While visiting our ELS churches this past year, I have noticed pictures (altar, stained glass, above the exiting doorway) and statuary of the ascending Lord Jesus. In asking whether this depicts the ascending Lord or the returning Lord, there is often silence. In truth, it can be both. Recall how the disciples were disrupted in staring into the sky by the angels. They were told, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). What was Jesus doing as He ascended? …Lifting up His hands He blessed them. While He blessed them, He parted from them… (Luke 24:50-51).
Those two images of Jesus blessing us as He ascended and upon His return make good bookends to what goes on in our divine services in our houses of the Lord. Despite removing His visible presence among us, Jesus promised that He would be with us to the end of the age as we observe all that He has commanded us to do. As the gracious water of life is applied to the person being baptized in Jesus’ name, he or she is clothed in Christ. This is true for us all: gathered together in His name, living in our baptismal grace, hearing His Word preached for us and spoken of in our Christian conversations. Also, as we receive in the holy meal Jesus’ true body and blood given and shed for us, we receive the forgiveness of sins in this special form of presence among us.
Observing the ascension of our Lord on May 26 should hold great significance for you, dear Christian. Think of these two promises we have in regard to our Lord ascending to the right hand of the Father:
1. Jesus said: “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). The Church has received the Spirit in full measure at Pentecost (June 5) on account of Jesus’ ascension and He brings Je- sus to us in the appointed means of grace.
2. God seated [Christ] at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and author- ity and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church (Ephesians 1:20-22). From this exalt- ed position of power, our God/Man Savior, Jesus Christ, rules everything in this world so that even through the evil machinations of sinful mankind, we, Jesus’ Church, are blessed beyond measure.
These two festivals, the Ascension of our Lord and Pentecost, should hold great significance for you as you are served by your Lord, awaiting His return in blessing. Every time your pastor concludes the service with the benediction, holding up his hands in blessing, know that he represents your ascend- ed and returning Lord. Lo, Jesus is truly with you always even to the end of time, just as His words and promises declare, giving you His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. What greater blessings can there be?
President Glenn Obenberger