Christmas and Easter. The “biggies,” right?
Well, what about the event we will “celebrate”tomorrow, which happens to be the 40th day after Easter?
Yes, it was 40 days after Christ’s resurrection that He ascended back into heaven, the event we call “The Ascension.”
News flash: it’s a “biggie,” too.
Bishop John Bradosky of our North American Lutheran Church shared an intriguing reflection on Christ’s ascension and its meaning for us today, the bulk of which I will pass on to you here with his blessing. I have had to edit and omit some portions to fit this column.
“There are three primary texts that describe Christ’s Ascension. The first is the one most often associated with The Ascension from the book of Acts 1:1-11. Luke describes Jesus time with his disciples following the resurrection by appearing to them, offering them convincing proofs and teaching them even more about the Kingdom of God. He commands them to stay until they have received the promised Holy Spirit, and tells them they will be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, to the ends of the earth. Then, as they were watching, Jesus is lifted up, ascending into heaven. The disciples were immobilized as they gazed looking at the sky, longing for another glimpse. They might still be there were it not for the two angels who promised they would not miss His return.
“The Gospel reading from Luke 24: 44-53 begins with Jesus‘s declaration that He is the fulfillment of everything written in the Scriptures. Jesus opens the minds of his disciples so they might understand and be certain of the message they are called to proclaim. It was the same message that He came to proclaim, a message of repentance, forgiveness and faith in Jesus. He promises the powerful gift of the Holy Spirit, blesses them and is lifted up into heaven. The disciples respond by worshipping Jesus,remaining obedient to Jesus and being filled with great joy in Jesus.
“The additional description is a brief word from the Gospel of Mark 16:19-20. “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down on the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.”
To apply The Ascension to our own lives, Bradosky invites us, “First, look up. Beyond the historical event, the Ascension has continuing significance for us. Jesus is enthroned. As Paul writes in Ephesians 1:20, “God raised Christ from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places.” Jesus is glorified over all other leader prophets and kings who came before him. He is glorified over all angels and any other spiritual being. He is the name above all other names in heaven and on earth. All authorities and powers are subject to the ascended Christ. The disciples were looking up and so must we look up to Christ and His exalted status for He is our eternal hope and confidence.
“Second, live up. These texts reveal the obedience of the disciples in fulfilling His commands. He commands them to stay until they are clothed with power and they do. He sets their direction as His witnesses to the ends of the earth and they are ready and willing to go. They are able to live with great joy in spite of dire circumstances of conflict and persecution. It is clear that they are not to spend their time gazing into heaven simply waiting for Christ’s return. They are both assured that they would not miss it and they were to get on with the mission.
“As His followers we are called to that same obedience. We follow Christ obediently trusting that it is He who provides the signs of its power and effect. The disciples were living up to the mission of Christ as they responded obediently to the One enthroned with all power and authority, and so must we who celebrate His Ascension respond in like manner.
“Third, grow up. Jesus continues to teach the disciples, expanding their wisdom and understanding of His kingdom. He is opening the Scripture, making clear the connections between the written Word of God and the living Word of God. The content of the Gospel is critical to their mission. We can see both law and gospel in the proclamation that convicts the world of sin and offers the opportunity for repentance, the assurance of forgiveness and redemption through the completed work of Jesus on the cross. The Gospel of Jesus also proclaims a way forward in living out our salvation, by following Jesus as disciples and leading others to do the same. This is the content of our preaching and teaching, the purpose behind the healing and wholeness of life Jesus provides. What is most clear in these texts is that the Gospel is Jesus Christ, crucified, resurrected and ascended! Without knowing who Jesus is we have no message to proclaim.”
[Kollmeyer is pastor of Prince of Peace Lutheran in Fayetteville. Register your child for VBS at www.princeofpeacefayette.org.]