I’m a bit of a sci-fi geek. It’s not like I speak Klingon as a second language or something and I’ve never attended a convention but that doesn’t mean that I don’t pay attention to this stuff. One of my favourite stories was written by H.G. Wells called The Time Machine. I like that sort of stuff because I’d love to go see some very cool things for myself as they happened in history. One of the things that I’d love to see is the Ascension of Jesus, it’s just ... very cool. I want to see that sort of stuff. I’d love to be there on the morning of the resurrection, I cheer Thomas on in his unbelief because I’ve sat in his chair; I want to walk the Emmaus road and I want my own eyes opened as He breaks the bread.
Did you ever wonder why the gospel stories talk so much about Jesus’ body being human and not spiritual after the resurrection? Why is it significant for them to point out that he ate some fish, that he broke some bread and that they could touch him? I think it may be because early into the Christian church they had to deal with a group that were holding that Jesus’ body was spiritual after the resurrection. In many ways, we’re still dealing with the same question today.
If you had to guess what the most quoted Old Testament passage is in the entire New Testament, what would it be? Isaiah 53 perhaps? No, it’s Psalm 110:1 “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” It seems that the early church focused on the Ascension, probably because they began to have to deal with Gnostic folks who were trying to argue that Jesus was spiritual only after his resurrection. They built into their stories that Jesus was human before and after the resurrection.
The days that came after the resurrection must’ve been a whirling dervish of events. Every day somebody must’ve thought, “what are we really seeing here?” I know I’d be thinking that. Eventually, Jesus takes the boys to the mountain and before their eyes he ascends into heaven. For whatever period of time He had been reinforcing with them that yes, it’s true, yes He’s human and yes everything will change now. Then this human and divine ... leaves. Let’s set aside how cool that must’ve been to see that because that’s not the point. The point is that a fully human deity ascended to God and he now sits at the right hand of God to be our intermediary with God.
What does that look like? What does that mean? Where is He? Why is that important? Well, I don’t have a lot of answers here. God is invisible (see Col 1:15), so He doesn’t have a “right hand” for Jesus to sit at but that’s not the point either. It’s more important to dwell on the fact that he “sat down”. It’s figurative and it is to signify his coronation. He sat down as Lord over all things and all things are put in subjection to him. That’s the point of the Ascension. The thing that must be remembered here is the humanity of Christ. All things were already in subject to God, they have always been so, but now all things are subject to a human too. Everything that matters and everything that doesn’t matter is now subject to a human as well as being subject to God. This fact in turn helps the human heart relate to God as we realize that our heart can relate to a human. Jesus has experienced all the sorts of things that we have experienced and yet, He was without sin ... IS without sin (see Heb 4:15). Does that make your burden lighter? One of my favourite lines in one of my favourite Grain of Wheat songs is “someone that I know has walked here before” so I know that this principle lightens my load.
The Ascension is important. It relates the individual to the holy through the personhood, the humanity of Christ. Jesus ascended as a human who was divine and he sat down to minister for us with Abba. The early church emphasized his Ascension as an integral step in living its daily life. So should we. It makes a difference to me when in the middle of my struggles to know that I’m not alone here and my guide has travelled this valley before.
I want to close with what I think is the coolest of the Ascension stories, we find in Acts 1 verses 9 and 10.
9After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10They 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."
How cool is that? Who's with me on the time machine thing?
Even so Lord Jesus come.