“This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven,
will come back the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Are you ready? Have you decorated your home in celebration of Jesus’ ascension? Have you purchased all your Ascension Day gifts? Are you planning to take advantage of all the Ascension Day blowout sales in stores and on the web? Is your Ascension Day baking complete? Ascension Day is May 10th! Are you ready to celebrate???
Maybe this sounds silly to you. We don’t typically celebrate the Ascension in grand fashion like we do Christmas or Easter. But why not? Jesus’ ascension deserves our celebration. The Ascension matters!
After suffering for our sin on the cross and proclaiming his victory in the very streets of hell, Jesus rose from the grave. He spent 40 days showing off his resurrected self, proving he had indeed conquered sin, death, and even Satan. In one instance, more than 500 people witnessed the resurrected Lord (I Corinthians 15:6). He met with his disciples on multiple occasions, eating with them, teaching them and answering their questions. He commissioned them to be his witnesses both near and far. Jesus’ final meeting with his disciples was on a mountain ridge east of Jerusalem known as the Mount of Olives because olive trees covered its slopes. They had walked these trails many times to and from Bethany. Jesus often taught from these hills (Matthew 24-25). Jesus wept over the impending destruction of Jerusalem from this very mount (Luke 19). He prayed earnestly and was unjustly arrested here in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22). The Mount of Olives was a special place to Jesus and his disciples. It became even more special on this day. After he commissioned them, Jesus’ feet left the ground and he rose high enough to be enveloped by a cloud. The disciples stood there awestruck peering into the sky, squinting to catch a glimpse of their rising Lord. And as if Jesus hadn’t already offered enough reassurance to his disciples, he lovingly sends two angels to stand by their side to nudge them toward the work Jesus had assigned them to do and to encourage them with the promise that he will return in radiant glory on a day unknown to us.
The Ascension surely mattered to the disciples. What a memorable and meaningful event! The Ascension matters to you and me too.
The Ascension matters because it tells us it really is finished. Jesus said it was finished on the cross. But how can we be sure his death was really enough? We rightly point to his resurrection as proof. His return from the grave shows he conquered sin and all its consequences. But was his death and resurrection acceptable to the Father? Absolutely. We know that because of the Ascension. Jesus’ ascension is a statement of completion. It is a final stamp of approval on his saving work. It is the exclamation point on the narrative of your salvation’s story. Don’t overlook the exclamation point! Jesus’ return to heaven confirms that your salvation really is finished.
The Ascension matters because it reminds us we have work to do. Jesus’ final recorded words to his disciples were, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Witnessing wasn’t a suggestion, but a command. That command is passed down to you and me too. You are Jesus’ witnesses by life and lip. Tell others. Make your Savior evident in your life choices. Witnessing for Jesus is a daunting task in a harsh and unforgiving world. But fear not. The same Savior who gave you this command promises to be with you and to give you the Holy Spirit to provide the necessary words (Luke 12:12). Jesus conquered sin, death, and Satan. Not everyone knows this. In fact, more don’t know it than do. Jesus has given you and me the job of telling them. It’s the purpose of our lives. Go and tell!
The Ascension matters because it assures us that the best is yet to come. Our relationship with God was restored when Jesus left this earth. Sin is forgiven. Heaven is our home.There is no longer any reason to live in fear of death and the Devil anymore.They are defeated! But they sure still cause a lot of trouble for us in this life. We are reminded of this with every illness and ailment that touches our lives. We experience this through the hurtful words spewed in anger and selfish lies aimed to bring us down. But most of all, we still feel the strike of sin and Satan when we stand in a cemetery before a headstone of our mom or dad, brother or sister, child or friend. Ouch. it still hurts. But the trouble sin and Satan stir up in this life is temporary. It will end. But the heavenly homecoming we have through Jesus will not. It is eternal. The best is yet to come! Look forward to it.
Celebrate Jesus’ ascension in eager anticipation of your own. I know I can’t wait for that day — to be home at last in heaven, reunited with my dad, my brother and all the loved ones who beat me there; to meet the patriarchs and the saints of Scripture face-to-face; to rest comfortably in the loving embrace of my Savior’s arms. It will be sheer joy and pure peace that will never end. I’m excited for eternity! And I’m confident about it. I am excited and confident because of Jesus’ ascension. I hope you are too.
Yes, the Ascension matters. It matters so very much. Celebrate it!
Written by Brent R. Bitter, Staff Minister at Grace Lutheran Church, Charlotte, North Carolina.