The Ascension of Christ

Ascension Day is 40 days after Easter.  The Apostles Creed declares that Christ, ‘ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.’

The epistle to Hebrews has the ascension in mind when it says, ‘ (Jesus the Son of God) ‘has passed through the heavens’ (4.14). The Acts of the Apostles graphically describes Christ’s ascension (1.6-11).  We who are familiar with space travel don’t find   language conveying height to be strange. Where the case of Jesus’ ascent is concerned it is natural to think of him going ‘up’ rather then going ‘out’ still less going ‘down. ‘

What does Christ’s ascension stand for?  For one thing, it is a way of rounding off his earthly life and resurrection. It was essential that Jesus’ visible presence should be withdrawn from the land of Palestine and his spiritual presence made available everywhere.

Next, the ascension of  Jesus is  his  enthronement as Lord and the universal acknowledgment this fact.

               God has highly exalted him and given him the name that is above every name so                    that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow ..and every tongue confess that                  Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2.9-10).

What is of fundamental importance is the fact that the ascension of our Lord demonstrates our ultimate destiny as human beings.  It is Jesus the man – who shares our human nature – who has ascended.   Too often we think of Jesus as borrowing human nature for his time on earth, until he  accomplished the work God gave  him to do and then leaving human nature behind when he ascended to God.  In fact, what he took from his mother he retained. It is his forever.   And because he is one of us    Nobody expressed this better than Lancelot Andrews.  This is his lovely prayer.

                              To you, O Christ, word of the Father,

                              we offer our praise and hearty thanks.

                              For the love of our fallen race, you most

                              wonderfully and humbly choose to be made man

                              never to be unmade man and to take our human

                              nature and never to lay it off (Memorials).

 

Think of what this means.  It means that we human beings have our representative in the very presence of God.  One who knows all about the life of human beings.  The epistle to Hebrews makes this abundantly clear.  It says, ‘we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but one who in every respect has been tested as we are’ (4.15).  And as Hebrews goes on to say this means we can confidently approach the ascended Lord (4.16).

The fact that the ascended Lord is a human being is of basic importance to his continuing work on our behalf .   God sees us – the human race – in the ascended Christ, since it is Jesus the human being who stands before him.   What is important about the human race in God’s eyes, what he takes notice of, is not our failures and sins, but rather Jesus Christ.  The great thing is that there is one of us who did not fail but succeeded.  Christ is the pledge of what will eventually be achieved.  Here is our final goal, now attainable by all of us because it has been revealed and attained by Jesus who lived our life and died our death. The man at God’s right hand is the pledge that God will not – cannot – write us off.   And because of this we should not write off those who upset us because of their stupidity or selfishness.

Ascension Day is a very important day in the Christian calendar.

Jack

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