COVER STORY – ASCENSION
“And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven.” (Luke 24:50-51)
If you’re acquainted with the topography of the Holy Land, you’ll understand why Jesus, when speaking of His travels to Jerusalem, often described them in terms of “going up.” He literally had to climb uphill to get to Jerusalem because it was situated on Mount Zion, which had a higher elevation than the surrounding terrain. It was on this mountain that He endured the suffering of the cross as the world’s Savior and came alive three days later to show beyond doubt that His mission as Savior had been accomplished.
It was forty days later that Jesus led His disciples to another place of high elevation located not far from Jerusalem—the Mount of Olives. From this mountain He ascended to the greatest of heights! He was carried up to heaven in full of view of His disciples to God’s right hand, “far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” (Ephesians 1:21)
The ascension of Jesus is a truth we confess each Sunday in the Creed. It’s with good reason that we include it as part of our Christian confession, for it is an event loaded with meaning. Jesus’ ascension gives us the assurance of our own eventual ascension on high. What the two angels told the disciples will assuredly come to pass: “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11) Then will the promise of Jesus also be fulfilled: “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3)
Jesus’ ascension also has meaning for our daily lives while we continue as pilgrim travelers through this world. When troubled by our sins we may find peace in knowing that Jesus, our divine Advocate, is interceding for us continually before His Father’s throne (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25). We may treasure in our hearts His guarantee that each prayer we offer to the Father in His name will be answered (John 16:23) and always in a way that serves the purpose of leading us to our heavenly homeland. Jesus’ ascension affords us the comfort that He is using His power to orchestrate all events in our lives and the world at large for our benefit (Ephesians 1:22, Romans 8:28). As the head of the Church, He will always provide gifts to us in the form of pastors, teachers, and other church leaders to serve in the public ministry for equipping us for works of Christian service and for the strengthening of our Christian faith (Ephesians 4:8-16).
Ascension Day is an annual festival, but its blessings are ours to have and enjoy all year round! When it arrives on the calendar—this year, on Thursday, May 21—remember to set aside a few moments for quiet reflection. Thank Jesus for His love that moved Him to go up to Jerusalem to suffer and die and be raised for you, and to ascend into heaven for you, where He is now ruling all things for your good, and from whence He will return to take you to be with Him forever.
Thomas Schuetze is pastor of St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lakewood, Colorado.