Jubilee is not normally the type of church that marks specific days in the church calendar like others, except for Christmas and Easter. This month, however, a number of church traditions will celebrate Ascension Day. It is meant to remember when Christ ascended into heaven, 40 days after his resurrection.
As we have been studying the book of Acts together on recent Sunday mornings, I have been wondering about this event that we find in its first chapter.
‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’
After he [Jesus] said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.Acts 1:8-9
Christ ascending into heaven means he is seated at the right hand of the Father and the amazing truth is that one day this is where we will also be (John 17:22-24). Yet the Bible tells us that this is not something simply for us to enjoy in the future, it has an impact on our lives today.
If you’re like me, you may sometimes feel the pressure of being defined by some of the circumstances and difficulties of life. You may have a bad day at work or fail to love those around you in the right way, and all of a sudden you feel that this is who you are: a failure at work, a bad parent, husband or friend. However, the Ascension reminds us that rather than circumstances and difficulties, we are now defined by where Christ is. Colossians 3:1-3 says ‘Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.’
Your life is hidden with Christ, and he is seated at God’s right hand. That is amazing news for you and me. It gets even better when we read Ephesians 2:6 and see that there is a sense that, for those that trust in Jesus, God has seated us with him! Just think about that for a moment; whether you’re seated on the bus, at home, in your workplace, at the side of a hospital bed, you’re also seated with Christ in God.
The Ascension also affects what we do too. When we think of Jesus’ return to heaven, we can sometimes think that he has now stopped all his work and he leaves us to get on with his mission until he returns. A bit like if you leave someone with a job to do, but inwardly are dreading when you have to return to them as you’ll likely have to put right all they have done wrong. That is far from the truth! From heaven Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to empower us and send us out on his mission to a world that needs him. This was always his plan: to fill his people with his Spirit and propel them into the world. Whether you’re sharing with a friend about why you’re a Christian or inviting someone on the Bank Holiday walk or to Life+, you can know that Jesus, risen and ascended, helps you to do this!
So as 2018 progresses and we enter May (can you believe it!), enjoy the truth that the ascension of Christ affects how we think of Jesus, ourselves and how we share God’s love with those around us.
It sounds too good to be true, but this has happened throughout history since the first church in Jerusalem was persecuted. Those scattered believers planted new churches in the places where they settled.
The age old question of whether Christmas gets earlier each year. Perhaps it points to something deeper than we think.