Written by Fr. Dale Minor - The Reclaim Ministry - Rutland, OH
This week, on May 13, the Church celebrated Ascension Day. Perhaps in your church
tradition there has been no mention of this day, and that is not unusual. Ascension Day is an ancient feast day of the Church recognizing the Ascension of Christ into heaven, and many Protestant churches will pass over this event in the life of Jesus. Yet it should not be so lightly taken. As Christians, we eagerly celebrate Easter and proclaim Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. But Jesus’ mission on earth was not completed until He had ascended into heaven. And the remembrance of this should be important to all of us who are beneficiaries of this act of God.
First of all; Jesus said that he had to go to the Father in order to send the Helper, the Holy Spirit to us. Here are some key scriptures from John 14. These are part of Jesus’ instruction to His trusted Apostles who had gathered in the Upper Room in Jerusalem for the Passover meal, what we now know as “The last Supper.”
Here, he has just restated the truth that He has to leave them and they were dismayed.
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me.” (John 14:1) “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.” (verse 19) “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom I will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (verses 25-26) “You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ’I am going to My Father,’ for My Father is greater than I.” (verse 28)
These verses, and those in between, give testimony to the necessity and value of Jesus’ ascension. That the Holy Spirit may come to reside in the hearts of all believers and be our constant companion and guide, the source of our strength and our ready teacher of all things. But equally important is the understanding we gain
from the beginnings of the Book of Acts. Here we are reminded of the testimony of numerous witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection over a period of 40 days and in Acts 1:8 Jesus repeats His promise of the coming Holy Spirit; “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And what happens next is vitally important.
“Now when He has spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? 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 1:9-11)
Not only is this assurance that Jesus will return as He has promised, but that it gives testimony to the work Jesus did in providing access for us to join Him in heaven. Remember who Jesus is; He is the incarnate Lord, God made man. He was fully man as He is fully God. Therefore, as the man Jesus can be raised to the heavenly realm, so can all those he draws unto Himself.
Yes, the acknowledgment and celebration of The Ascension is important. It was first celebrated in the church in 68AD making it one of the oldest feast days on the Christian calendar. Over the centuries, it has been celebrated by church services with communion, with a day of prayer and reflection. Traditionally, those who lit the Paschal (Easter) candle on Easter Sunday would now extinguish it. In some communities, the various churches would come together for worship, to join their voices in songs of praise, and perhaps hold a procession with images indicating the chasing of Satan from their midst. We invite you to reflect upon the ascension of Jesus and to read the scriptures proclaiming the rest of the story of Jesus’ Life, death, Resurrection, and Ascension into heaven; -- and be blessed!