F OR FORTY DAYS after being raised from the dead, Jesus walked this earth. For forty days after the resurrection, Jesus appeared to various people in various places. For forty days Jesus ate with his friends. For forty days he nurtured them. And then he left them.
Jesus ascended into heaven.
Ascension Day was this past Thursday. It is always on a Thursday. Forty days after the Resurrection. The Ascension of Jesus Christ is a great event even though it is not often celebrated in churches. But Christ’s Ascension is full of meaning and significance, forming the fiber of our lives, every day.
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HERE’S SOME of what Christ’s Ascension means for us.
■ Jesus Christ is over us. Over us in authority and power. “Jesus Christ is Lord”. This is the earliest and primary confession of the church. There is no one else who commands our full and complete obedience. There is no one else who demands our core allegiance. Jesus Christ holds all power and authority in the universe.
Jesus ascended into heaven and “sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty — as we affirm in the Apostles’ Creed. The right hand of God is a place of honor and authority. The Ascended Jesus’ purpose is to govern the universe in the name of God. As Karl Barth put it: “Christ holds in his hands the power of God. He governs in God’s name.”
When we confess that Christ is exalted over all, it means over all — “principalities and powers” of this earth will ultimately bow to Christ. My favorite Scripture comes from Romans 8:
For “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation” is more powerful than Christ — and these can never separate us from Christ’s love.
Christ is Lord over all: over the powers of evil that grab at our allegiances, so we act against Christ; over all forms of power that grip us — suffering, disease, calamities. Everyone “is under the dominion of Christ. Jesus Christ is Lord of all!
■ Jesus Christ is for us. The ascended Christ represents us before God. Jesus is our Advocate and Intercessor who speaks for us, on our behalf, with God. In confessing that Jesus Christ is for us, we realize that out of the depth of love, Jesus Christ died for us. Now he intercedes for us, opening the way to God so we can approach God without fear.
This means we can offer our prayers to God and know they will be heard and answered. This means we never pray alone. Even when we feel we are all alone in this world and utter a prayer, we are not on our own. The ascended Christ stands by us and for us — advocating and interceding with God for our needs and weaknesses. We never pray alone!
“Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”
Nothing can give us greater assurance than knowing Jesus Christ acts on our behalf — knowing our needs, forgiving our sins, and mediating for us in the presence of God.
■ And finally, Jesus Christ is with us. He is our companion. As Jesus promised his disciples:
“I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
It seems paradoxical. Jesus leaves his disciples, yet he is closer to them, more intimately related to them — than ever!
How can this be?
The answer is that after his Ascension, Jesus is no longer limited by a human body and human history. Jesus Christ is with us — always — by the power of his Spirit. As the Heidelberg Catechism says, Jesus “is never absent from us.” (Q. 47).
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WHAT GREAT NEWS and comfort. Jesus Christ is with us, wherever we are; always with us! By faith we experience the reality of our Lord’s presence. Jesus is in heaven, yet Jesus is also with the church on earth. Jesus busies himself with the concerns of every person, every congregation. Jesus Christ is with us as our companion.
Paul wrote to the Colossians:
“Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1).
Christ’s Ascension means Jesus Christ is over us. Jesus is for us. Jesus is with us.