In some ways, Easter seems like it was just yesterday, but in others, it seems like it was ages ago. The ebbs and flows of the church calendar tend to have that effect on my sense of time. But something that stops me each year in the post-Easter season is Ascension Day. The celebration of Jesus’ ascension into heaven has its roots in the earliest days of the church on the 40th day after Easter Sunday, which was yesterday, Thursday, May 5, this year.
What about the Ascension gives me pause? Well, honestly, it’s one of those stories in the Bible that I have a hard time wrapping my head around. It seems like a pretty incredible and unbelievable thing. Of course I absolutely trust the veracity of the Bible’s account of this and other miraculous events, but it does give me pause nonetheless.
But it’s not just the wonder, amazement, and miraculousness of this event that prompted the apostles and early church to institute this celebration as a part of the church year. What does the Ascension teach us about who Jesus is and our place in His Kingdom? When Jesus ascended into heaven, He was seated at the right hand of the Father. He returns to the place from which all of humanity had previously been barred because of our sin, to reign as the King of kings over all the earth and to prepare a place for us to live with Him and His Father for eternity. Not only this, but God “made us alive together with Christ—by grace [we] have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:5b-6). So not only is this something that we have to look forward to for eternity, but we have power, assurance, and identity in that position now. This is amazing and good news!
While the Ascension is the last thing that Jesus did in His earthly ministry, He was not finished with those who were left on earth. He promised that the Holy Spirit would come and baptize them as they had been baptized with water, and He delivered on that promise just ten days later on the day of Pentecost (which we’ll celebrate nextSunday, May 15). But He had said repeatedly that the Holy Spirit would not comeuntil He returned to His Father in heaven.
So this Sunday, we’ll sing songs and say parts of our liturgy that recount this part of Jesus’ story. My prayer for you and for myself is that in doing so we might inwardly digest this oft-looked over part of Jesus’ time on earth, await with holy anticipation His return “in the same way as you saw him go,” (Acts 1:11) and get a foretaste of our eternity united with Him and His Father in heaven.
About the ResBlog
Members of staff and Vestry will be posting on the ResBlog to help us think through who we are in light of the gospel so that we might “spur one another on to love and good deeds.”