(Photo compliment of Ludford Mt, St. Catherine)
This is the day our Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!
Today is observed as Ascension Sunday. The Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ is observed 40 days after the resurrection and is always on a Thursday with the following Sunday as Ascension Sunday. We often celebrate Good Friday and Easter without giving much thought to the significance of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our text of Acts 1:6-11 will help us to contemplate the significance of the Ascension for all believers and the world at large. The ascension depicts the dramatic departure of the risen Christ from His earthly, bodily ministry among His followers and is recorded in Mark 16:19; Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:9-11). Every believer in Christ Jesus must give attention to the significance of Christ Jesus’ ascension. Let us hear what the text of Acts 1:6-11 says to us concerning this. We examine,
Firstly: The Fact of the Ascension
Secondly:The Benefits of the Ascension
Thirdly:The Inspiration of the Ascension
The Fact of the Ascension
During the time of Jesus there were many stories of ascension. There were many stories of Roman emperors who died and ascended to become gods. In Greek stories, various heroes ascended to heaven, usually by dying and becoming gods. In our text Luke narrates the ascension of Christ Jesus as a fact. There is proof that Jesus lived and died in a human bodily form. He was resurrected with both historical and circumstantial evidence to show. For Luke, Jesus’ ascension is only a confirmation of Jesus' status at the resurrection, a coronation of the king who was both human and divine all along. Old Testament Jewish accounts of Elijah and others (from later traditions) taken up to heaven show that Jewish readers would understand the ascension, but here for Luke, the ascension is not just the exaltation of a pious man but the exaltation of the sovereign Lord – the Creator and Lord of all. All others are to submit to the ascended Lord in faith and in turn summons others to respond in faith to Jesus Christ who is God.
The ascension is typified in the Old Testament in Leviticus 16:15, Then he shall slaughter the goat of the sin offering which is for the people, and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. (NIV) The Mercy Seat was the golden lid or covering on the Ark of the Covenant, regarded as the resting place of God. Hebrews 9:12 tells us, Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood he went into the Most Holy Place once for all and secured our eternal redemption. (ISV) Jesus Christ the perfect, once for all sacrifice, was able to enter God’s eternal presence from which he came to redeem lost humanity. In fulfilling God’s perfect will for his life Jesus ascends in glory to sit at God’s right hand which denotes God’s own omnipotence and authority.
The fact of the ascension is further acknowledged in Jesus’ own proclamation. On various occasions while Jesus was with his disciples he spoke of his imminent ascension and glorification for example, John 7:33 Therefore Jesus said, "For a little while longer I am with you, then I go to Him who sent Me., and John 16:28, I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father." The fact of the ascension affirms Jesus as God. He is the enthroned and sovereign Lord who rules over all creation. Jesus will reign at God’s right hand until all enemies are subdued under his feet (Psalm 110:1; Acts 2:34–35; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Hebrews 1:13). At Jesus’ ascension and enthronement God’s kingdom has been inaugurated and he will return to consummate his kingdom on earth as in heaven. The ascension and resulting exaltation of Christ demonstrates that God’s promises have not failed and that God’s reign has been renewed. God’s promise of the salvation for all nations through the calling of Israel is restored through the commissioning of the disciples at Jesus’ ascension.
The Benefits of the Ascension
The significance of Jesus ascension as Messiah is demonstrated in the many benefits which we as believers have been blessed with. Jesus’ ascension was for the benefit of his followers then and now. Believers in Christ would no longer have Jesus’ physical presence. Through the promised and imparted Holy Spirit the work of God in Christ continues for the benefit of all the nations of the world.
The sending of God’s Holy Spirit, God’s intimate presence, dwelling in the life of each believer is one of the significant benefits of Jesus’ ascension. Holy Spirit imparts gifts to believers (John 14:16-18,26; 16:7-15; Acts 2:23; Eph 4:11-12). God determined that the presence of Jesus would be replaced by the presence of the Holy Spirit, who could be everywhere at the same time. Jesus' followers now enjoy the presence of the Spirit and the operation of the Spirit's gifts through them, teaching, empowering and enabling them for participation in God’s mission to the world. Through God’s Holy Spirit believers are transformed to live like Jesus Christ each day until he returns.
Another benefit of Christ’s ascension is his heavenly reign at the right hand of the Father (1 Cor. 15:20-28). This reign will last until His Second Coming. Jesus will return in with same glory with which he departed. His Second Coming is sure. No one can determine when this will happen and no one should try to. This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven (Acts 1:11). Jesus’ return will be visible and personal. He departed this earth as Saviour of all. He will return as Righteous Judge of all. The oppressed and downtrodden, the faithful martyrs will be vindicated and the enemies of Jesus will receive their just reward at his Second Coming.
