Did you know today is Ascension Day? Forty days have come and gone since Easter, Jesus has been with His disciples preaching, healing and communicating some of what is coming next. The book of Acts opens up the scene for us explaining that Jesus presented many “infallible proofs” of His resurrection to His disciples (1:3). Pentecost is coming, the promised power of the Holy Spirit will fall on them soon, but first Jesus must ascend back up to the Fathers throne in Heaven. For me, this was always a glossed-over event, nobody seemed able to explain the purpose of it. So, like many Catholics, this is my extent of knowledge on the Ascension:
(Cue angelic voices singing…) I’m laughing, but really, that’s about it. Honestly, I kind of stopped at the Resurrection excitement and never looked back. So we give a little nod to the fact that Jesus went up on a cloud (?) into heaven (?) and… as Luke records in his gospel “they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. (24:52). Catholics call today a “day of obligation” which means you’d better get yourself to mass and commemorate the occasion, but that doesn’t help me. I know it’s a good thing, a big deal… but I am wanting to learn more about why that is. I did a little research and found some interesting thoughts from people smarter than myself:
“It’s Jesus’s ascension into the presence of God that gets all that he accomplished “down here” to count for us “up there” with God. Without Jesus’s ascension, there would be no true access to God, no full measure of the Spirit, and no great salvation. The ascension is a link in the chain of salvation as essential as Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. And the ascension has something powerful to say about humanity and the human body:
The ascension is the story of a body moving to heaven. It is not escape from the bodily realm, but the entry of humanity — in all our physical-ness — into heaven, the sphere of God. Far from diminishing the importance of the body, the ascension is the ultimate affirmation of bodily existence. The Son of God himself has a body — not as an historical convenience, but as a permanent presence in heaven. The ascension reminds us that Christianity is not only an historical faith, but a faith of the present and future. Jesus is, right now, in glorified humanity on the throne of the universe, wielding as the God-man “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). He is not just our suffering servant who came and died and rose triumphant, but our actively ruling, actively conquering king.” Tim Chester
Actively ruling king. That my friends, makes all the difference in the world. He has returned to the Father, fulfilled every prophecy and promise, and sits at the right hand of God interceding on our behalf. He promises He’s coming back for us as well. It’s all very overwhelming if you really think about it. The ascension isn’t some fluffy afterthought, it’s the very completion of what Jesus came to do. They witnessed His death, resurrection and now bodily departure from the earth with a promise that something even more incredible was coming. I can’t even fathom how they must have felt. It makes sense that they were “continually in the temple praising and blessing God” (Luke 24:53). They had ten days now to wait for the final gift.
To be continued…