
Jesus’ ascension to the Father is His entrance to the greater existence beyond the confines of time and space, being no longer bound by the limitations of His state of humiliation. Jesus now sits at the right hand of God, which Luther correctly taught is everywhere, having again taken up the power and authority that were His since before time. Yet our Lord is present with us who remain bound by time and space. He is with us as true God and true man, exercising His rulership in the Church through the means of grace which He established. 2
Our Lord's Ascension does not stand in contrast with His promise to be with us “to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20), nor does it intend to teach that He has gone far away from us for a time, but rather, that as the God Man, our Ascended Lord even now fills all things, abides with, serves and rules His Church (Ephesians 1:20–23) as the Crucified and Risen Lord until His return.
The Ascension of our Lord is also the place where the public ministry of Jesus ends and the period of the church properly begins. As Jesus ascended to the Father, He promises the disciples (His Church) the gift of the Holy Spirit and blesses them. And as the disciples waited for the Spirit and the new community’s activity under God’s direction, there was not sorrow or sadness among the them but rather worship, joy, thanksgiving to God, as they prepared to take the message of Christ to the ends of the earth.
Jesus made good on His promise! As we wait with certain hope and great joy His return, we are not left as orphans. Jesus' hand of blessing is still upon us, His Spirit has been given, is with us, and in us as He sends us forth into the world as His witnesses. And since He lives and reigns as our great High Priest, our King of Kings and Lord of Lords, we go forth with confidence and great joy to seek the lost and care for the needy, always proclaiming and testifying to Him.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
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
The almighty and merciful Lord, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, bless and preserve you. Amen
Serving you in Christ,
Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Patrick Henry Reardon, Christ in the Psalms (Conciliar Press, 2000), 91–92.
- Treasury of Daily Prayer (CPH, 2008), 301–302.
Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at nettleton@StJohnsFC.org or at 970-305-2420.