Last Thursday, May 26th was ascension day…many Christians may wonder, what is ascension day? It is not a holiday, it is not an event on our calendar and because it is not on a Sunday it flies under the radar of our attention. So what is it? As Christians we celebrate the ascension of Jesus as a significant part of our faith, for the ascension confirms and completes the promises of Christ to those who would follow him.
Jesus did not stay on a cross, nor in a tomb nor on the earth in his post-resurrection body. No, he ascended into heaven where he is seated at the right hand of God (Mk.16:19, Heb.1:3). It is the peculiar scene in Acts 1 where the disciples are straining their eyes looking intently up into the clouds to see where Jesus went, did he disappear? We do realize that heaven is not up in the sky, for our skies could not contain Him, but rather it is a real place where the presence of God dwells. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:2-3). I remember camping as a child and my father used to go ahead of us the day before to get a campsite, he would drive late into the night and park our camper and would prepare a place for us. In a way, that is like what Jesus has done in his ascension.
The ascension also is a powerful statement of the completion of Jesus’ work on earth. In Hebrews 1:3 it says, “When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” That means that Christ’s ascension states that all that was required for the forgiveness of sins has been completed by Jesus, there is nothing that you or I could add to this completed and perfect work. In the old testament many animals were used as sacrifices for atonement (ie., payment or making things right at a personal cost), these were means by which people could confess sins and make restitution with God. But the problem was that they needed to keep sacrificing because they kept sinning. They could never offer enough sacrifices for their sins, so God “…who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions”, Eph.2:5 and “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.” Romans 5:6. The ascension is like the exclamation point on the finished work on the cross.
But why is he seated, what could that mean? It means that he is now ruling and reigning with authority from on high! It means that God has highly exalted him (Phil.2:9) and it is in the throne room where the angels are singing, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!” (Rev.5:12). It is there, seated at the right hand of God that he has been placed ‘far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named.’ (Eph.1:20-21). Life does seem chaotic and uncertain, yet if you follow Jesus, you follow a King who rules, reigns, and will make all things right in his time. He truly is ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’.
His ascension cements the peace of God that transcends our understanding. So, we do not need to be like the early disciples staring into the sky wondering where Jesus is...for he has gone to prepare a place for us, he has completed everything necessary for our redemption and he reigns over the universe in power and love assuring us that we too will be with him and will be like him!