[Jesus] presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. . . . And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” – Acts 1:3, 9-11
Do you remember back to April 5 when we celebrated Resurrection Sunday? Well, tomorrow will be the 40th day after Easter – 40 days, which Luke tells us in Acts 1.3 is the amount of time Jesus made resurrection appearances before ascending to the Father’s right hand. When I shared this with my wife this morning, she responded with surprise that Jesus had remained on earth so long before ascending.
It is very easy for us to forget about the historical dimension of the gospel and mainly think of it in terms of abstract theological truth (a potential pitfall of being so thoroughly grounded in the Apostles’ Creed?). But yes, all the time that has been spent since April 5 is the amount of time that Jesus revealed himself as the resurrected Lord and Savior. It is fun to think about what it must have been like to fellowship with Christ and to learn from him about his kingdom during that time.
But, as great as it is to do that, there is an even more important reason to keep history in the forefront of our faith when considering Christ’s ascension. We read of this in Ephesians:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved-and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus– Ephesians 2:1-6
In Christ, we participate in his ascension, but not only in the future when he returns, but right now, currently, within history. When we forget about the past historical dimension of Christ’s life and ministry, we tend to forget about the present historical reality of your ascension in him, today – if you are united to him by faith.
In in what is before you, today, what would your life look like if lived as one already “made alive together with Christ…and raised up with him and seated with him in the heavenly places”?
Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. ~ BCP