Just like the disciples, we look up in the sky in awe. We don’t understand the Ascension. We know what the Bible says—that Jesus was taken up in the cloud and disappeared from the sight of the disciples. But we don’t understand it, and we don’t like those things we can’t understand. It is a stumbling block to the world, because the world only believes the things it can see, and now Jesus has removed Himself from our sight.
There are two things of greatest importance at the Ascension. First, Christ ascended to His Father’s right hand as a human being and not simply as God. When He became a human in Mary’s womb, He denied Himself so that He did not always or fully use His divine attributes as a man. He was still true God, but He did not exercise His powers. If He had, then He could not have been killed, thwarting His very purpose for coming: to keep the Law for us, to be killed as the Sacrifice for our sins.
When it was complete, His body rested in the tomb as a man. The resurrection was the reunion of His human body and soul. Since it was finished, He no longer denied Himself. He passed through the rock and the locked doors in His human body. His appearance was changed in such a way that, although the scars left by the cross remained, He was not easily identified by sight alone. The disciples need faith to know that it was Him, that He was risen from the dead, that He had come in peace.
Then, forty days after the Resurrection, He visibly ascended to His Father’s right hand to receive His place in the Kingdom and rule by His mercy. He ascended as a man, paving the way for us not only out of Hell but into heaven. He is there now, as a man, in His body and soul inherited from Mary, with scars on His hands and feet and side.
The second thing of greatest importance regarding the resurrection: He has removed His visible presence. He is not among us as He was among the disciples before the crucifixion. He does not deny Himself at all but fully and always uses all of His divine rights and attributes as a Man. Yet He has promised to be among us, to be with us always, to the end of the age.
He is present now with us, not simply according to His Divine nature, but as a man—with us and for us according to His promised bodily presence in the Holy Communion. He reveals this to St. Paul after the Ascension. Even though He has removed His visible presence, in His exalted state His human nature is not limited. As a man, He uses His Divine rights and attributes and can be physically present in more than one place.
This, of course, is a mystery. We do not comprehend it. We confess it and believe it. If, by faith, we can worship the Babe in Mary’s arms as the uncreated, eternal Creator of all things, then we should not hesitate to take Christ as His Word and confess that He gives His actual, risen body and blood for us to eat and drink in the Supper for the forgiveness of sins. This we believe according to the accomplished sacrifice of the cross and Christ’s clear word. We do not partake of a simply memorial meal, but we receive the fruit of the cross, the forgiveness of sins, and are joined to Him forever.
And He is here among us today. Our Lord says, “Where two or three are gathered in My Name, I am with them.” He is with us, speaking, absolving, washing, and feeding us. He is risen and ascended, but He is not gone. Don’t gawk into the sky; come where He promises to be. Don’t look up at the sky; look at bread and wine and water, and see Christ. Then look around and see Him also in your neighbor. He is with you, just as He promised. 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.