The Ascension: Christ’s Kind Absence

Preached at Redeemer Church on May 17, 2012.
See a previous Ascension sermon here.

John 16:7 – Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

We began the service by celebrating the glory of the Ascension, and that’s very, very good. But I want to take a step or two back from that celebration with one simple realization, and then, maybe, work our way to celebration again. This is what I want to remember:

Jesus left us. Notice: Jesus left us.

It’s not the whole story, no. He has promised to come back, and he resides with us by his Spirit. But his absence is a big part of the story: it’s 2000 years big–100 tides of dying generations. He left, and we don’t have him here to walk beside, to eat with, to see.

I want those things profoundly.
I want to see Christ and hear his voice.
I want him to come back.
It hurts here without him.
I love him.
I want him to come back.

Jesus, whose touch heals sickness,
Jesus, whose words heal souls,
Jesus, whose prayers satisfy needs,
Jesus, whose body bore my shame and guilt,
Jesus, who knows me,
Jesus left.

I ask -Why did he go? How can this be good?


Stop. It is good. We must start by saying, “it is good.” When I believe that Christ is perfectly good, I must believe that what he does is worth trusting. If he left, then it’s good for him to have left, no matter how puzzling it may be.

But let’s hold that puzzle in our minds for a while: I ache for Jesus, and I trust that he should be gone. My ache, and his absence, must be worth the good we gain from his departure, whatever that good is.

Let me put it this way: Christ’s embodied presence is so surpassingly good, so manifestly desirable, and so suited to our needs, that there must be an absurdly good reason for us not to have it. Whatever that reason is, we know that it’s magnificent–more magnificent, even, than Christ’s present physical presence would be. Why else would he have gone?

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