Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
I’m sure that most of you know this already. In fact, you have probably had this date circled on the calendar for weeks now. You’ve been counting down the days.
Filled with anticipation.
Barely able to sleep at night.
You likely have so many plans in place already.
Ways to celebrate.
Long guest lists.
Yes indeed, the day has finally arrived. Today is Ascension Day!
Who’s excited? Who’s ready to party?
On the off chance you don’t know what I’m talking about, Ascension Day celebrates Christ's exaltation—His ascension into heaven. While on earth, He was a servant. Now in heaven, Jesus is the ruler and Lord of all. By entering heaven as the representative of mankind, He completes the work of our salvation and guarantees the eventual glorification of all who put their faith in Him. Because the date of Easter varies from year to year, the celebration of the Ascension moves with it. It is always on the fortieth day after Easter and, since Easter always falls on a Sunday, Ascension Day always falls on a Thursday. Thus, it is frequently called "Holy Thursday." But few holy days in the church year get overlooked more than this day.
It is indeed a forgotten festival. When we tell the story of the life and ministry of Jesus, we tend to focus on His death and resurrection, and with good reason…talk about a glorious moment! But that’s not the only wonderful image we get, because after He reveals Himself to His disciples, He ascends into heaven. There are two main things happening in the Ascension. First, Jesus ascends to the Father to fulfill all things (Ephesians 4:10). He becomes hidden from our physical sight, but present with us in even more tangible ways when His Word is preached, when the Lord’s Supper is received, when forgiveness is bestowed, every time there’s a baptism. Christ promises at the end of Matthew that he would “be with us always” and this remains true – especially in light of the Ascension. What the Ascension changes is where Christ is now located. Jesus is not only the Word made flesh in a Bethlehem stable; but now He is ever-present with His people. He shows up for us in so many ways. The Apostle Paul confesses that Christ’s Ascension is not Christ’s absence, but a re-packaging of His real presence. Because of Christ’s ascent to the right hand of God He is not constrained to one place, but is, as both God and man, filling all things.
The second thing that occurs in the Ascension is a triumphant image. Picture watching this on the big screen. As the disciples watch Jesus rise up, He fades from their sight, then the camera cuts to the throne room of heaven, where God sits surrounded by elders and angels and cherubim, holding a scroll. When an angel asks who is worthy to open the scroll and carry out God’s plan for salvation, there is no answer in heaven or on earth. Jesus suddenly appears before the throne and takes the scroll from God’s hand! And the crowd of heaven goes wild! They sing songs of praise to the Lamb of God, and fall down and worship Him (Revelation 5). Then, Satan appears, in dragon form of course, gets into a battle with Michael and the other heavenly angels, who by the blood of Christ, are able to cast him down to earth. Jesus ascends and “boots Satan out of the presence of God,” so that the Devil can no longer stand before God and accuse His people (Revelation 12). Salvation has been accomplished, Satan has been cast out of heaven and bound, and Christ is crowned victor!
Is that not an amazing image?
Christ’s Ascension is a critical part of His story, of our story. It shapes our understanding of who Jesus is. He is still active and still reigning, and in the physical places of this world where He promises, we can still find Him. It also reveals that Jesus didn’t just leave us to go lounge around in heaven waiting for us to come join Him. His crowning, triumphant moment, reminds us that not only has He not abandoned us here, but this battle that we fight, our constant struggle against sin, has already been won by His blood on our behalf. Christ has been crowned the victor! Now, the ascended and enthroned Christ cares for His suffering people as we bear witness to Him. Doesn’t that sound like a reason to party to you?
“When you went to bed last night Jesus was at work subduing his enemies. While you slept, he was continuing to rule over the world. He was still at it when you woke up this morning and even now as you read this. That is the outrageous claim of the ascension.” (Tim Chester & Jonny Woodrow)
“At His Ascension our Lord entered Heaven, and He keeps the door open for humanity to enter.” (Oswald Chambers)
“He controls all things for the church, and therefore you can face the world with peace in your heart . . . he’s at the right hand of God as the executive director of history, directing everything for the benefit of the church. If you belong to him, then everything that happens ultimately happens for you.” (Tim Keller)
Pastor Steve Vera