This Thursday is a special day in the church calendar. It is Ascension Day. Forty days after Easter Day when Christ rose from the dead we celebrate his Ascension to glory.
ACTS 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
When you think about Jesus – how do you picture him?
Baby in manger?
Preacher and Teacher – sermon on Mount
Healer – blind, lame, lepers
Miracle worker – walking on water or calming storm?
Triumphal entry on Palm Sunday?
Before Pilate – crown of thorns, purple robe, a reed in his right hand
Dying on the cross for your sins and mine?
After the Resurrection ?
Walking on road to Emmaus or meeting disciples in the upper room?
None of these is a correct picture of Jesus. They remind us of how He once was – but not how He is today. Because Jesus has now ascended to heaven.
Remember the first Christian martyr Stephen just before he died.
Acts 7: 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
Jesus today is not the way people encountered Him on earth. Now He is exalted on high, king of kings and Lord of Lords!
Here are some of the words Jesus Himself prayed in John 17.
“Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. … 4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. … 24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
The Ascension has placed Jesus Christ back in the glory which he had with the Father before the world was. The glory which He laid aside in coming to earth has been restored to Him.
A fine Vicar I once knew called Donald Eddison was always very unhappy when Christians referred to our savior as just “Jesus”. He always insisted we should use the full title – “The Lord Jesus Christ”. Because the Lord we serve is not just Jesus of Nazareth the carpenter’s son, poet and rabbi. We serve the ascended glorified Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And He gives to us all the blessings of heaven!
“At his ascension our Lord entered heaven, and he keeps the door open for humanity to enter.” Oswald Chambers (1874–1917)
And there is something else Christ is doing for us while He is seated at the right hand of God.
Hebrews 4l14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
The Lord Jesus Christ in heaven is our great high priest. He prays for us – he intercedes for us – and He is there to give us help when we need it!
I have an old friend from London Bible College called Sandy. Sandy has the distinction of having been thrown out of almost every country in the middle east for preaching the gospel. In particular there was one country where Sandy had been arrested and he was about to be imprisoned for his faith. But then Sandy played his trump card. One of his friends in his days at Oxford had been one of the sons of the King. So one phone call to his old college friend and Sandy was released – although there is another country he can’t ever go back to! But it all goes to show that it helps if you have friends in high places! And we all have a Friend in the highest of high places! Seated at the right hand of God – Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
And so Jesus is able to help us when we are in need. Not only because He has the name above all names, but because he completely understands our situation. Christ didn’t come to keep us from suffering; He came to suffer as we must suffer. He didn’t come just to keep us from being afraid; He came to be afraid as we are afraid. He didn’t come just to keep us from dying; He came to die as we must die. He didn’t come to keep us from being tempted; He came to be tempted as we are tempted. And because He has faced all the problems we face, the Lord Jesus Christ is entirely able to help us whenever we need it!
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
We can be encouraged that the One who helps us not only understands us completely, but also has all the power and authority which could ever be needed! He is the ascended exalted King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Ephesians 1:17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fulness of him who fills everything in every way.
It is that power which exalted Christ , far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come which is at work in us, in our lives. God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything and it is HE who is in heaven interceding for us! That is what we celebrate on Ascension Day!