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“He Ascended into Heaven…”
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Jesus has done all the work of salvation! So let me ask you this: What good is the Passion of the Christ if there is no one to proclaim it? What good is Our Lord Jesus shedding His blood if there is no man to immerse you in that same blood? What good is Our Lord Jesus giving His Body and Blood for us to eat and drink if there is no man to serve it? What good is the Lord’s pardon, absolution and remission of all your sins if there is no man to speak that Word into you? What good is our Savior reconciling us to Our Father if there is no man to be God’s ambassador?
It’s not just that our Lord’s earthly ministry time is finished. He has completed our salvation, and destroyed our death, and crushed Satan and his demons. So our Lord Jesus, the Savior of all, mercifully authorizes certain men, so that He might speak and work through them to proclaim and distribute Himself in preaching and in His holy sacraments. His desire is to draw all people to Himself, to be the one Shepherd of the one churchly flock, and in doing so to restore all people to full communion with God by making them partakers of His divine nature.
In our arrogance, we act as if Jesus has left these things in our hands to do with as we please. We treat His gifts as if He has left us only a vague outline that we can manipulate. We act as if the Holy Spirit is a slave to our whims, so we can treat the Church and Christ’s ministers as our slaves. But our Lord’s desire is not that we take what is His and do what seems good to us. The Lord’s desire is that His apostles and their successors speak and work in His name by the direction of the Spirit. So in these latter days, our Lord Jesus, working through His Spirit, delegates some of His authority to the men He has called. Through the pastors He Calls and Ordains, our Lord Jesus extends His hand and “throws His voice,” so to speak. And in this way He drowns sinners in a baptismal flood, and He distributes His Body and blood to the people He died to save.
So when our Lord tells these sinful, confused men to make disciples; when He gives them His authority and promises that He will work through them; when He says to preach and work in His name; our Lord is clearly and forthrightly saying that this work is not theirs, but His. With these words, our Lord unmistakably says to these Apostles, to their successors, and to the Church, that He will do His work; He will speak His Word; He will give His sacraments; He will perform His ministry. And through these gifts and actions, He will restore all men to communion with God and with each other. Why He chooses to work this way, and why He has determined that this is best, is not ours to question or change. Ours is simply to rejoice and believe.
Here, then, is your comfort: You can be certain that when those men ordained by Christ give you His ministry—particularly when these men baptize, absolve, preach, and administer the Eucharist—they do not act on their own authority; they do these things “in the stead and by the command” of Jesus Christ. And you can be sure that what they speak and do in His name is valid and certain precisely because it is not their work; it is the Lord who gives you these holy mysteries.
In this way, then, Our Lord’s ascension is your comfort and delight, your joy and hope, and a necessary part of your salvation. If Jesus had not ascended, His ministry and, indeed, His very body would have been confined to a particular time and place. But when He ascended on high, “He gave gifts to men”—most especially the gift of Himself in His body and blood through the hands and ministry of those whom He has called and ordained. Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.