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It is a time-tested maxim: “What goes up, must come down.” This is true for the stock market, it is true for emotions, and it is true for everything upon which gravity exerts its influence.

Jesus’ ascension reminds us that He flipped this maxim to be: “He who comes down, must go up.” Or in the inspired words of Paul, “Now this, ‘He ascended’—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?” (Ephesians 4:9)

The Son of God became man and descended to the earth in order to redeem sinners. He humbled Himself to do this, but once the work was complete “God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.” (Philippians 2:9) Jesus came down to accomplish His work, but not to stay permanently.

When Jesus told the disciples that He would be going away, they were sad. However, Jesus also told them, “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 depart, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7)

Jesus’ return to Heaven would be for the advantage of all believers because from there He would send gifts to His Church on earth. The first of these gifts was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but there was more to follow—and still is. “To each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. . . . He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:7,11-12)

The ascended Savior has not left us to fend for ourselves. He has given us Baptism and the teaching of the Gospel to make disciples as He commands us (Mattthew 28:20). The ascended Jesus also sends specific gifts to specific individuals to serve in equipping believers for the work of the Gospel ministry.

Jesus no longer visibly walks the earth, but that should not leave us sorrowful, because He is sitting at the right hand of God and sends gifts down for us. He has given us His Word through the apostles, the prophets, and the evangelists. The Holy Spirit continues to use that Word to equip us as Jesus’ witnesses. As a result, the body of Christ grows so “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine . . . but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:14-16)

As we stand in spirit with the apostles and watch Jesus ascend, we don’t need to keep staring into the sky. We know He is coming back, and until He does, we have work to do! It is work that we do not do alone, “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?‘” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

As you remember Jesus’ ascension, remember that He went up to send gifts down for you, and rejoice!

Wayne Eichstadt is pastor of Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Spokane Valley, Washington.