[Read John 20:11-18] – “……………………..17Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’’…………………………”
[Read Acts 1:6-11] – “……………9And when Jesus had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight……………..”
Jesus Ascended, Jesus with You
Some say that distance makes the heart grow fonder. Wives of deployed soldiers and mothers of college students know better. Distance isn’t desirable. And some husbands and wives learn that distance can be detrimental to a marriage. Although, some engagements survive a time of distance before the wedding day.
We celebrate the Ascension of our Lord this evening. Is it a cause for celebration? What is the Ascension?
At Christmas we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus. A Sunday or two after Christmas, we remember Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan. On Maundy Thursday, we observe the night of Jesus’ betrayal and His institution of the Lord’s Supper. On Good Friday, we remember His suffering, crucifixion, and death. And, of course, on Easter Sunday, we celebrate with joy the resurrection of Jesus.
Several Sundays after Easter, we celebrate what? Pentecost, the sending of the Holy Spirit. But there is one event after Easter that very often gets skipped on our worship calendar (I guess because it falls on a Thursday, not a Sunday): Tonight’s holiday, The Ascension of our Lord.
Jesus did not die on the Cross, rise from the dead, and then send the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Jesus died on the Cross, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and then sent the Holy Spirit from heaven on Pentecost. Among those saving events, those saving works, of our Lord Jesus is the Ascension. No piece of the puzzle can be missing - without Jesus’ Ascension there is no salvation.
Why did Jesus ascend into heaven? What was accomplished? We know that His death on Good Friday accomplished the Atonement for our sins. We know that His resurrection broke the bonds of death so that we too will rise. What did His ascension accomplish?
When Jesus ascended into heaven, He ascended to God’s right hand. This means that He took His place of kingship, lordship over heaven and earth. Jesus remains fully Man in His resurrection and ascension – which means that now Man, our Lord Jesus, sits on the throne of Heaven’s power at God’s right hand.
Therefore, Jesus’ ascension opens the door for all human nature – yours and mine – to ascend to glory and to share in that divine glory and lordship around that throne in heaven. The ascension of Jesus’ human nature – which is the same stuff as yours – means that your human nature too will ascend into glory in Him.
So, Jesus’ Ascension means that He, still in His human nature, is Lord and God over Heaven and Earth, ruling as Man at God’s right hand. That is very significant.
What else does Jesus’ Ascension mean? Jesus’ Ascension means that Jesus sits down and takes His place as intercessor between you and God. The wounds in Jesus’ hands and feet and side ascended to the right hand of God. Jesus ascended and sits on that throne as the Lamb-Slain for sins. With His wounds ascended, His flesh forever speaks on your behalf for your forgiveness – and for the many others in the world.
Jesus’ Ascension means a Man sits on heaven’s throne. Jesus’ Ascension means the Lamb-Slain lives and sits at the Father’s side making intercession. And the Ascension of Jesus means that Jesus sends the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said, “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” [John 16:7]. Jesus ascended to the Father to send you the Holy Spirit from the Father [John 15:26]. The Holy Spirit is “another Helper” for you [John 14:16].
Jesus’ kingship in heaven, His intercession, and His sending of the Holy Spirit are all for man’s salvation. Since Jesus accomplishes these great things by His Ascension into heaven, it makes perfect sense that He would say to Mary Magdalene on Easter morning, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.” The Ascension of Jesus finishes His Easter victory.
Jesus has ascended to His Father and our Father. Not far outside of Jerusalem, the disciples watched Jesus ascend, lifted up, as He blessed them, and a cloud took Him out of their sight [Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9].
Jesus was carried up into heaven and disappeared into a cloud. But does this ascending and disappearing into the cloud mean that you and I now have a long-distance relationship with Jesus? Does the Church, the betrothed bride of Jesus, have a long-distance relationship with the groom?
The answer is, of course, No, and Yes. Jesus, having ascended into heaven, nevertheless is not far from you at all but even rules and reigns in you with your heart as His throne. Yet, at the same time, we wait for Jesus to come.
If you are someone who has been attending our Sunday morning Bible study on the book of Acts, you know that we’ve talked quite a bit lately about the Ascension of Jesus. And we’ve talked a lot about that cloud that Jesus ascended into. “He was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” What is that cloud?
All throughout the Old Testament – we won’t go through all the verses here tonight – but all throughout the Old Testament, God CAME TO His people – came to dwell WITH His people – in a what? In a cloud. In the pillar of cloud that led the Israelites by day in the wilderness – in the cloud that came down and filled the Tabernacle in which God dwelled in the midst of His people – in the cloud of incense smoke that filled the Holy of Holies where God was with the High Priest – in the great cloud of smoke that engulfed the mountain where God spoke to Moses – all throughout these Scriptures – even in the New Testament on the Mount of Transfiguration - God was WITH His people in the cloud. Yet He was unseen. (see Exodus 13:21; 16:10; 19:19; 24:16; 33:9-10; 40:34-38; Leviticus 16:2-3; Matthew 17:5)
This cloud was the cloud of God’s presence. Jesus ascended to God and this same cloud OF GOD’S PRESENCE took Jesus “out of their sight”. This cloud signifies not that Jesus went far away but that He is present, just has God has always been present with those who believe in Him. Jesus-Ascended is now unseen, yet is fully present.
The cloud in the Ascension scene shows that the Ascended Jesus is still present with His people. And Jesus Himself says as much. Just before His Ascension, Jesus said, “Behold, I am WITH YOU always, to the end of the age” [Matthew 28:20].
And the end of the Gospel according to Mark says it most clearly, “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them.” [Mark 16:1920]
Jesus was taken up into heaven AND He worked with them. He Ascended to God AND He went with His disciples. Your relationship with Jesus is both long and near distance. Jesus-Ascended is with you – which means heaven and the right hand of God are with you – yet you wait for His return and wait to go there with Him. So that is the long-and-short of the Ascension.
As the disciples stood gazing into the sky after Jesus had ascended into the cloud and out of their sight, two angels stood by them and said, “why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” [Acts 1:11}
Just as Jesus ascended in the cloud, He will also return in the same manner – “coming on the clouds of heaven” [Matthew 24:30]. The Ascended Jesus comes to you here, in this place, where you are tonight in His Word and in His Supper. The Last Day will come when He will come to take you where He is – to the place of His Ascension, gathered where He is seated. We therefore celebrate and give thanks to Jesus that He has ascended to His Father and our Father. Amen.