A Forgotten but Significant Event
There are events in life that happen and yet their significance escapes us. Why did this event happen? What does it mean? The Ascension of Jesus is one of those events. We understand the need of resurrection, the gift of the Holy Spirit, but what about the ascension?
Luke is the only Gospel writer that tells the story and he tells it twice. Here in Acts, I think it is saying something about Jesus and something about the disciples.
First, about Jesus the ascension is the final vindication of his resurrection and messiah ship. He is the one who God had ordained to be the savior and his resurrection and return to the Father are the final proofs of that. The disciples didn’t see the actual resurrection, they saw him after, so their witness to the ascension lends credibility to their witness of the resurrection. Only living people would be seen as ascending.
Jesus as both God and human is hard to grasp. We think he quite being divine to become human in his birth and he quit being human to go back to heaven. He was both and he took that resurrected human body with him to heaven. There is a divine/human as the co-regent of heaven.
Second, the ascension is the changing of the guard, so to speak. Jesus turned the mission work over to the church that is now empowered by his divine spirit. The church’s mission is to continue and extend the ministry of Jesus. The church isn’t here to do it’s own thing, it isn’t here to build it’s own empire and gain spiritual/temporal power. The church’s only mission is to continue the ministry of Jesus. The church can only be effective as it receives the promised power of the Holy Spirit and open its self to the Spirit’s direction and guidance.
The ascension is that forgotten significant event. It validates Jesus’ ministry and resurrection and gives his disciples their charter for action. Have we allowed the significance of the ascension slip from our minds and hearts?
MONDAY, MAY 5, 2008. The ascension of Jesus posed a problem for the early disciples as it does for us. How can Jesus be with us when his resurrected body is in heaven with God? That’s when we need to remember the speech that Jesus gave us in John 16. He said it was to our advantage that he goes away. Why? To send the Spirit to be with us where ever we are. Even though Jesus is the divine/man he is limited to space and time by that very human body. His Spirit is not. The Holy Spirit will bring him to us. Wherever you are, whatever is happening, Jesus, through the Spirit, is present with you.
TUESDAY, MAY 6, 2008. The cloud in Acts 1:9 may be one of the places we get the image of heaven being a cloud and we all sit around playing harps on them. I think that is the image most Christians have. But to a Jew of the First Century, that cloud would have had a very different image. I think Exodus 13:20-22 may have been in their mind. The cloud was witness to the active presence of God with his people. Even though Jesus was leaving, the cloud may have been a reassuring that he wasn’t far from them. What biblical image gives you the assurance that God is near and close to you?
WEDNESDAY, MAY 7, 2008. The ascension also points to the second coming. The Jesus who left will come again to ultimately reestablish the kingdom of God. Jesus said that he would leave us as orphans (John 14:18) but would come again. All of speculation and arguing over the second coming should not keep us from the truth of the doctrine. Christ will come again and God’s will be done on earth as in heaven. What does the doctrine of the second coming mean to you?
THURSDAY, MAY 8, 2008. The ascension led directly to the founding of the church. The church, as the community of faith, came into being when the Holy Spirit descended on the 120 and then out into those drawn into the faith. We too often think in terms of individuals. But the New Testament is concern primarily with the community of the faith. It is as a community we offer grace and forgiveness. It is as a community that we embody the qualities of Christ the best. How important is the community to you?
FRIDAY, MAY 9, 2008. Ephesians 2 is one of my favorite chapters. It is about how Jews (circumcised) and the Gentiles (the uncircumcised) come together in the one body of Christ through the cross. Those who were already in the covenant and those who were brought into the covenant now form one body. How does this chapter speak to you about the importance of the church and our place within the vast body of Christ?