Luke seeks to tell us in simple, understandable words an astonishing and an overwhelming
Christ passed into a world beyond human comprehension.
We can only speak of that world in symbols.
The ascension of the Lord Jesus is seldom understood for what it really means.
This was truly an amazing event.
The ascension was an absolute necessity.
Telling of the ascension was Lukeís way of saying that the resurrection appearances
of Jesus were ended.
It was necessary that there should be one final moment when Jesus is seen going back
to the glory that was His before the world was.
It was of tremendous importance that our Lordís final departure from earth should not be
a mere vanishing out of their sight.
If He left this way, there would be an uncertainty as to whether or not He might appear again.
He had vanished out of their sight several times previous to this.
The forty days of the resurrection appearances had passed.
This period of time was not one that could go on forever.
Jesus would not suddenly be snatched out of their sight.
Now His leaving would have a different meaning.
Before this, when He would vanish they knew that He would appear again.
Here in the ascension He was slowly and visibly taken away, upward into heaven.
When He ascended, not a claim of God on mankind was left unsettled, and not a promise
was left in uncertainty.
The spectacular method of His departure was entirely consonant with the miraculous
achievements of His life and His work.
The ascension refers to the occasion when the body of the Lord Jesus was taken from
this world up into heaven itself.
An awed silence came over the disciples.
Jesus spread His hands over them in blessing. (Luke 24:50)
Slowly, majestically, mightily, Jesus rose heavenward from the earth, higher and higher.
Jesus was actually taken bodily from this earth into heaven! He had appeared
and disappeared at will for 40 days.
He could have been taken into heaven at any of His disappearances, but God did not want it that way.
" He was taken up."
We are not to suppose that He passed through infinite spaces and is now at some
vast distance, in some remote sphere.
There is no "up" or "down" in this universe.
To say that He "ascended" is a correct but merely conventional use of speech.
It fitly describes His disappearance from earthly sight and from material conditions into
the heavenly and spiritual.
He passed from the sphere of the seen and temporal into the sphere of the unseen and the eternal.
Jesus did not go to some distant planet in space.
It is wrong to think of Jesus as being billions of light years away.
Instead, Jesus simply stepped into a different dimension of existence.
He stepped into that dimension of His spiritual kingdom which surrounds us on every side.
He is not far away, and neither is the throne of God.
That invisible life is imparted to us by His Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit came as a result of Christís leaving this earth.
Jesus had told His disciples this would happen, and that it was necessary.
" It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away the Comforter will not come to you,
but if I go, I will send him to you." (John 16:7)
It is by means of the Spirit that Jesus makes His life available to each of us so intimately and personally.
Jesus went and the Holy Spirit came, so I could have all of Him. So can you.
"The Lord ascendeth up on high,
The Lord hath triumphed gloriously,
In power and might excelling;
The grave and hell are captive led,
Lo He returns, our glorious Head, To His eternal dwelling.
The heavens with joy receive their Lord,
By saint, by angel hosts adored;
O earth, adore thy glorious King!
His rising, His ascension sing
With grateful adoration."
So, Jesus spread His hands over them in blessing and slowly rose heavenward
from the earth, higher and higher.
Their eyes were wide with astonishment.
No one had ever seen such a miracle!
Their eyes followed Him and higher and higher!
Far above them they saw Jesus rising into the heavens!
We must remember that it was the resurrected body of the Lord Jesus which ascended into heaven.
In this world His body was composed of the elements of the earth; now it is made
of heavenly, spiritual elements.
When the Lord Jesus died on Calvaryís cross, He went through the experience of human death
with an earthly body.
When He was raised from the dead, He was raised in a body that does not die.
He is alive forevermore.
It is that body they saw far above them until at last a cloud folded Him in.
What an amazing experience that was!
As the disciples were standing on the Mount of Olives they saw Jesus suddenly ascend into a cloud,
and they never saw Him again.
He didnít go beyond the cloud either; He just disappeared.
The cloud received Him out of their sight.
Apparently, the cloud symbolized the presence of God in the act of exalting Jesus.
When we think of the cloud, we remember how the "cloud" symbolized the Divine presence,
which guided Israel in the desert and dwelt upon the Mercy Seat.
We also remember that "bright cloud" which came down on the Mount of Transfiguration.
The ascension was visible for the sake of the disciples.
The moment the cloud hid Jesus from their sight, He was transferred timelessly into the heavenly glory,
into the abode of God and of the saints and of the angels.
"Golden harps are sounding,
Angel voices ring,
Pearly gates are opened,
Opened for the King;
Christ, the King of Glory,
Jesus, King of love,
Is gone up in triumph
To His throne above."
- F. R. Havergal
After Jesus ascended into heaven, Luke tells us that Christ is sitting at the right hand of God.
The expression ďat the right hand of GodĒ is a term of special privilege.
It is a position of power.
Christ is right beside His Father.
His presence at Godís right hand means that He is effectually present with His people on earth.
" Always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20)
He "ascended far above all the heavens that He might fill all things." (Ephesians 4:10)
Even more important is the fact that, at the time of His ascension, Jesus assumed universal power.
He has now entered the glory which He had with the Father "before the world was";
and as He declares in the Apocalypse: " I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in His throne."
With this "He sitteth on the right hand of God the Father."
We obviously pass into a new age which is our present time, the time of the Church,
inaugurated and founded by the work of Jesus Christ.
" He sitteth on the right hand of the Father."
The summit has been reached.
What has occurred once and for all now stands rounded off before us in a whole series of perfects:
"He has also raised us up with Jesus
In the clouds to Godís right hand;
There we sit in heavenly places,
There with Him in glory stand;
Jesus reigns adored by angels;
Man with God is on the throne;
Mighty Lord, in Thine Ascension
We by faith beheld our own."
Because Jesus ascended to heaven - we shall also go to be with Him.
No more fitting climax could have been conceived for such a life that Jesus lived.
When He ascended, not a claim of God on mankind was left unsettled and
not a promise left in uncertainty.
Our Lordís ascension has blessed implications for us.
Though physically remote, He is always spiritually near.
Now free from earthly limitations, His life is both the promise and the guarantee of ours.
As Jesus said, "Because I live, ye shall also live."
His ascension anticipates our glorification and leaves us the assurance that He has gone
to prepare a place for us.
His ascension further clarifies the nature of His Kingship.
The kingdom of Christ is indeed not of this world.
He will reign, but not simply from an earthly, material throne.
His kingdom will be glorious, but it shall not be achieved through the wars of blood and bombs.
Heaven is real, and every believer in the Lord Jesus is going there.
That hope is real and it is ours in Christ.
Jesus is alive and with the Father and yet He is here - with us.
When I keep these things in mind, life in this world can never be the same for me.
Just as Jesus Christ was raised from this world and taken into the presence of God,
so will we who are in Christ.
We will be raised from this world and taken into the presence of God.
PRAISE HIS HOLY NAME!
This sermon was prepared by Dr. Harold L.White