The Seventh Sunday of Easter

Portions of a sermon on the Ascension of Jesus (based on Mark 16:14-20) by Martin

Luther in 1523. [German text: Erlangen Edition, 12:169; Walch Edition, 11:1256; St. Lou-
is Walch, 11:931.]

Now we must consider the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the first place, it is
easily said and understood that the Lord ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand

of God. But they are dead words to the under-
standing if they are not grasped with the heart.

We must, therefore, conceive of his ascension and

Lordship as something active, energetic and con-
tinuous, and must not imagine that he sits above

while we hold the reins of government down here.
Nay, he ascended up thither for the reason that

there he can best do his work and exercise domin-
ion. Had he remained upon earth in visible form,

before the people, he could not have wrought so
effectually, for all the people could not have been
with him and heard him. Therefore, he inaugurated
an expedient which made it possible for him to be in touch with all and reign in all, to
preach to all and be heard by all, and to be with all. Therefore, beware lest you imagine
within yourself that he has gone, and now is, far away from us. The very opposite is true:
While he was on earth, he was far away from us; now he is very near.
Reason cannot comprehend how this can be. Therefore it is an article of faith. Here one
must close his eyes and not follow his reason but lay hold of all by faith. For how can
reason grasp the thought that there should be a being like ourselves, who is all-seeing

and knows all hearts and gives all men faith and the Spirit; or that he sits above in heav-
en, and yet is present with us and in us and rules over us? Therefore, strive not to com-
prehend, but say: This is Scripture and this is God’s Word, which is immeasurably higher

than all understanding and reason. Cease your reasoning and lay hold of the Scriptures,
which testify of this being – how he ascended to heaven and sits at the right hand of
God and exercises dominion. Let us examine some Scripture bearing upon this matter.
… This, then, is the power [the Lord] causes to be preached, that all who believe in him
are released from captivity. I believe in him by whom sin, death, and all things that afflict
us, were led captive. It is a pleasing discourse, and full of comfort, when we are told that
death is taken away and slain, so that it is no longer felt. However, it affords pleasure
and comfort only to those who believe it. You will not find release from captivity in your
works, fastings, prayers, castigations, tonsures, and gowns, and whatever more things
you may do; but only in the place where Christ sits, whither he ascended and whither he
led captivity with him. Hence, he who would be freed from sin and delivered from Satan
and death, must come thither where Christ is. Now, where is he? He is here with us, and
for this purpose did he sit down in heaven, that he might be near unto us. Thus, we are
with him up there and he is with us down here. Through the word he comes down and
through faith we ascend up.