This Thursday is Ascension Day, as the church celebrates that 40 days after his resurrection, Jesus went back to heaven. Given we might often think how great it would be if Jesus was still walking the earth, it’s a good idea to take a childlike stance and ask ‘Jesus ascended? WHY!?!’
Here’s a short answer as to why it’s such good news that Jesus isn’t still walking the earth:
1. It means that Jesus finished his work on earth.
On the cross, he declared ‘it is finished’ (John 19.30)—and it was! The price for our sin had been paid. Our chance to know our heavenly Father personally, was now secured. There was no further work that our Saviour had to do here on earth. We’d been rescued!
2. It means we have a friend in high places—Jesus is now in heaven, at the right hand of God (Hebrews 1.3).
The Bible says that those who trust Christ are in Him, so our place in heaven is secure with him. We know where we’re going when we die (John 14.3), in fact, it’s as if we’re already there (Ephesians 2.6). Moreover, Jesus is constantly praying for us and speaking to the Father of his cross and our trust in it. For all the times we sin, Jesus is the one presenting our case to the Father as saved sinners (1 John 2)
3. It means we have the Holy Spirit.
We’re in a really privileged position, to be Christians living after Jesus went back to heaven. It was only once he did that, that he could send his Holy Spirit into the world (John 16.7) And what a work he brings: living in us; assuring us of our eternal hope; convicting people of sin and opening hearts to trust in Christ’s cross.
4. It means Jesus will come again.
It’s next on his to do list! He is waiting for the Father to say ‘go!’ (Mark 13.32)That’s when he’ll return to earth, to gather his people past and present, to live with us forever, ending suffering and those who reject him. We should be eager, but grateful for his patience - enabling more and more to put their trust in him.
So this Thursday, whatever you’re up to, give special thanks to our risen, ASCENDED Saviour!
Last week in All Saints’ News we thought about Ascension Day and Jesus giving a ‘farewell’ blessing to his followers as he returned to heaven.
The disciples’ last sight of Jesus was with his arms outstretched in blessing and, in Acts 1:8, we read that his blessing was a promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit and a commission to be his witnesses throughout the earth. So the question arises in my mind - What is the significance of Christ’s ascension?
What does it mean for us today?
The bible gives us at least three answers.
In the first place, Jesus said in John 14:2-3 that he is going to prepare a place for us in his Father’s house. Christ’s ascension means that heaven is going to be specially prepared for you and me when we arrive. What a tremendous reassurance that is. What a wonderfully loving and caring Saviour we have!
Secondly, we read in 1 John 2:1 ‘I write these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.’ Christ’s ascension means that he is pleading our case in the Court of Heaven. What an incentive, that is, to turn to Jesus in true repentance every time we sin, so that he can plead our cause through his blood, shed on our behalf.
Thirdly, Christ’s ascension means that He has assumed his rightful place at the right hand of God. In 1 Peter 3:22 we read that Jesus has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand with angels, authorities and powers in submission to Him. His is the ultimate authority over everything, so we can know that nothing in the world around us, however daunting or seemingly uncontrolled, is outside of his sovereign will and authority.
So let’s go into this week to witness for Him with a fresh glimpse of our ascended Lord, arms outstretched in blessing towards us, confident in his continuing love and care.
Surely the most tender, moving ‘farewell’ in history took place on Ascension Day.
Luke records the story with great poignancy: ‘When Jesus had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands - and blessed them.’
As Christmas began the story of Jesus’ life on earth, so Ascension Day completes it, with his return to his Father in heaven. Jesus’ last act on earth was to bless his disciples. He and they had a bond as close as could be: they had just lived through three tumultuous years of public ministry and miracles – persecution and death – and resurrection!
Just as we part from our nearest and dearest by still looking at them with love and memories in our eyes, so exactly did Jesus: ‘While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven’ (Luke 24:50-51). He was not forsaking them, but merely going on ahead to a kingdom which would also be theirs one day: ‘I am ascending to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God…’
The disciples were surely the most favoured folk in history. Imagine being one of the last few people on earth to be face to face with Jesus, and have him look on you with love. No wonder then, that Luke goes on: ‘they worshipped him - and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.’
No wonder they praised God! They knew they would see Jesus again one day! ‘I am going to prepare a place for you . . I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.’ (John 14:2,3)
In the meantime, Jesus had work for them to do: to take the Gospel to every nation on earth.
We too, having the privilege of knowing the risen (and now ascended) Lord Jesus, worship Jesus with great joy until we are also gathered up and meet him face to face. Joyously willing to fulfil our calling to continue Jesus’ ministry by going into all the world, to make disciples.