The ascended Christ continues to serve us as our heavenly mediator and high priest. What a wonderful blessing, one we can easily take for granted. The ascension marked the beginning of Christ's intercession for all believers at the right hand of God. Jesus Christ makes continual intercession for us all (Rom 8:34; Heb 4:14; 6:20; 7:25). Although not physically present with us today, Christ is deeply concerned for us all and actively intercedes for us. All believers enjoy peace, hope, and security because Christ is their advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1).
The Inspiration of the Ascension
How are we challenged and what are we inspired to do with our understanding of the fact of the ascension and the benefits of the ascension? Jesus’ ascension should remind us of who we are and whose we are in a world of increasing selfishness and idolatry. Many today make false and empty promises of salvation for people all over the world. Many are exploited, oppressed and abused by their so called earthly messiahs. Jesus is the only Lord and Saviour. We must trust him. As privileged servants of the ascended Christ we are inspired to:
Live in hope and the imitation of Christ.
We are called to be Christ’s presence in the world. We can do so because of the power of God’s Holy Spirit in us, given to us at Jesus’ ascension. We are assured that Jesus reigns as the only Lord and King. He remains active and engaged in our world and our lives even when the events of time and the temporary assault of human beings on God’s creation seem contrary to such a belief. We can live boldly, confidently, and strategically as servants of the exalted king of heaven. We live and serve imitating th lif of Christ knowing that our labours in the Lord Jesus are not in vain, 1 Corinthians 15:58, Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, unmovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that the work that you do for the Lord isn't wasted. (ISV)
This is a word of hope for those who suffer for the sake of Christ all over the world. The ascended Christ is not indifferent to anyone who struggles in their Christian walk. You may feel discouraged, unrewarded and disappointed in your Christian service right now but do not give up! Jesus himself endured great suffering and is thus able to understand and sustain you. You can take your cares to your ascended Lord who hears your prayers and can respond with all heaven’s authority. We can each hope in a glorious future. The ascended Lord will return as judge and king. He will abolish injustice, end suffering, and destroy death and set up his kingdom of truth, righteousness and love and we will reign with him as our King forever.
Worship faithfully and sincerely
We can worship God faithfully and without compromise because the ascended Christ has defeated Satan, sin, death and all powers in heaven and on earth. God’s Holy Spirit leads us into true worship even if it results in physical death. We can give God glory praise and honour in all circumstances as Jesus Christ who we imitate did in his own life. He has shown us that to glorify God is to completely obey and fulfil God’s purpose for our individual and corporate lives.
Jesus’ ascension should inspire true and sincere worship before God. Such a worship s not focused on self and the perfection of rituals but a life of total commitment to God’s will and way. All our resources, body, mind and spirit ought to be surrendered fully to Christ our Lord and King, Rom 12:1 I therefore urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercies, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices that are holy and pleasing to God, for this is the reasonable way for you to worship. Our worship should put God where God belongs because of what the ascended Christ has accomplished for us.
The disciples were instructed by Jesus before his ascension to wait for the Holy Spirit to give them power and authority for perpetual participation in God’s mission for the world. At the coming of the Holy Spirit believers would be empowered to continue Christ’s mission on earth. With the ever present fire of God’s Holy Spirit in us every believer should be burning with passion for the mission of God. We should experience the unquenched love, mercy, justice and compassion of Christ and do all we can to participate in helping others to experience God’s life in Christ Jesus. We cannot contemplate the fact of the ascension and the benefits of the ascension and not be moved to tell someone that Jesus Christ is the answer for their searching, confused and longing hearts. If we have God’s Holy Spirit in us we can do nothing less.
Having contemplated the text of Acts 1:6-11, we have noted the facts, benefits and inspiration of the ascension of Jesus Christ. The ascension of Jesus Christ should not be ignored and separated from our observance of Good Friday and Easter. It marks the completion of Jesus’ earthly mission and signifies his enthronement as heavenly king. Jesus has completed his Father’s mission and he now rules with all authority and intercedes with all sympathy as our mediator and high priest. He has imparted his Holy Spirit to us and given us the mandate of carrying on His mission on earth until he returns as righteous judge. May we found faithful as Jesus was in our obedience to God’s will and purposes for our lives. Jesus departed into the heaven from which he came. He did so not to leave us but to guide us, not to disappoint us but to intercede for us. He departed with a blessing. He departed to equip us. For those who know him, his blessing is always with us. So we worship him with joy and serve him with gladness, continually glorifying God for the gift of his Son. Our reward is that we will be with the ascended Lord and Christ for all eternity. He has ascended to prepare the way for us. Amen
Acts 1:6-11 (NIV):
6 So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"
7 He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
(Christ For Today - Luke Shaw - May 28 2017)