Many who had seen Jesus during his earthly ministry may have thought of him as a poor itinerant preacher. But the ascension reveals Jesus as approved by God entering his glory. We see this in the reaction of the disciples who immediately worshipped Jesus. I remember years ago standing at Nelson airport as family members flew back to the UK. We stood there looking intently into the sky as the aeroplane became just a dot in the distance and disappeared from our sight. I can imagine the disciples looking intently, straining to see as Jesus ascended, disappearing into the clouds. I suspect they were stunned, in awe of what they were watching, hardly believing their eyes, and then being moved to worship him. Likewise, for us, when we begin to understand the ascension of Jesus, it can inspire and deepen our worship of him.
We really begin to appreciate the importance of the ascension when we read Paul’s letters. He wrote of the ascension as Christ’s exultation, being seated at God’s … right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet.” (Ephesians 1:15–23) This is a description of all embracing sovereignty and power. Jesus … “is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)” (Ephesians 4:10). The fullness of this truth is difficult for fallible humans like us to fully comprehend. Imagine for a moment you could stand on the surface of the Sun and standing there you struck a match. Would anyone on earth notice? The combined glory of all other powers could not even summon the brightness of a match struck on the sun, when compared to the brightness of Jesus’ glory. No one is higher than Jesus, no one’s glory shines brighter than Jesus.
What difference does the ascension make to us? Jesus’ ascension inspires our worship, our prayers and our mission. Our worship, because he is the divine Son of God enthroned in glory. Our prayers, because he prays, interceding for us at the right hand of God’s throne. Our mission, because he is the all-powerful and sovereign God who has sent us to fulfil the work of his kingdom. Our confidence comes not from our own strength and strategies, but from the One who sits on the throne above all powers, dominion, authority and rule.
Imagine a church empowered by Jesus’ ascension: Enlivened in Worship; Inspired in Prayer; and Engaged in Mission. Let us be that church to the glory of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
How do you imagine the disciples felt as Jesus ascended into heaven and what difference do you think this made to them?
Reflect on Jesus’ ascension, how might this inspire your worship, prayer and engagement in mission?
Rev John Malcolm