Note: While this is not strictly an apologetics piece, it was written for the local paper where I live, the Huntington Beach Wave. As such it is a brief (430 words) explanation of why Christians celebrate Jesus’ ascension. In the end it has the same goal as that of apologetics, namely, declaring and defending the gospel that Christ is crucified, risen, and ascended…For You! Enjoy.
Most people know about the Christian holy days of Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter. But what’s Ascension Day? In France it’s a civil holiday. In Germany it’s called Himmelfahrt (roughly translated, “heaven bound”). And yet, Huntington Beach’s Main Street saw no Ascension Day parade. Belle Terra wasn’t overrun by Ascension Day sales. Nowadays Jesus’ ascension is largely ignored or forgotten.
However, since the first century Jesus’ ascension is a joyous day, concluding the Easter season. It’s no day for moping about like Eeyore, “Oh bother. Jesus is gone. Now I’m all alone.” Rather, Jesus’ ascension is good news for you.
But what exactly happened at Jesus’ ascension? Was it like Buzz Lightyear blasting off? “To infinity and beyond!” Did Jesus leap tall clouds in a single bound? According to the New Testament the historical account is much less theatrical. The gospel of Luke simply says, “He parted from the disciples and was carried up into heaven.”
So, where did Jesus go? Is he playing hide-and-seek? Can you find him on your smart-phone GPS? Not likely. The New Testament says Jesus ascended to God’s right hand. It’s not a location. It’s a position of power. Having conquered your sin and death, he sits at the right hand of God as a gracious king. Risen and ascended, Jesus benevolently reigns over you and all creation in peace and mercy.
Think of Jesus’ ascension like a welcome home party. Jesus, who was born in a lonely feeding trough, died alone on the cross, and was buried in a borrowed tomb, now returns to his heavenly throne. But Jesus doesn’t return to heaven empty handed. Where Jesus goes you go.
God became man to rescue humanity and bring mankind back to God. He takes our humanity with him into heaven, scars and all. Think about that next time you have a bad day, read depressing news, or when loved ones are sick or dying. The same Jesus who suffered and died for you now sits on the throne of heaven for you. He knows your sorrows, illnesses, fears, doubts, and pain because He experienced all of them for you. By his ascension, Jesus also lives forever as your Great High Priest. He prays for you even as he lived, died, rose, and ascended for you. Jesus’ ascension is good news for you.
Jesus is not gone. His ascension brings heaven near to you His Word and Sacraments. That’s where Jesus promises to be for you. Jesus is ascended and will return one day. Until then, he is with you always. Happy Ascension Day!