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To Ascend with Christ is our Blessed Privilege

Johann Gerhard

(Translated by Rev. C. W. Heisler, A.M.)

MEDITATE, O faithful soul, upon the ascension of thy Lord. Christ withdrew His visible bodily presence from us that faith in Him might have more abundant exercise; for blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed (John xx. 29). Where our treasure is there will our heart be also (Luke xii. 34). Christ, our treasure, is in heaven; let us then set our affections upon heavenly things, or meditate upon those things that are above (Col. iii. 2). The expectant bride awaits the coming of her spouse with the most ardent longings; so let the devout soul ever longingly await the coming of that day when she shall be admitted to the marriage-supper of the Lamb (Rev. xix. 7). Let her confidingly rest in the pledge of the Holy Spirit, whom the Lord, when He ascended to heaven, sent as the Comforter; let her trust in the merits of the body and blood of her Lord, which she receives in the Holy Supper, and let her firmly believe that our bodies, nourished with this heavenly food, shall some day rise again from the dead. What we now believe we then shall see; what we now hope for we then shall enjoy in glad reality. As we journey here, as pilgrims, the Lord is present with us, but in another and invisible form (Luke xxiv. 15); in our home in the heavenly fatherland above we shall know Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Our Saviour chose to ascend to heaven from the Mount of Olives (Acts i. 12); the olive branch is the emblem of peace and joy; it was fitting, therefore, that He who through His bitter passion brings peace to terrified and troubled consciences, and is received in the skies with most jubilant joy by the heavenly hosts, should ascend from the mount called the Mount of Olives. That sacred mount impressively calls us to heavenly things; let us heed the call and follow on with holy desires, since we may not follow with bodily feet. Moses in like manner went up into a mountain to speak with the Lord (Ex. xix. 3); in a mountain the holy patriarchs of old worshipped the Lord (John iv. 20); Abraham chose the mountainous district, while Lot chose the plain of Jordan (Gen. xiii. 11). Let the faithful soul forsake the low-lying plains of this world, and seek with holy devotion those heavenly heights; thus shall she enjoy the most blessed communion with God; thus shall she be able to worship God in spirit and in truth (John iv. 24), thus shall she with faithful Abraham escape the eternal burnings that shall overtake the plains of worldliness.

Bethany signifies the village of humility and affliction, through which the way to the heavenly kingdom lies open to us, just as Christ through the severest sufferings entered into His glory (Luke xxiv. 56). Hitherto heaven seemed to be closed to our souls, and the Paradise above guarded with a flaming sword (Gen. iii. 24); but now our triumphant Lord throws wide open the gates of heaven to us, that He may lead us back into our heavenly fatherland, from which by our sins we were excluded. The enraptured disciples stand gazing up into heaven (Acts i. 11); so let all true disciples of the Christ lift up their souls to the contemplation of things heavenly and divine.

O blessed Lord Jesus, how gloriously Thy passion hath ended! What a blessed and sudden transformation is here! Ah, in what awful anguish I saw Thee upon Mount Calvary, and now in what glory I behold Thee upon Mount Olivet! There Thou didst suffer alone; here Thou art attended by a vast multitude of the angelic hosts; there Thou didst ascend to the cross, here Thou dost ascend in a cloud to heaven; there Thou wast crucified between two thieves, here Thou dost exult among angelic choirs; there Thou was nailed to the cross as a condemned criminal, here, free from all condemnation, Thou art the deliverer of those condemned to eternal death; there Thou didst bleed and die, here Thou dost rejoice and triumph.

Christ is our glorious head; we are the members of His body; rejoice thou and shout for joy, O faithful soul, the ascension to heaven of thy Head. The glory of the head is the glory also of the members. Where our flesh reigns there let us believe that we too shall reign. Where our blood rules there let us hope that we too shall be glorious; though our sins would forbid this, yet our participation in His holy nature makes it possible. Where the head is there shall also the other members of the body be; Christ, our Head, hath gone into the heavens, hence the other members of the body with good reason hope to enter heaven, and not only so, but even now already have a possession in heaven. Christ came from heaven for our redemption; He returns thither for our glorification. He was born in the flesh for us, He suffered for us, and therefore He ascended for us. The passion of Christ wins our love; the resurrection of Christ strengthens our faith; the ascension of Christ confirms our hope.

We ought, however, to follow our heavenly Bridegroom not only in ardent desires, but also in good works. Into the celestial city shall enter nothing that defileth (Rev. xxi. 27), in token of which angels appeared at Christís ascension (Acts i. 10) as coming from the heavenly Jerusalem, and clothed in white apparel, as tokens of innocence and purity. Pride cannot ascend to heaven with the great Master of humility; nor evil with the Author of all goodness; nor discord with the Prince of peace; nor lust and wantonness with the Son of the Virgin; nor vice with the Parent of all virtue; nor sin with the Holy One, nor our sinful infirmities with the Great Physician. Does any one desire to behold God in the future life; let him live worthily in the sight of God in this life. Does anyone hope for the blessedness of heaven by and by; let him love not the world now. O blessed Lord Jesus, draw our hearts after Thee, we beseech Thee.

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