Ascension...

The historic Christian church marks Ascension Day as 40 days after Easter. For 40 days after the resurrection Jesus walked on earth before being taken to heaven. 

This year, like a lot of churches we'll gather and celebrate on Sunday what's easy to forget when tragedy and disappointment and stress seem to dominate our attention. JESUS IS KING. 

It's more than a bumper sticker, more than a meaningless Christianese cliché.  It neither hopeium, nor an excuse for inaction. It's simply true.

Below is some more nuanced theological reflection (I love the section on how the ascension of Christ benefits us) 

And I hope that this is an encouragement to you today.

Blessings,

--Pastor Sam

 

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day 18 

Q. WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY SAYING, “HE ASCENDED TO HEAVEN”?
A. That Christ, while His disciples watched, was lifted up from the earth to heaven and will be there for our good until He comes again to judge the living and the dead.

Q. BUT ISN’T CHRIST WITH US UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD AS HE PROMISED US?
A. Christ is truly human and truly God. In His human nature Christ is not now on earth; but in His divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit He is not absent from us for a moment.

Q. HOW DOES CHRIST’S ASCENSION TO HEAVEN BENEFIT US?
A. First, He pleads our cause in heaven in the presence of His Father. Second, we have our own flesh in heaven-a guarantee that Christ our head will take us, His members, to Himself in heaven. Third, He sends His Spirit to us on earth as a further guarantee. By the Spirits power we make the goal of our lives, not earthly things, but the things above where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.

The Forgotten Ending (Kevin DeYoung)

 Is there any part of Christ’s life that we think about less than His ascension? Everyone knows about His birth-that’s what Christmas is for. His death, burial, and resurrection are pretty well covered by Holy Week. But who notices Ascension Day each spring? Of course, we remember that Jesus floated into heaven or some weird thing like that, but it’s not really the sort of thing we meditate on in the wee hours of the night or share with Grandma before heart surgery. Ascension is simply the way Jesus checked out of planet Earth-that’s all there is to it. Right?

 
But like every phrase in the Apostles’ Creed, “He ascended to heaven” is confessed for a reason. As we’ll see in a moment, Christ’s ascension benefits us in several ways. But before we get there, we have this tricky business about the two natures of Christ.

 
Christ’s human nature is not now on earth. We can’t see Jesus face-to-face, go shake His hand, or hear Him preach on a hillside. Jesus Christ, the God-Man (still fully God and fully man) is in heaven, sitting at the right hand of God the Father. Contrary to the Lutheran idea of the “ubiquity” of the body of Christ (which is why Lutherans believe in a real “physical” presence in Communion), the Heidelberg Catechism teaches, rightly I believe, that Christ’s body, being a real human body with limitations of time and space, can only be in one place at one time-and that place is heaven.

 
The divine nature, however, is not limited to one location. This doesn’t mean Jesus is split in two with His humanity in heaven and His divinity flying around the planet incognito. The two natures are still joined and cannot be separated. The hypostatic union of the two natures resides in heaven. But how can Christ be everywhere then? The answer lies in the mystery of the Trinity The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9), proceeding from the Father and the Son (John 15:26, Nicene Creed). So where the Spirit is, there the Son is also. The three persons of the Trinity experience fellowship among themselves in the dance (perichoresis) of mutual indwelling, so that, though they are distinct persons, it can rightly be said that if you’ve seen the Son, you’ve seen the Father, and if you have the Spirit, you have the Son. By His Spirit, then, Christ is not absent from us for a moment, though, in one sense, He has gone to “live” in heaven.

 
So how does Christ’s ascension benefit us? In three ways. First, Christ’s ascension benefits us because we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1). Our Lord Jesus is in heaven pleading our case, so that whenever Satan accuses us in our conscience or dares to lay a charge against us before the Father, Jesus Christ, God’s own Son and our flawless advocate, stands ready to defend us and plead His own blood for our sakes. Think about that. Christ is our prayer partner in heaven. He intercedes for us before the throne (Rom. 8:34).

 
Second, Christ’s ascension benefits us because we now have our own flesh in heaven; our lives are hidden with Christ who dwells in glory above (Col. 3:3–4). Christ’s flesh in heaven is a guarantee that ours will be there too someday. Our hope is not an eternity as disembodied souls but real, resurrected, material human bodies in God’s presence forever. Christ’s body is the first one there, but not the last.

 
Third, Christ’s ascension benefits us because we get the Holy Spirit as a result. As Jesus Himself explained to His disciples, “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). This was no knock on His own earthly ministry, but Jesus understood that as a man He was limited to one place at a time. But once He ascended to heaven, He could send another Helper (John 14:16) to give us power from on high and to be with us forever.

 
You may not think about the ascension again for quite some time, so mediate on this doctrine with me for two more minutes. Think about the implications of Christ’s ascension. The ascension means we are in heaven, right now. Through union with Christ, we truly are not citizens of this world. Colossians tells us to set our minds on things that are above, because our lives are hidden with Christ who dwells there (3:2–3).

 
The ascension also implies that “asking Jesus into your heart” does not mean inviting a kind friend or comforting therapist into your life. It means-if we are using the nonbiblical phrase in a biblical way-that we are expressing our desire to be one with the king of the universe. The Jesus who lives within our hearts is sitting exalted at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

 
Most staggering of all, the ascension means that God has granted all rule, power, authority, and dominion (Eph. 1:21 -22) to a man! Maybe this is why Tolkien made such a point in The Lord of the Rings to emphasize that a man would sit on Gondor’s throne, and the race of men would reign once more. Jesus Christ is exercising the dominion that man was made to have from the very beginning (Gen. 1:28). Because of Christ’s ascension, we know that the incarnation continues, Christ’s humanity lives on in heaven, the Spirit lives in our hearts, and a fleshy, divine human being rules the universe.

 

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