Luke 24.44 thru 53 He is Ascended
He is Ascended!?
Luke 24:44-53 He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." 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.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
“…He ascended into heaven.” We say this each time we recite the Apostles Creed. But what does this mean to us in our daily lives as a Christian. Why is this “Ascension Day” such a big deal…even a major festival day in the church year? You’ve seen a balloon as it slips out of a little hand and slowly rises up into the air. As we watch, it rises over the trees and drifts up into the sky. There is that “everybody looking up with their mouths open thing” happening. This is what it must have looked like. Well, there was a bit more glory and majesty to the ascension. Scripture does tell us that the disciples immediately worshipped Him after He left them…There is a little more to the ascension than just a man rising up into the air. This was Jesus Christ, the Son of God and He has finished His earthly ministry and is ascending to be with His Father in heaven…so…how does this tie into our faith?
Let’s look at context for a moment. Jesus has in fact done everything He had said He would do. He has fulfilled all the scripture written about the coming Messiah. He explains this to the disciples and opens their minds to the scriptures so that they can understand the implications of the Gospel and how they should proclaim this good news. He unfolds the plan of God and gives us the four major events that brought about the good news of salvation that we call the gospel. These events are the crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and Pentecost and they are all mentioned in this final segment of Luke. Luke stresses the importance of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Then he briefly describes His ascension and the Father’s promise of the Pentecost event. God is kind beyond our expectation. Even as Jesus is leaving them He gives us the message of the Gospel and how it is packaged in these events. He empowers our understanding of it. Even more, He empowers our sharing of this message with others! God does it all: the plan, the implementation, the package, the explanation, and the empowerment. Like the disciples we are delivered and can rejoice and worship, praising and blessing God.
It’s interesting that the place that is “toward” Bethany, most scholars would agree, is the Mount of Olives where the road forks and one continues to Bethany and the other toward Jericho. This is of note, in that both the agony of Jesus in the Garden and His ascension take place on this same ridge. Our agonies and our “mountaintop experiences” often occur in the same places…school, work etc. But we are delivered at the Mount of Olives to a new level of understanding. These things we go through bring about a closer relationship with our Savior when we let the Spirit work through them. This is what the ascension is all about.
Let’s examine this event. This was a big moment! They came out to this place and He raises up His hands, blesses them, and He parts their company to go to the Father in Heaven. They must have been in awe as they watched him rise up. This was a majestic act! What a fitting way for Jesus to exit the stage and His earthly ministry! No other mode of departure would have left the impression that this one left. Throughout the time after His resurrection He had appeared and disappeared but not like this. This was clearly telling the disciples that he was leaving them and they watched as He was taken up into the clouds…Not too long ago they had watched as He rose up in a different way. He was lifted up in agony on the cross just 40 days before this. These events have profound meaning for us as Christians! We have spent some time reliving the crucifixion, and we have spent further time examining the resurrection and what it means to us in our lives, what about the Ascension.
Both His ascension and His death on the cross are full of His saving power. His ascension must happen so that the Holy Spirit might then be among us. He has been raised and sits at the right hand of God! From there He intercedes for us. Paul points out in Romans that we ascend with Him and are “seated with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” He has gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us and because of this we have something greater than ourselves to hold onto. Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become the intercessor forever…for us.
We must remember that He is not confined to heaven, never to be here on earth as He promised He would be…He is here with us now! He is our ascended Lord! He is risen indeed! The disciples knew, as we do also, that Jesus had promised that He would be with them “always, to the end of the age.” Paul tells us in Ephesians that, “He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.” Yes, Jesus sits at the right hand of God, but this is not some little spot in the universe where He is confined. This is God we are talking about and He is everywhere! As it is written in Acts, “…in Him we live and move and have our being.” Seated at the right hand of God simply denotes God’s sovereign hand, which is omnipotent, and majestic. His ascension results in His presence in our lives in a very real sense anywhere and anytime. We remember that He told us, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” This tells us that He is omnipresent and He is with us now!
Our text tells us that the disciples were joyful. But why would they be joyful? The ascension proved that Jesus’ words were truthful, because He had predicted this event. This also told them that everything He had said about Himself was true, because God would not have exalted a false prophet like this. This was a stamp of divine approval on everything He had said and done. This act showed the disciples that their master had entered the realms of divine glory and that they too would be received there, as He had told them. They knew through this event that our body shall be changed, “fashioned like unto His glorious body.” We can know this too. We know that, because he ascended in His body we will also have a new body like His resurrected body in heaven. And best of all we shall “see Him as He is.”
In the ascension account in Acts, we read that angels told the men that were watching Jesus as He ascended that He would “come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” So we pray with the knowledge of His promise in our hearts, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Amen.”