We’re in that bit between Easter (holidays and great celebration!) and Summer (holidays and nice weather?!). How do we keep going, physically and spiritually? 40 days after Easter, the church celebrates Jesus’ ascension, when Jesus was taken up into heaven. It is a strange and wonderful encouragement to the Christian believer. After his resurrection Jesus had spent 40 days teaching people about the kingdom of God, here’s how Luke the historian picks up the story:
‘you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’
After he had said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking up intently into the sky as he was going (Acts 1:8-10)
Let’s be honest, the ascension is pretty weird. It’s one of those bits of the bible we often don’t quite know what to do with. Aside from reading a bit like a sci-fi film, it also feels like Jesus left at just the time we (the church) needed him! Wouldn’t it be easier if Jesus was still on the earth now so everyone could see him – his miracles would go viral on Youtube!? It’s like our best player was substituted at the crucial moment. Despite all that, we publically declare it as central to our faith most weeks at church when we say one of the Creeds together. Also, the disciples worshiped him and were filled with joy when he ascended (Luke 24:52). So what’s going on?
The BBC’s ‘man in the Middle East’ is Jeremy Bowen, their ‘man in Washington’ is Mark Mardell, their ‘woman in Islamabad’ is Orla Guerin; our ‘man in heaven’ is Jesus. He, like the BBC reporters (though without the salary) is there for us and on our behalf. He is our representative in heaven, securing our salvation. Even more than that, Jesus told his disciples that his physical absence from the earth was actually better for them than his presence: “unless I go the Counsellor [that is the Holy Spirit] will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7) Because he has ascended into heaven, he now gives us the Holy Spirit!
So as we plod or skip towards the Summer, let the ascension of Jesus keep you going: he is securing your salvation, he has empowered you with his Holy Spirit for the tasks ahead.
One final thought: Jesus’ ascension also means he is seated at God the Father’s right hand – which is ‘bible speak’ for being in charge of the universe. So if you haven’t got to know him yet, why not use Ascension Sunday (29th of this month!) to begin making his acquaintance back at church!