Joy in Christ's Ascension

George Everard, 1885
 

"And they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the Temple, praising and blessing God." Luke 24:52, 53

What a marvelous contrast between the two partings of Christ from His disciples!

At the first He was lifted up on a cross of shame, condemned as a malefactor, mocked and scorned both by Jew and Gentile.

At the second He was lifted up indeed, but by Divine power to the right hand of the Father, exalted far above all principality and power.

At the first, the parting was by His death, when, after He had commended His spirit into the Father's hands, He was laid in Joseph's new tomb, there to await the hour of His resurrection.

At the second, He ascended that He might live evermore the Divine Head of His Church, to exert His Almighty power for her eternal salvation.

At the first parting, all was sadness, and grief, and bitterness of heart. Never a darker day in the history of the Church than that which followed Christ's crucifixion.

At the second, all was joy, gratitude, praise, hope. Not a sigh or sorrow marked the separation. Whether in the Temple with their fellows, or alone, each heart thrills with a new and lasting joy.

Follow the disciples that day to Bethany. The Master is with them. And now, after a renewed promise of the Comforter, He lifts up His hands upon them and leaves with them a parting blessing. Often had He pronounced words of blessing, but never a richer or fuller blessing than He left with them that day. And while He blesses, He is taken up from them and carried up into Heaven.

With longing, wistful gaze, they turn their eyes upward to catch but another sight of their ascending Lord. But He is gone. Then angels recall them to the work that lies before them. Let them not look up toward Heaven in the hope of one more glimpse of Him they love. He shall return, but not now. Not until the work of His Church is done, not until His Gospel has been preached for a witness everywhere, shall He come again.

So they leave Bethany and return to Jerusalem. Daily songs of heartfelt praise, daily manifestations of the joy that filled their souls, mingled with the continual prayers which they offered together for the fulfillment of the great promise of the descent of the Comforter.

And why should not you also rejoice in the remembrance of Christ's ascension? If you have cast in your lot with Christ, if you trust in His death as the ransom for your sin, and look to Him to save and keep you from its power then rejoice with these early disciples in the gladness that this fact brings to you.

Rejoice in Him as your Forerunner. As a father sometimes goes to a new country first to prepare the home and to make everything ready for his children so Christ has gone to take possession of the kingdom in your name.

Rejoice that your eternal home is above. Your citizenship is there. Your Representative is there. Therefore let your heart be there also. Cherish a heavenly mind.

Rejoice in Christ as your Exalted High Priest. He ever pleads for you. Your name is engraved upon His hand and His heart. He knows all your temptations, and feels for you in every sorrow and trial that comes to you. Therefore look up to Him with cheerful hope. See Him before the throne, whenever you bend the knee. Expect for His sake a large answer to each petition. Since we have such a merciful and faithful Advocate and Intercessor, let us pray with full confidence, and never doubt that our feeblest prayers shall be graciously and abundantly answered.

Rejoice in Him as your glorious King. He reigns over all things both in Heaven and earth, and though for a season He withholds the tokens of His power yet no less is He ordering all things for the good of His redeemed people and the fulfillment of His purposes. He sits at the Father's right hand until all His enemies are made His footstool.

Only be loyal to His cause. Stand up for Him when others speak evil of His name. Catch the brave spirit of the Psalmist when he gloried in the King of Zion.

I close with a few lines of Wordsworth's exquisite hymn on the Ascension:

"Who is this that comes in glory, with the trumpet of jubilee?
Lord of battles, God of armies, He has gained the victory!
He who on the cross did suffer, He who from the grave arose,
He has vanquished sin and Satan, He by death has spoiled His foes.
See Him who is gone before us, heavenly mansions to prepare,
See Him who is ever pleading for us with prevailing prayer,
See Him who, with sound of trumpet, and with His angelic train,
Summoning the world to judgment, on the clouds will come again.
Lift us up from earth to Heaven, give us wings of faith and love,
Gales of holy aspirations wafting us to realms above,
That, with hearts and minds uplifted, we with Christ our Lord may dwell,
Where He sits enthroned in glory, in His heavenly citadel."