In the Lutheran Church we have traditionally celebrated Ascension and Pentecost together with the festivals of Christmas and Easter. We like to believe that Pentecost is still celebrated in most Lutheran Churches for greater reason than that it falls on a Sunday. However, Ascension has become what might be termed a stepchild. Traditionally it has been observed with a worship service on Thursday. Unfortunately, not much is made any longer of this festival that occurs on the 40th day after Easter.
Sadly, much of the church has moved on to other things it feels more important. Social activities, social causes, political agendas, politically correct causes and many other such things which the church and society feel are more in tune with the times have removed from the consciousness the significance of Ascension, to say nothing of the things of God Himself.
Even if Ascension Day is not celebrated with a worship service, as Christians we want to pause to think about what it means. We confess in the Creed: “He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” Jesus was born into the world in lowliness as a child of flesh and blood. He left the throne of the Father to dwell among men as Man. He suffered for our transgressions and was buried. He rose again on the third day and restored life. Now that the work of redemption was complete and sealed, He ascended into heaven and entered into the glory of His Father, which He had with the Father from eternity. “He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens” (Ephesians 4:10). He ascended to the right hand of the Father whereby He rules over all things with power and majesty, also according to His human nature. He did not ascend to a place of honor, but to an exercise of authority! All things have been put under His feet. God the Father “Gave Him to be head over all things to the Church, which is His body. . .” (Ephesians 1:20-23).
What an experience was afforded the disciples as Jesus led them to Bethany, spe to them, and as He spe was received up out of their sight. The last view that the disciples had of their Savior and Master was He with His hands lifted in blessing upon them. No wonder that they sat there with their mouth agape loing up into the heavens as He went.
He is ascended but yet is present. There is no place in heaven or one earth where God’s right hand is not present. There is no place where Jesus our Savior is not present. Reason cannot comprehend what faith knows! He has not left us! Our Savior Jesus Christ, the “one Mediator between God and man”(1 Timothy 2:5) ever lives to make intercession for us before the Father (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25). Jesus Who prayed His Father that those who are His may be with Him where He is (John 17:24) has gone to His Father’s house where there are many mansions, there to prepare a place for His children. And then He says “And if I go to 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). And it will happen. The angel told the disciples on the mount of ascension, “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).
What precious promises belong to believers in Christ! What a moment to which to lo forward when Jesus comes to take His children home!
In the trials and sorrows of life, when devil, world, and flesh make our life difficult, they who believe in Jesus have a secure anchor in Jesus Who died in our place to take away our sin. He rose again to restore us to life, and ascended to prepare a place for us with Him where He is. In the meantime we have His promise that He will not leave us nor forsake us but will accompany us through life. The worlding without Christ will never understand it. We will be eternally grateful. It is a matter of faith. “Beloved, now we are the children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).