If you spent time with children this Easter did you discover if they know what happened on the first Good Friday and Easter Sunday? Studies tell us that many children have no idea about this – although I know there are exceptions. But what if you had asked them about the origins of that little-known day tucked away on a Thursday forty days after Easter – Ascension Day?
The Ascension of Christ was a popular theme in art, although paintings of Jesus floating in mid-air, or of his feet disappearing as if through a hole in the ceiling, don’t necessarily help much with the credibility of the accounts. Luke simply says that Jesus left them and was taken up into heaven. In his second book he says that Jesus was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
This was not levitation! Jesus was leaving this created universe and returning to heaven. So this is a claim about where Jesus is now – not just about what happened in the past. And that’s why Ascension Day matters.
The Ascension is the end of the job. Having sacrificed his own life on the cross Jesus presented his wounded body in heaven itself – as the eternal guarantee that he has already carried the can for everyone who puts their trust in him.
The Ascension is the coronation of Jesus. “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father” that is, in the place of true authority and power over this world. This claim is a source of great comfort to those who have put their trust in Jesus’ rule, and a source of ridicule and discontent from those who oppose his rule.
The Ascension is the glorification of mankind. The one at God’s right hand is a man like us, a pioneer who has overcome death and frailty and the limits of our space-time. Jesus is no longer available only to a few people in Israel – he is forging a personal link with many. And he promises that all who trust him will similarly cast off this mortal body and put on a new indestructible body.
Our joint Ascension Day service will be in Holy Trinity Holme on Thurs 30th May at 7.30pm. You would of course be very welcome.