9. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up on high, and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10. And while they looked up steadfastly into heaven, as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11. Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come as you have seen him go into heaven.
9. The readers may learn out of our Institutions what profit we reap by the ascension of Christ. Notwithstanding, because it is one of the chiefest points of our faith, therefore doth Luke endeavor more diligently to prove the same; yea, rather, the Lord himself meant to put the same out of all doubt, when as he hath ascended so manifestly, and hath confirmed the certainty of the same by other circumstances. For, if so be it he had vanished away secretly, then might the disciples have doubted what was become of him;1 but now, sith that they, being in so plain a place, 2 saw him taken up with whom they had been conversant, whom also they heard speak even now, whom they beheld with their eyes, whom also they see taken out of their sight by a cloud, there is no cause why they should doubt whither he was gone. Furthermore, the angels are there also to bear witness of the same. And it was needful that the history should have been set down so diligently for our cause, that we may know assuredly, that although the Son of God appear nowhere upon earth, yet doth he live in the heavens. And this seemeth to be the reason why the cloud did overshadow him, before such time as he did enter into his celestial glory; that his disciples being content with their measure 3 might cease to inquire any further. And we are taught by them that our mind is not able to ascend so high as to take a full view of the glory of Christ; therefore, let this cloud be a mean to restrain our boldness, as was the smoke which was continually before the door of the tabernacle in the time of the law.
But, first, we must mark what the purpose of the angels was, for thereby we shall more perfectly know what the words mean. The angels' intent was to call back the apostles from desiring the carnal presence of Christ. For this purpose was it that they said that he should not come again until he came to judge the world. And to this end serveth the assigning of the time, that they might not look for him in vain before that same time. Who seeth not that in these words is manifestly showed that he was bodily absent out of the world? Who seeth not that we are forbidden to desire to have him upon the earth? But, they think they escape safe with that crafty answer, when as they say that then he shall come visibly; but he cometh now invisibly daily. But we are not here to dispute of his form; only the apostles are taught that Christ must abide in heaven until such time as he appear at the latter day. For the desiring of his corporeal presence is here condemned as absurd and perverse. The Papists deny that he is present in the sacrament carnally, while that his glorious body is present with us after a supernatural sort, and by a miracle; but we may well enough reject their inventions concerning his glorious body, as childish and frivolous toys. They feign unto themselves a miracle not confirmed with any testimony of Scripture. The body of Christ was then glorious, when as he was conversant with his disciples after his resurrection. This was done by the extraordinary and secret power of God; yet, notwithstanding, the angels do forbid to desire him afterward after that sort, and they say that he shall not come unto men in that sort (before the latter day.) Therefore, according to their commandment, let us not go about to pull him out of the heavens with our own inventions; neither let us think that we call handle him with our hands, or perceive him with our other senses, more than we can see him with our eyes. I speak always of his body. For in that they say it is infinite, as it is all absurd dream, so is it safely to be rejected. Nevertheless, I willingly confess that Christ is ascended that he may fulfill [fill] all things; but I say that he is spread abroad everywhere by the power of his Spirit, not by the substance of his flesh. I grant, furthermore, that he is present With us both in his word and in the sacraments. Neither is it to be doubted, but that all those which do with faith receive the signs of his flesh and blood, are made truly partakers of his flesh and blood. But this partaking doth nothing agree with the dotings of the Papists; for they feign that Christ is present in such sort upon the altar as Numa Pompilius did call down his Jupiter Elicitus, or as those witches did fetch down the moon from heaven with their enchantments. But Christ, by reaching us the bread in his Supper, doth will us to lift up our hearts into heaven, that we may have life by his flesh and blood. So that we do not eat his flesh grossly, that we may live thereby, but he poureth into us, by the secret power of his Spirit, his force and strength.
1 "Haesissent attoniti," might have stood astonished.
2 "Quam in edito et undique experto ac patente loco et constituti," when they were standing on an elevated spot, open on all sides, with nothing to interrupt the view.
3 "Modulo," little measure.
4 "Ad eorum dicta attentiores," might be more attentive to what they said.
5 "Secundo," a second time, omitted.
6 "Haerebit," shall cling to.
7 "Complexa," system.