When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. ~Luke 24:50-53
For those who follow the church calendar, Ascension Day is today … 40 days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The Ascension is an oft unobserved text and also an ignored day for the most part. Few churches have any particular celebrations for this day (and in my own faith tradition, that means zero churches have celebrations for this day!). Skeptics love to make fun of the Ascension. Even some theological liberals like to suggest that it may not have happened, but it makes a great ending to the story of Jesus. I believe the Bible speaks of the Ascension as literal … a historical fact… and not only so, it attaches several teachings to that event. As Luke ended his gospel with the Ascension, he begins his book of Acts with the same event. In Acts 1-11 there are about eight events of the Gospel story , including the Ascension. Here are some teachings of the New Testament attached to the Ascension for your contemplation.
The Ascension Points to Jesus’ Location: Jesus Went To The Father. We know that one cannot pin down deity to one location in place and time. This is, rather, a descriptive term that tells us of the glorification of Christ after his Ascension.
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. ~Hebrews 1:3
The Ascension is the Completion of the Resurrection Narrative. Christ came from God to take on our flesh, our life, our troubles, our sin and our death. For forty days Jesus walked and talked among the believers, making sure they knew that this new life was real and not imagined. Then he went back to God, in the spirit and in the flesh.
[Jesus] who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. ~1 Peter 3:22
The Ascension Affirms that we are not Abandoned! When Christ left this earth he promised that another Counselor would come to bless the Apostles and subsequent Christians.
But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. ~John 16:7 (see also vs. 8-11)
The Ascension Affirms Our Dependence on God. The Apostles apparently still retained some militaristic ideals of overthrowing the Roman Empire. In their discussion with the soon to depart Jesus, they are informed that these things “are not yours to know” (Acts 1:7). We do not know the plans and mind of God! He does not exist to fulfill our desires or our idea of what is just and right – we must submit to His authority.
The Ascension Reminds Us That Jesus’ Sacrifice Was Effective. Jesus went back to the Father because his task on this earth was done.
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. ~ Hebrews 10:11-14
The Ascension Reminds Us That Christ Is Building A Place For Us! The Carpenter from Nazareth is now building his followers a new home. A new kind of home beyond our imagination.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? ~John 14:1-2
The Ascension Fuels Three Key Doctrines of Christianity (See Ephesians 1:18-23). There is the hope to which Christ has called us, the inheritance revealed in the saints, and the power to live the life to which He has called us. Paul prays that our eyes are opened to these truths and affirms that…
Christ is ascended into heaven, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion,” seated at the right hand of God.
The Ascension Reminds Us that we need to get Busy! As Jesus arose to the Father’s side the disciples were not left to wonder what was next!
While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” (Acts 1:10-11, NRSV)
Jesus is going to come again. Will he find us about his work?
Pentecost Sunday is yet around the corner. But before the Spirit could come, Jesus had to go. I hope these associated thoughts will help us to contemplate and appreciate the beautiful Ascension of Christ!
Thanks for reading! Happy Ascension Day! If you are interested in more, some of the traditions associated with Ascension Day can be found HERE.
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