For those of you who may have remembered my Eastertide series last year, I wrote posts on the death and resurrection of Jesus as well as several other thoughts on the period of time after the celebration of Easter. The advent of the church, on Pentecost, happened 50 days after Easter, which I also wrote about. But, for some reason, I didn’t write about the ascension of Jesus to the right hand of the father in heaven. In fact, I missed Ascension Day, the day that annually occurs 40 days after Easter, with Easter Sunday being counted as Day 1.
So, I wrote myself a note and even titled a draft post on April 6th of last year – yes, a year ago, reminding myself to make sure that I didn’t pass by Ascension Day again. And guess what!!! Today is the 40th day after the resurrection of Jesus on Easter for 2022. That makes today Ascension Day 2022 – and we are still in the liturgical season of Eastertide. That liturgical season will end in another ten days at Pentecost, but for now I am reveling in the fact that I am finally completing my series on Eastertide – admittedly a year late…
To go back in history, as I said, the ascension of Jesus happened 40 days after the Resurrection. The disciples had physically seen and been with Jesus; and were continuing to be taught by Him. Although the apostles didn’t know it at the time, the beginning of the church was only ten days away and they had been told that the Father would send a replacement for Jesus who would be with believers. It was ten days later that Peter, the impetuous disciple, would preach the first sermon of the new church – the unique church that Jesus referred to in Matthew 16 during his talk with Peter. And that is when the Holy Spirit descended on the assembled masses and the church was born. We can read about that day in Acts 2.
There were many important events after the resurrection of Jesus. There was the incident with Thomas – who was the doubter and insisted on seeing the marks from the crucifixion on the body of Jesus. By the way, this is where the phrase “doubting Thomas” came from. They experienced Jesus performing miracles such as walking through doors and/or walls – and the clarity that came to the apostles after the death and of resurrection of Jesus. Their mission was clear – to spread the Good News of Jesus to the ends of the earth – and we refer to that as the Great Commission.
As members of the church, most of us tend to forget about the events between the resurrection and Pentecost. However, it is important to study the messages of Jesus to His disciples before He returned to heaven. Please remember that it was from heaven that Jesus originally journeyed to earth to be born as a baby to a woman named Mary in a town named Bethlehem. And now, he was ready to return to the side of the Father. His physical time on earth was completed – the mission accomplished for all time. Aside from returning to the right hand of the Father in heaven, Jesus, to this day, is our intercessor. He is our advocate in heaven and so the ascension not only signifies the completion of the earthly ministry of Jesus – it signals the beginning of His advocacy role in heaven.
Jesus and His Father didn’t have to make this accommodation for mankind. But as we know from John 3:16, God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to earth to provide a way for us to be reunited with God. This could only happen as Jesus took on the sins of the world – of everyone – for all time – to be the once and forever sacrifice. No longer would weekly sacrifices be necessary to atone for sins. Jesus did that work on the cross! And the thing that separates Christianity from every other religion is not the fact that He died – many founders of religions have died. But He rose again and today we celebrate a living God.
So we come to the ascension – the event that returns Jesus to heaven in the presence of God. His earthly mission was completely accomplished. And that is the event that we remember today. Our verse for tonight is from Dr. Luke’s version of the ascension. He tells us, and others of the day, in Luke 24:49-53, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.”
My encouragement this evening is that even though Jesus has returned to heaven, He is present with us in every moment of every day. He will never leave us or forsake us. That’s a promise from God. My prayer this evening is that we will spend a little time thanking God for sending Jesus to save us and that we will celebrate the ascension of Jesus as He returned to the Father. Because ten days later, the Holy Spirit appeared at Pentecost to indwell those who believed in Christ as Lord and Savior. So the people of God had experienced God above them (the Father), God among them (Jesus) and God indwelling them (the Holy Spirit). The rest, as they say, is history. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…