Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Ascension

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, 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.” Act 1:4-11
 “Men of Galilee, 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.”
Heaven can be a confusing word in the Bible. At times it is used to refer to the sky, and at others as the eternal abode of God. This is because the sky, in all it’s blue majesty is there to remind us of God. It serves as a picture of God’s eternal abode, reminding us that there is more to life than this earthly pilgrimage. Too often we forget that. Even the disciples can’t seem to get their minds off of earthly things.
“Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” They knew that Jesus had conquered death, and yet they were still thinking in the manner of the O.T. Israel. They wanted glory on earth, they couldn’t see the heavenly glory Jesus had given them. 40 Days he spent appearing and going, and all they can ask is if the Republicans will finally take over Congress and Senate and the White House too. As if the problems in this world were merely sociological or political and able to be remedied by earthly power. This is the problem with Pre-millennialism and Post for that matter. It sets the minds of Christians on earthly things and not things above. But then so does most political and moral activism in the church.
We have an unholy love for this world. We all do. It’s at the heart of our sin. I don’t think there is a person amongst us who doesn’t see that the world has problems. But we think our problems in this world can be solved in this life. We are that naïve. As naïve as the disciples asking, “Lord, will you now restore the kingdom to Israel?” Do they not see what he has done? The guy walked out of his tomb, rolled away the stone of death, and shattered the law that was written upon it. And all they can think of is having an earthly kingdom. Jesus won’t have it. He will once and for all fix the eyes of his disciples on things above. He takes them to the Mount of Olives and ascends to the Father. He does so in such a way that the disciples realize they won’t see him again. That his life, death and resurrection won’t be about him assuming an earthly throne, but that when the work he has left for them to do on earth has been fulfilled he will return in the same way they saw him leave.
It was symbolic, a picture, the last parable of Jesus, his ascension. Even the chronology of it is a bit shaky. These forty days he had with the disciples, it isn’t like he hadn’t already sat down at the right hand of the Father during those days. Even his descent into hell was one marked by glory and victory. All his divine glory that he had laid aside to be found in the form of a man, to accomplish our salvation was returned to him as he rose again from the dead, already there God had put him at his right hand. This is the point of the manner in which Jesus appears and disappears, in the midst of locked rooms and on roadways. Jesus will even make another appearance to Saul, at least one is recorded. And educated Greek like Luke would know that the world is round, and understand that this ascension wasn’t to be taken literally as if a person could be launched into heaven from a Ballista if it was powerful enough. No especially to the Greek mindset would the idea of heaven being some locale on the darkside of the moon be a bit preposterous. The Greeks understood the Spiritual world much differently than that, and still do. So with the disciples they would understand that though Jesus wouldn’t appear to them and walk with them as he had done in the past, he would now be with them wherever they went.

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