Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What the heck is the Feast of Ascension?

What if I told you that there was a Christian holiday as big as Christmas, as big as Easter, but that most Christians don't even know about? That's the case with the Feast of the Ascension in our day.

For years I have been a follower of Jesus, but it was not until the last five years that I had ever heard of the Feast of the Ascension.  (Note:  "Feast" is a holy celebration, in contrast to "fasts" like the ones during Lent and Advent.)  But for generations, this holiday has been celebrated as one of the seven principle feasts of the Church, that is, one of the top seven most important days. 

This holiday celebrates the fact that after Jesus died, was buried, and rose again, he then ascended to heaven.  The historical account of this appears in Acts 1.  Ascension is always celebrated 40 days after Easter (see Acts 1:3), and therefore always falls on a Thursday.  But why is this so important? Why is this as big as Easter or Christmas? 

While we can't discuss every reason why the Ascension is important in this short blog post, I'll attempt to list three.  I hope these will motivate you and me to worship with our brothers and sisters around the world this Thursday.  I hope they will help us have a sense of awe about these truths, humbling our lack of vision.  I hope that they will increase our trust and hope in Jesus, as He ministers to us even to this day.  

1. Jesus is majestic:  Many want to think of Jesus as a mere man, but the Ascension of Jesus shows us that is NOT the case.  When we speak of Jesus "ascending into heaven" and "being seated at the righthand of the Father," two things are going on (at least): One, Jesus is returning to the glory that He had before the world began (See John 17:5).  Jesus is regaining the divine glory that is his, that He laid aside, in some way, when He walking around among us.  Secondly, Jesus is seen in his Ascension as taking the place of authority that He now has.  Jesus has authority over all the earth and heaven (Matt 28:18; John 17:2).  Him being seated at the Father's "right hand" is a symbol of him being in a place of great authority.  This is what we mean when we say that "Jesus is Lord."  He is the King, the Authority, the Power, under which all other authorities will eventually submit to (Isa 45:23; Rom 14:11).  Consider the power of the most powerful nations in the world, how they could literally nuke the planet into oblivion, how, if their leaders chose, they could end the lives of your and your family in an instant.  Now consider: their power and authority are just a "drop in the bucket" compared to Jesus.  (Isa 40:15).  Should we not ask such a powerful Friend for help when we are in need? 

2. A man sits on the throne of God:  This would be heresy if it weren't Bible truth!  And indeed, it is a scandalous claim for anyone who understands anything about God.  But most of us have infantile, babbling, moron-sized thoughts about God, and the scandal and the glory of this truth is lost on us.  (We are products of our day!) The Bible speaks of Jesus being God and man, and Christians have always understood this to mean that Jesus is "completely God and completely man." How this works is a mystery, but with God all things are possible.  While some people today want to make Jesus out to be merely a man, some (including many many Christians) forget Jesus's humanity!  To us, he is some spiritual, far-off Being.   But that is not the case.  Not since the Incarnation that first Christmas!  Since it is true that Jesus is both God and man, and that He sits on the throne as Lord of all (Rev 22:1), then it is correct to say that a man sits on God's throne.  This incredible truth is important to point out for several reasons.  First, it humbles our minds by stretching them beyond their capacities to understand.  This should cause us to worship!  Second, it shows that God is faithful to his promises to David (See Psalm 2 for an example), namely that God would give to one of David's sons an eternal throne.  Jesus fulfills this by gaining the eternal throne of God as a man.  What is amazing is that mankind's birthright is to rule the earth in God's way (Gen 1:26-28), but when that purpose was no longer possible because of man's sin, God in his grace, took mankind and elevated us to an even greater birthright through Jesus Christ!  Do you feel poor?  Do you feel like you don't have much?  Because Jesus, the man, sits on God's throne, and because you are in his Kingdom, you are rich in ways that are hard to imagine!  You're a citizen of the richest "country" in history! 

3. Jesus is interceding for all who follow Him:  Paul talks about Jesus's interceding for us in Romans 8:34.  This means, in part, that Jesus is praying for us to the Father.  It seems that this picture is of Jesus using his authority for the betterment of his people.  He takes all the power (#1) and authority (#2) that he has and applies that towards the good of his people.  This truth of Jesus interceding speaks to his disposition towards us who are his followers.  Yes, he could be majestic and aloof.  He could be God's King, the new Adam, and not care about us.  But the fact is that He is our Advocate (1 John 2:2), on our side.  Every Christian has friends in high places.  And we can throw all our concerns on him because he is concerned for us.  (1 Peter 5:7)  

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