Jesus is not far away. The fact that Jesus ascended into heaven does not mean He is now lightyears away from earth. Jesus is near.
Jesus loves me! He is near.
He is with His Church so dear.
And the Spirit He has sent
By His Word and Sacrament.
(ELH 179 v.4)
The proximity of Jesus is not only about His divine nature, who He is as true God and His omnipresence, but also includes His human nature, who He is as true Man, born of the Virgin Mary. The whole Jesus, not a divided Jesus, is near us. His One Person and two natures, divine and human, are not divided; His human body is not in a galaxy far, far away. He, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who suffered, died, was buried, rose again, and ascended into heaven, is as near as His Word, as near as His Baptism, His Absolution, His Body and Blood in His Supper. This is the great comfort our Lord desires us to know, to receive, to believe.
The truth of the presence of Jesus Christ with us here and now is not a truth subject to the prying of the human mind as it attempts to measure the distance from earth to heaven using a universe-sized caliper. It is a truth revealed to us in God’s Word, one which is received by faith. It is a truth that brings us the great comfort of knowing that the One who promised to be with us always is doing just that: being with us right now.
There are many enemies of Christ and His people that work to create distance between the Good Shepherd and His flock. Much of that satanic work is directed at creating doubt about the promises of Jesus. To quiet doubts, we hear the voice of Jesus, brought to us by the work of God the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings us God’s Word and blessed Sacraments. Through those God-given ways of bringing divine mercy and forgiveness to each of us, the Holy Spirit does His work of calling, gathering, enlightening, and sanctifying the whole Church on earth and keeping it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.
This comfort is necessary in this world filled with trial and struggle, with doubts and fears. Jesus did not shy away from letting His disciples know what their future held as they followed Him. “Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy” (John 16:20). We have the Comforter, the very One Jesus promised to send (John 14:26, 16:7). By this Comforter we receive joy that replaces our sorrow. We receive forgiveness to cover our sin, salvation to replace our condemnation, life to replace death—all given to us through the Word of God, the washing of regeneration, the Body and Blood of Jesus, given and shed for you for the remission of sins.
Jesus is not far away. He comes to us in the ways He gives us to know and find Him—not just anywhere, but where His Word is. There we are to find Him, His promises, and thereby to be comforted, confident in the Christ-for-us.
O grant that in Thy holy Word
We here may live and die, dear Lord;
And when our journey endeth here,
Receive us into glory there.
(ELH 511 v. 9)
Reverend Thomas Rank
Scarville/Center Lutheran Parish