Christmas brings the incarnation before us every year. Easter does the same for Jesus death and resurrection. But the doctrine of the Ascension is a part of the story that is not given nearly as much attention. There is an “Ascension Day” on the Christian calendar, but when were you last in a church service that celebrated it? That moment when Jesus having given His life on the cross and being raised from the dead, lifted off the earth before the disciples very eyes, and ascended back into heaven.
William Barclay rightly observed: “It is extremely unusual to hear a sermon on the Ascension. It is one of the neglected parts of the life of Christ in the ordinary teaching of the pulpit.”
Interestingly, that was not the case with the early church fathers. There are many references in their writings of the first few centuries in which they addressed the Ascension. It was a prominent theme with them.
And it should be given prominence. It’s an important part of Christian teaching, with profound implications.
F.F. Bruce in his commentary on the Book of Acts points out that the Resurrection and the Ascension cannot be separated. They form two parts of one continuous movement; and that movement is what we might call the process of Jesus glorification.
It’s interesting to read Luke 9:51, “Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.”
Here’s the moment in Jesus ministry when He intentionally began to head toward Jerusalem for the final climactic week: “when the time had come for Him to be received up”. Scholars agree that it’s referring to the whole drama of His suffering, death, burial, resurrection and ascension, but it’s interesting that Luke chooses words that make the Ascension event the focal point. That’s the end it was all headed toward.
This is not to detract from the central importance of the Cross as the saving sacrifice, or the glory of Resurrection morning. The Ascension, however, is the culmination of it all, and in itself it speaks volumes.
In fact, the moment of the miraculous Ascension of Jesus marks an important transition that we mustn’t miss. It’s an important day in Christian teaching. Everything changed that day Jesus ascended back into heaven: [Continue reading]