The Ascension of Our Lord
“Christ Has Not Forsaken You”
St. Mark 16:14-20
May 30, 2019
Seminarian Kyle Mullins
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Where is God? This is a question many people ask themselves, especially in times of hardship and despair. The disciples may have asked themselves this question, locked away from the world in the upper room after the death of Jesus. It’s easy to picture the scene of the disciples sitting in quiet, slowing picking at their food, not really eating, but rather going through the mindless motions while trying to process what exactly has just happened. Their Lord, the one who was supposed to usurp their enemies and usher in the New Kingdom of Israel was dead. They had put their faith in Him, confessed Him as Lord and God. They had followed Him and done good enough, hadn’t they? But He had left them. Now they were alone, in a world of death and despair; hopeless, faithless. Instead of believing the account told to them that Christ rose from the dead, they had hardened their hearts and believed that God had left them. Their sinful nature wanted them to despair, to turn in on themselves and believe that Jesus had forsaken them.
And the same is true for you. Whether it be a great tragedy, or simply a bad day at work, the devil, the world, and your sinful nature do not want you to believe in God’s Word or confess it to others, but would rather have you wallow in your own despair, believing that you have been forsaken by God. You demand of God, “What have I done to deserve this? Haven’t I served You?! Haven’t I loved my neighbor and loved You!?” And in a world corrupted by sin, your sinful nature wants to believe this, that you are alone, that your faith has been in vain, and that God has left you. As a fallen person you wallow in the despairs of this world, but the narrative doesn’t end with the disciples in this state. It doesn’t end here because Christ did not only die, but was raised from the dead.
In the midst of their unbelief, Jesus presented himself to His disciples. How do you think the disciples would have responded to seeing Jesus at this moment? Would they have been overjoyed to realize they have not been forsaken as they so feared? Or do you think they would have been terrified to realize they had been so wrong and had doubted God? Or, would they have been angry. Angry that Jesus had left them in such a world of despair and misery, demanding that He explain why He had left them! But when He comes to them, He does not offer them an explanation or console them in their current actions, but rebukes them. He rebukes them for their faithlessness and hardness of heart and directs them not to their situation or their own thoughts or feelings about God, but to the Gospel. Jesus says to them, “Go into all the world, and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
Without Christ’s death on the cross, without your baptism, without hearing this message of salvation, you truly would have reason to despair and feel forsaken in this world. However, the disciples, and you, were not forsaken. This is the comfort that you have in times of hardship in this fallen world. Instead of being left to the hopelessness of your own sinful thoughts and feelings, Jesus has sent His messengers to direct you toward baptism. To the gift of salvation won for you by Jesus on the cross. Furthermore, this baptism and this Word are not merely reminders of Christ, but are where Christ actually is.
Jesus was with the disciples after His resurrection, and He remains with you after His ascension as well. Jesus was taken up into heaven and “sat down at the right hand of God.” This is not to be taken as Christ is away from you, rather this means that Christ sits at the seat of power. This seat is described by Paul in Romans as the seat from which Jesus intercedes to the Father for us. This is also the seat described by the prophet Daniel which the Son of Man receives from the Ancient of Days and is given dominion over the Kingdom and people and from which He will judge the world, condemning His enemies, those who do not believe, but proclaiming as righteous those who believe and are baptized. This is the seat from which Jesus reigns and has dominion over the earth, from which He is our dear Lord and we are His dear servants.
Jesus has not forsaken you, but is intimately involved in the governance of His creation. This is seen further by the closing statement, “they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them.” Here it is seen that Jesus did not leave them. He did not leave them when He died on the cross and He did not leave them when He ascended into heaven. Jesus took up the seat of Godly authority and power and continued to be with His people. He was with the disciples in signs and wonders when they preached His Gospel before the world. And He is with you now, in the midst of the hardships and tragedies of this world. He is with you in the preaching of His word. He is with you in your baptism. And He is with you when you commune at the Lord’s Supper and receive His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins and continued nourishment in the faith.
On account of Christ’s resurrection, and on account of your baptism, which raises you in Christ’s resurrection, you do not succumb to the despair of this world, but revel in Christ’s salvation for you, which is proclaimed to the ends of the Earth. You are not forsaken by God, despite any hardship or tragedy. You are treasured by God, who paid the price of His only Son in order to save you. And Jesus has not left you, but has raised from the dead and ascended into heaven to be with you in Word and sacrament until He comes back at the end of time. When the question arises “Where is God?” we know He is right here with us in His Church.
Alleluia, Christ has risen! He has risen indeed, Alleluia!