As they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1: 9-11
The Ascension of Jesus is one of those stories that doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. It is mentioned in passing in both the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds and it has a day on the church calendar, though not a Sunday. So why is Jesus’ ascension important and worthy of focus? It is the culmination of his incarnation and as such a key part of our salvation.
At Christmas we celebrate when God takes on our flesh in Jesus for our salvation and the renewal of the whole world. At the time of his ascension the resurrected Jesus has overcome sin and death through the cross and empty tomb and now he goes victorious, back to God. In our unity with him through baptism and the power of the Holy Spirit he takes us too, victorious into the presence of God. As he took on our flesh and shared our death so too do we share his resurrection and go with him into the presence of God. So we are promised an advocate and intercessor with God (1 John 2:1-2). In Christ we also have our very flesh in heaven, where he prepares a place for us, thus we have a sign of our unity with him and incorporation into his body. (John 14:2 & Ephesians 2:6) Finally it is from the very throne of God that Jesus sends us his Spirit, the continued presence of God with us and the one who dispenses God’s many graces to us. A companion, council, and guide until that day when God makes all things new and we feast at Christ’s table in glory. (John 16:7)
Jesus’ ascension is for us the fulfillment of our restoration with God and the promised life to come. In him we are united to God, to God’s glory and our eternal joy. Take heart, that we have an advocate in the presence of God who not only intercedes for us in this life, but prepares our life eternal in and with him who has conquered death. Amen.
Q. How does Christ’s ascension to heaven benefit us?
A. First, he is our advocate in heaven in the presence of his Father.
Second, we have our own flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that Christ our head will also take us, his members, up to himself.
Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth as a corresponding pledge.
By the Spirit’s power we seek not earthly things but the things above, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.
-The Heidelberg Catechism