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The Ascension of Christ
Dr. Richard Shuta of Concordia University-Ann Arbor, MI
Last Thursday the Church celebrated the Ascension of our Lord. On that day Pastor Todd Wilken led a discussion about the theological significance of the event of Christ ascending to the throne of God. Pastor Wilken’s guest was Concordia University – Ann Arbor, Professor of Religion, Dr. Richard Shuta.
Dr. Shuta began by wishing the radio audience a Happy Coronation Day and explaining that Christ’s coronation is actually a preview of our own coronation day. Dr. Shuta was well prepared to talk about what this coronation means for Jesus and for us.
One thing I really enjoy about listening to Issues, Etc. is that Pastor Wilken has great guests and then gets right to the topic at hand and asks questions that an ordinary guy like me would ask. For example, his first question of Dr. Shuta about Jesus was, “Why did He leave in the first place, why not stick around?” Dr. Shuta chuckled as he replied, “That’s a good one. Actually, all He did was withdrew His visible presence to teach us ‘blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.'” Dr. Shuta went on to read and discuss the text of the ascension account in Luke 24. His answer continued and the condensed version of it is that he doesn’t think the disciples thought Jesus had left them. Jesus was actually fulfilling His promise to them in John 16 that it was important for him to go to His Father’s right hand in order to send the presence of the Holy Spirit to them. He would not just be the Jesus of Galilee or Palestine, but He would be the Christ to all nations as well to his first disciples.
Next, Dr. Shuta recalled the following statement, “He has taken His human nature, which means our human nature as well, and now the dust of earth sits on the throne of heaven. We’ve got the power of heaven to witness for Him wherever we go.” Pastor Wilken asked why it is so often missed that what Christ is actually doing is taking up His perfect human nature into the essence of the divine Trinity and taking His rightful place as man in heaven. Dr. Shuta explained man’s propensity toward the ancient heresy that matter doesn’t matter to God, which leads to the denigration of such things as the incarnation, the physical resurrections and the physical elements of the Sacraments. To denigrate the physical and the human nature of Christ is to put down the fact that God is our Creator and He values the human nature He created.
The discussion continued with many more great questions asked by the host and well answered by the guest. Some of Pastor Wilken’s questions included, “What’s Jesus doing right now?” “In what sense is Jesus ruling right now?” ” It seems kind of incongruous with our every day experience when we read the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and he speaks as though we are already seated with Christ in the heavenly places. What is he trying to say?” “So theologically, what one believes and affirms about the ascension of Christ might be kind of a diagnostic of how well one understands the incarnation of Jesus Christ for us?” “What awaits us at Christ’s return judgment and the resurrection of all flesh that is promised and sealed for us in Christ’s ascension?” “In simple terms should we think of Christ as distant or long distance?” “What is the particular comfort we as Christians find in the ascension of Christ?”
You will have to listen for yourself in order to hear Dr. Shuta’s wonderful responses to these questions. They will help you to better know Jesus and the theology of His divine and human natures and how they are connected. His responses will also help you to better understand what Jesus does for you in His incarnation, ascension and exultation.
When I listen to a program like this I realize how very blessed we are to have this venue where we can learn more about our Lord from pastors and doctors of the Church. I hope you too will listen often and support Issues, Etc.