06.01.2014. The Feast of Ascension. By Reverend Andrew C. Smith, Jr.

Good morning Holy Angels,

Today we celebrate the feast of the Ascension. After the resurrection, Jesus taught his disciples about God’s kingdom for forty days (Acts 1:3) and then he was “taken up” to heaven (Acts 1:2, 11). The cross and empty tomb are at the very heart of the gospel message proclaimed by Jesus’s followers throughout history (1 Corinthians 15:1–4).

In Acts 1:1–2 we read, “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up...” The small but important word began signals that Jesus’s ascension does not mark the cessation but the continuation of his work as Lord and Messiah. That’s what Luke’s second book is all about, the “Acts of the risen Lord Jesus,” which he works from heaven, through his people, by the Holy Spirit, for the accomplishment of God’s purposes.

After his resurrection Jesus told his followers, “I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).2 In his Pentecost sermon Peter explains, “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing” (Acts 2:33). God promised in Joel 2:28, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,” and this promise is fulfilled by the exalted heavenly Lord Jesus. The ascended Lord sent the Spirit to be present with his people (John 14:16), to empower them for worldwide mission (Acts 1:8; 4:31), and to transform believers to live new lives reflecting their king (Romans 8:9–11; 2 Corinthians 3:18).

The Ascension of Jesus is a a necessary part of our salvation. Jesus in John’s Gospel said to his disciples, “When I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:3) So Jesus’ Ascension is Jesus going to heaven preparing a place for us. Jesus also said in John’s Gospel that if he did not ascend the Holy Spirit would not come, “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7). After Jesus’ Ascension he is interceding for us before the Father in heaven forever. In the Old Covenant the high priest entered the Holy of Holies once a year to sprinkle blood to ask God for forgiveness of sins. But after Christ ascended he is continually interceding for us at the right hand of the Father as the Scriptures tell us (see Rom 8:34). So Jesus’ Ascension is necessary for our salvation just like his Passion, Death and Resurrection.

Jesus is presently reigning as king and remains active and engaged in our world and our lives, therefore live boldly, confidently, and strategically as servants of the exalted king of heaven. Know that your labors in the Lord Jesus are not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). Take heart that Jesus is not indifferent to your struggle. He has endured great suffering and is thus the most merciful and sympathetic counselor and mediator. Take your cares to your ascended Lord who hears your prayers and can respond with all heaven’s authority.

Finally, hope in a glorious future. The ascended Lord will return as judge and king. He will abolish injustice, end suffering, and destroy death and set up his kingdom of truth, righteousness and love. Best of all, we will be with our king forever.

Christ’s peace,
Fr. Drew