Free to Stay
The Ascension is not about Jesus leaving us. It is about four words: 'and I in them.'
(Read Acts 16:16-34, Psalm 97, Revelation 22:12-21, John 17:20-26)
Happy Ascension, everybody. Actually, Ascension Day was Thursday, so I'm sure by now you're tired of people saying "Happy Ascension" to you and of all these department store sales and the Ascension lights, our Ascension trees, the Ascension bunny.
Honestly, I don't think I've ever paid attention to Ascension Day in my life. There are lots of reasons it gets skipped by. For one thing, it's always on Thursday. For another, for me at least, it's been hard to see why I'd give it special attention.
I get Good Friday, when Jesus died for my sins. I get Easter, when he rose victorious over death and hell. I get Pentecost, when he sent his Spirit. Ascension can seem like a bit of a downer. As Barbara Brown Taylor put it, "It's seems like the day we were left behind." My son has asked several times, sometimes curiously, sometimes just in total frustration, "Why can we not see Jesus?" It's one of those unexpectedly hard questions because I want to see Jesus, too.
The Ascension and Jesus' kingship
So, thankfully, I got to preach on it, which means I had to actually think about it for more than five minutes. The Bible talks about Ascension in a few different ways. Hebrews emphasizes it as the entry of the high priest, Jesus, into the true sanctuary of God, heaven, where he shows himself as the final, ultimate, and perfect sacrifice. That's one of the reasons we emphasize "sat down" at the right hand of God: Priests stood when they did their duties, and they had to keep doing them, day after day after day. Jesus sits. Jesus says, it's done.
More often, the Bible talks about Jesus ...
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Ted Olsen is Editorial Director for Christianity Today and a member of Church of the Savior, an Anglican congregation in Wheaton, Illinois.