by Rev. Joshua Hayes
We believe that Christ “ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” For 40 days after He rose from the dead, Christ appeared to the apostles and preached to them about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). He was then “taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19). But why does Jesus sit at the right hand of the Father? Was He tired and is now resting? Does His ascension mean that He is now absent? What does Christ’s ascension mean for us? The Scriptures answer these questions, giving us hope and comfort.
Read Acts 1:611. In what manner was Jesus taken up into heaven? What do the following passages tell us about the significance of the cloud: Ex. 13:21; 16:10; 19:9; 40:34?
Some might think that since Jesus ascended into heaven, He is no longer with us or is only with us from a distance. But what promise has Jesus given to His Church (Matt. 28:20)? Read Mark 16:1420. How does Mark 16:20 emphasize that, though Jesus is ascended, He is not absent or idle?
Read Acts 2:2936. The Book of Acts shows us how Jesus’ ascension does not mean that He is absent, but that He continues to work through His apostles and in His Church (2 Cor. 5:20). Christ now sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, but this is not idle sitting. This is not lounging around or taking a break. This is the kind of sitting a king does upon his throne. When Christ, true God and true man, our brother according to the flesh, sits at the right hand of God, He exercises dominion.
In his sermon in Acts 2, Peter quotes Psalm 110 in reference to Jesus’ ascension. Read Psalm 110. What does it say Christ the Lord is doing at the right hand of God? Who are His enemies?
We are no longer Christ’s enemies because He has become our Lord and baptized us into His body. What comfort can we take in knowing that Christ reigns at God’s right hand for us?
Luther wrote that Christ ascended “to preserve us forever in God’s grace through his intercessions and to give us power and victory over the terrors of sin, Satan” and the temptations of this world and of our flesh (Luther’s Works, vol. 13, p. 320). These are our true enemies, yet Christ is far above them, and we, in Him, are too.
Read Eph. 1:1823. What does Christ’s ascension mean for us now as we live out our daily lives?
Paul emphasizes that Christ, our head, now rules over the events of human history for the benefit of His Church. There is no tragedy on the 6 p.m. news or in your life that Christ is not steering for the ultimate benefit and salvation of His elect. Risen and ascended, Christ has conquered sin and death. On Ascension Day (May 17), 40 days after Easter, remember that Christ is not absent but is present in the ministry of His saving Word and life-giving Sacrament. Consider asking your pastor to hold a special Ascension Divine Service on May 17 to celebrate just that.
> The Church observes the Ascension of Our Lord on May 17.
About the Author: The Rev. Joshua Hayes is pastor of St. John Lutheran Church, Crete, Neb.