Anchor Sunday School Class
by Bob Marsh
ASCENSION OF JESUS. WHAT IS THAT ALL ABOUT?
A Baptist visiting evangelist was escorted by the host church’s chairman of deacons, eager to show this famous speaker why his local church was so significant in the Baptist denomination. Introduced to a children’s class, the visiting evangelist asked some questions to the children, testing their Bible knowledge. “How did the walls of Jericho fall down?” he inquired? Silence! Finally one of the young boys stammered, “Sir, I promise I did not do it!” The chairman of deacons quickly ushered the Baptist evangelist out of the room, grasping his arm, obviously shaken, speaking with apparent concern “look, that boys’ parents are some of the leaders of this church, his father is a deacon, his mother heads the WMU, and he is a great kid. If he said he did not do it, he did not do it.” They stumbled around for a few more minutes, then the evangelist was ushered into the church parlor to wait for the morning service. A few minutes later the chairman of deacons returned, obviously still shaken, but appearing to be significantly relieved, he said to the evangelist, “We just had a called meeting of the deacons. We sensed that you are very concerned about the tearing down of the walls of Jericho, and we commend you for your interest. We have voted unanimously to raise the necessary funds to rebuild the wall!!”
Not to denigrate my oft flummoxed Baptist friends, for such a woeful lack of Biblical knowledge is endemic to many in the community of faith. Sadly, the Ascension of Jesus often falls into that “Walls of Jericho” category. Was it William Faulkner who sarcastically sneered “to speak of an intelligent Christian is an oxymoron of gigantic magnitude?” Well, let’s not engage is some kerfuffle based on vapid rhetoric. To the point: what is the ASCENSION , and should we as believers really pay any attention to it? Luke 24:50 and Acts 1:9-11 tell us the fantastic story of Jesus’ being taken up into heaven. A zillion questions are embedded in that brief telling of the event, but let’s focus on a few that are imperative to grasp. More importantly, why should we stress THE ASCENSION OF JESUS with the same vigor that we stress Christmas or Easter?
1. The Ascension of Jesus took place 40 days after His resurrection. It was 10 days before Pentecost, recorded in Acts 2. These numbers have significance, but that is another subject for another time. Our German friends speak of HIMMELFAHRT, His travel back to Heaven, and the Ascension is celebrated by our European brethren with worship, praise, and abounding joy. Why?
2. Well, one reason is Jesus had said He would return to the Father. John 14:1-4. He would come back to receive His people into Heaven, but first, He must return to Heaven to prepare a place for His church, His Bride (Ephesians 5:25-33).
3. In John 16:5-12 Jesus said it was necessary for Him to return to the Father in order that the Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, would come. John 14:26; John 15:20. As long as Jesus was with them, He could not be with others in some different location. He would be limited. When the Spirit of God comes, the primary task of the Spirit would be to make Jesus real in the lives of believers, but believers everywhere. Today the Holy Spirit indwells every believer (I Corinthians 3:16; II Corinthians 1:20-22; Ephesians 1:12-14). Jesus could never have spoken those comforting words in Matthew 28:20 had He not ascended into Heaven. (I am with you always to the very end of the age).
4. His ascension means “we have this hope as an anchor of the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain where Jesus, WHO WENT BEFORE US, has entered on our behalf.” Hebrews 6:19-20. He went before us into Heaven, destroying all the forces that would be against us, and making possible our coming directly into God’s presence. Hebrews 4:14-16; Romans 8:31-39.
5. Christ in Heaven has been glorified and exalted, fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy in Psalm 101:1. Peter quoted this Psalm in his message on the day of Pentecost in his proclamation of the raising of Christ from the dead by the Father. Acts 2:36. Paul proclaimed the exaltation of Jesus in Philippians 2:9. He is now our Mediator, our Advocate, the One we worship and adore. (I Timothy 2:5, I John 2:1, Hebrews 7:25; Revelation 5:12).
6. The blessings of His ascension are many. Others are
1) The giving of spiritual gifts to the church, Ephesians 4:8.
2) Giving spiritual power, Acts 1:8
3) Preparing our Heavenly home, John 14:3.
4) Encouraging the believer, Romans 8:29.
Therefore, on ASCENSION DAY, let us do what we do on Christmas or
Easter, celebrate and worship. Because the Christ who died for our sins, was raised from the dead by the Father, and has now ascended into Heaven, you and I have a Savior, a Friend, One who knows us and cares for us, and who will one day return to demonstrate that He is KING KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS (Revelation 21:1-5).
Two thousand years ago, the angels said to the astonished disciples “this same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven, Acts 1:11.” Our response to that ancient promise should be “Amen come Lord Jesus.” Revelation 22:20! He who came, ascended, will come again!
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