Thursday, May 17, 2007

Looking intently up

Perhaps one of the lesser known days in the Church Year, today was Ascension Day. We read in Acts 1 of Jesus appearing to and teaching his disciples for forty days after his resurrection, and behold, today is that fortieth day after Easter. It was on the fortieth day that Jesus ascended to heaven, from where he will return. This much is promised by the angels who appear to the disciples - 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.' (Acts 1:11).

So what does the ascension mean for us today?

Firstly, it means that we have a job to do. The angels came along to ask the disciples why they remained standing where they were, looking intently up into the sky, as if wanting to see Jesus again. their question is more a rebuke though - as if the disciples would gain anything by looking up at the sky every day for the rest of their lives. Rather, the disciples had a job to do; they were to wait in the city for the gift the Father promised; then with the power they would receive when the Holy Spirit came on them, they would witness to the resurrection in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Ten days later, the Holy Spirit came, and the apostles preached in every language, and the gospel began to spread. They couldn't have achieved the 3000 baptisms on Pentecost had they stood looking up at the sky. They had to obey the words of Jesus!

But secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, Jesus is seated in heaven. Our Saviour, King, Judge, Brother, Friend, Advocate is at the Father's side. The salvation is complete, yet his work is not done, as he intercedes for us, and prays for us from his throne.

'Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives for ever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need - one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.' (Hebrews 7:23-26)

Thirdly, we see that Jesus is coming back. Remember the words of the angels again, as they told the men of Galilee that Jesus would return as they had seen him go. Hebrews 9 supplies a fitting verse to think of this - 'Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgement, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.' (Heb 9:27-28)

So on this Ascension Day, we have a gospel to share, a priest who lives to intercede for us, and a returning Saviour to look forward to!

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